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Registering a death and obtaining a death certificate

When someone dies, you will need to register the death and obtain a death certificate.

The registration of death is the formal record of the death. You’ll need to register the death in order to arrange a funeral and to deal with next steps such as bank accounts, mortgages and wills.

We explain the process of registering a death in the UK below.

 

Registering a death in the UK

Follow this step-by-step guide to find out how to register a death in the UK:

How long do you have to register a death?
What happens if I fail to register a death?
Where to register a death
Who can register a death
What documents do you need to register a death?
How much does it cost to register a death?
How much does a death certificate cost?
What is a death certificate?
What information is on a death certificate?
How long does it take to register a death?
What happens after registering a death?
What do you need a death certificate for?
Can I get a copy of a death certificate at a later date?
Who can collect a death certificate?
What happens if a coroner is involved when registering a death?

 

How long do you have to register a death?

When registering a death, the time limit depends on where you are in the UK:

- If you’re in England or Wales, all deaths must be registered within five days of the death
- If you’re in Scotland, all deaths must be registered within eight days of the death

If the death has been referred to the coroner (or procurator fiscal in Scotland), the death cannot be registered until the coroner’s investigations are complete.

 

What happens if I fail to register a death?

An individual who intentionally fails to inform or refuses to provide information to a registrar about a death can be fined £200. However, if the delay in registering the death is caused by a doctor or coroner withholding or failing to provide a medical certificate of the cause of death, then the penalty will likely be avoided.

 

Where to register a death

Where to register a death in England or Wales

When someone dies in England or Wales the death should be registered at the register office for the district in which the death occurred. For example, if someone dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office in the district where they lived. If the death took place in hospital, nursing home or other public building, the death must be registered at the register office for the district in which the hospital or home is situated.

You can go to a different office if it is more convenient, but the process will take a day or two longer because the registrar will need to forward your information to the original district where the registrar will issue and send out the death certificate and other paperwork.

You can obtain the address and telephone number of the local register office by visiting The General Register Office.


Where to register a death in Scotland

Any death which occurs in Scotland must be registered by the Registrar of Birth, Death and Marriages. The law allows a death to be registered in any registration district in Scotland.

You can obtain the address and telephone number of the local registrar by visiting the Directory of Registrars in Scotland.

Most registrars operate appointment systems, so you should contact them to make an appointment.

 

Who can register a death?

A relative of the deceased should register the death.

If a relative cannot register the death, it can be registered by one of the following:

- Someone who was present at the time of death or who found the body
- An administrator from the hospital (if the person died in hospital)
- The person who is arranging the funeral (but not a funeral director)
- The occupier of the premises where the death occurred, if he or she knew of the death

 

What documents do you need to register a death?

It’s important you provide the registrar with as much information about the deceased as possible. The most important document is the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) provided by the hospital or person’s GP.

However, it can help to take a few of the following documents belonging to the deceased as well:

- Birth certificate
- Marriage/civil partnership certificate (if applicable)
- NHS medical card
- Council tax bill
- Driving license
- Passport
- Proof of address, such as a utility bill

Don’t worry if you can’t find all of these documents, you’ll still be able to register without them. The registrar will also want to know:

- The person’s full name at the time of death
- Any names previously used (for example, maiden name)
- The person’s date and place of birth
- Their last address
- Their occupation
- The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
- Whether they were receiving a State Pension or any other benefits

The registrar will then register the death, issue the death certificate and provide the necessary documents for the funeral arrangements to be made.

 

How much does it cost to register a death?

Registering the death is free, but you do have to pay for any copies of the death certificate you order.

 

How much does a death certificate cost?

The cost of a certified copy varies by location. The cost per copy is £11 in England and Wales and £10 in Scotland.

In Scotland, the cost outlined above increases to £12 if you order copies at a later date. It’s best to purchase at least three copies at the time of registration.

 

What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is an official notification issued by a registrar declaring that a death has occurred. It is a copy of the entry made in the official death register.

 

What information is on a death certificate?

The information contained within a death certificate differs slightly depending on where you are in the UK, but will generally include:

- The name (plus maiden name if applicable), sex, age, and occupation and possibly the home address of the deceased
- Date and place of birth
- When and where the death took place
- The cause of the death
- Name and address of the informant (who registered the death)
- When and where the death was registered
- The name and signature of the registrar

 

How long does it take to register a death?

The process of registering a death should take approximately 30 minutes.

 

What happens after registering a death?

After registering a death, you will be given a Certificate of Registration of Death and along with other documents. These vary depending on where you are in the UK.

England and Wales

- A Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the ‘green’ form) – this gives permission for burial or an application for cremation
- Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8) – you may need to fill this in and return it if the person was getting a State Pension or benefits (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope, so you know where to send it)
- Death certificate – you may need to purchase additional copies for legal or financial purposes


Scotland

- Certificate of Registration of Death (form 14) – this allows the funeral to go ahead
- Registration or Notification of Death (form 334/SI) – you will need this to deal with the person’s affairs if they were getting a pension or benefits
- An extract of the entry recorded in the Register of Deaths – this is the Scottish equivalent of the death certificate, and is used when settling the estate. You will need to buy this.

 

What do you need a death certificate for?

You will need the death certificate to manage the estate of the person who has died.

When registering a death, it is important to ask for additional copies of the death certificate as you may need to give them to banks, insurance, or pension companies. You may also be required to give copies to the executor or administrator of the Will who is dealing with the property and finances of the person who has passed away.

 

Can I get a copy of a death certificate at a later date?

We recommend purchasing more than one copy of the death certificate when you are registering the death in anticipation of sorting out your loved one’s affairs and finances. The process of dealing with their estate and finances can sometimes be quicker if you have more than one copy of the death certificate.

Photocopies of a death certificate are not typically accepted by legal, financial and insurance companies.

If you do not purchase additional copies at the register office, you can get copies from The General Register Office (England and Wales) or National Records Scotland at a later date.

 

Who can collect a death certificate?

The following who can register a death will be able to collect the death certificate:

- Any relative
- Someone who was present at the time of death or who found the body
- An administrator from the hospital (if the person died in hospital)
- The person who is arranging the funeral (but not a funeral director)
- The occupier of the premises where the death occurred, if he or she knew of the death

 

What happens if a coroner is involved when registering a death?

When someone dies suddenly or unexpectedly, the coroner (or procurator fiscal in Scotland) may be called to investigate the death. It is the coroner’s role to determine the circumstances of their death for the purpose of official records as well as the benefit of the bereaved.

The involvement of the coroner may delay funeral arrangements as a post-mortem or inquest will usually take place.

After the inquest, the corner will confirm the cause of death to the registrar. The registrar will register the death. You can ask the registrar for a death certificate.

If you need proof of the death while you wait for the inquest to finish, ask the coroner for an interim death certificate. You can use an interim death certificate to notify relevant organisations about the death or apply for probate.

 

What to do next

You should then begin to arrange a funeral with your chosen funeral provider.

 

Let Simplicity help

Still unsure of how to register a death? Or need assistance with doing so? Our telephone-based team are here to help you through this emotional time. And with low cost funerals to suit every budget, you'll be able to say goodbye without any surprise costs. Contact us to find out more. 

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