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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. Once the death has been registered, you will be given all the necessary paperwork required to arrange the funeral. If you are unsure about the process of registering a death in the UK, we will explain everything you need to know. From questions such as ‘Who can issue a death certificate?’ to ‘How to obtain a death certificate?’, we’re here to make this process simpler for you and as stress-free as possible.

Registering a death in the UK

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


Why do I need to register the death?

The registration of death is the formal record of the death. As part of the process, you’ll be given a copy of the death certificate. You’ll need to obtain the death certificate to deal with next steps such as bank accounts, mortgages and wills.


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, Wales or Northern Ireland, you will have five days to register a death
  • If you're in Scotland, you will have up to eight days

Learn more about registering a death in Scotland

The death certificate will be issued at your appointment and you will be able to purchase additional copies at your local register office.

If you purchase further copies of the death certificate later, they should arrive within 14 working days. Should you require a copy sooner than this, you can use the priority service for £23.40 and it will be sent the next working day.


What happens if I fail to register a death?

An individual who intentionally fails to register a death, or refuses to provide information, 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

Registering the death is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages, which is situated at the local register office.

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.


What if I am unsure where to register the death?

If you're unsure of where to register a death in the UK, you will need to find a register office closest to where the person died and make an appointment to register the death. The details will be passed on to the correct office. Try and call the register office as soon as you can, as they can get busy very quickly and most run an appointment service.

Find a register office and make an appointment


Who can register a death?

Registering a death is typically done by a close relative of the person who has died. However, if no relatives are available, there are only certain people who can register a death. This includes a person:

  • present when the person died
  • who lives in the house where the person died
  • arranging the funeral, but not a funeral director

What do you need to register a death?

Once you have made an appointment to register a death with the local registrar, it's important to provide them with as much information about the deceased as possible. The most important piece of paperwork is the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death provided by the hospital or GP stating the cause of death. Without this, you will not be able to register a death.

It will be helpful if you have the following documents with you:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Council Tax bill
  • Driving License
  • Passport
  • Marriage/Civil Partnership Certificate, if applicable
  • NHS Medical Card
  • Proof of address

You don't need to have all of the above paperwork to register a death, so don’t worry if it's not all available.

If you have any questions about how to register a death, or the documents you’ll need to do it, please contact your local Dignity Funeral Director for further advice and support.

You will also need to provide the registrar with the following information:

  • The full name of the person who died
  • Their full home address
  • Their date and place of birth
  • Details of where and when the person died
  • Their occupation, if applicable
  • If they were receiving any benefits, including pensions or allowance from public funds
  • The name, occupation and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner, if applicable

How much does it cost to register a death?

Registering the death is free, but you do have to pay for death certificates. The cost of a certified copy varies by location, but is usually between £8 and £12. Your local register office will be able to confirm the cost.


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 a number of other documents. These vary depending on where you are in the UK.

England and Wales

  • Green Certificate for burial or cremation
  • Certificate of Registration of Death - You may need to fill this in and send it to the social security office for the area where the person died. If this is the case, the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it
  • Death certificate - This will require a small fee and may be needed for legal or financial purposes

Scotland

  • Certificate of Registration of Death
  • Registration or Notification of Death – You will need this to deal with the person’s affairs if they were getting a pension or benefits
  • Death certificate

Northern Ireland

  • GRO21 form – This will give permission for the funeral to take place
  • Certificate of Registration of Death
  • Death certificate

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.

The certificate offers the name and surname of the deceased, their sex, age, birth details, occupation, the cause of death, when and where the person died, a description and residence of the informant, when the death was registered and the signature of the registrar.


What information is on a death certificate?

Death certificates are slightly different depending on where you are in the UK, but will generally include the following:

  • First name and surname of the deceased
  • Sex
  • Age
  • Birth details
  • Occupation
  • The cause of death
  • When and where the person died
  • A description and residence of the informant
  • When the death was registered
  • The signature of the registrar

Who can issue a death certificate?

The death certificate must be issued by the register office local to where the person died.


How long does it take to get a death certificate?

It takes roughly half an hour to get a death certificate from your local register office. However, it is always advisable to make an appointment to avoid disappointment. After the appointment, you’ll be able to take the death certificate away immediately.


What do you need a death certificate for?

You'll need the death certificate to manage the estate of the person who has died. It's a statutory certificate issued at the time in which a person taking responsibility for the funeral arrangements registers the death.

When registering a death, it is important to ask for additional copies of the death certificate as you may need to give them to insurance, bank 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?

We recommend buying additional death certificates for when you’re 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 their death certificate.

If you’re wondering how to obtain a death certificate copy, it’s quite a straight-forward process, just ask when registering the death. Also, if you do not purchase additional copies at the register office, you can get copies from the General Register Office (England and Wales), the General Register Office Northern Ireland or National Records Scotland at a later date.

Please be aware that photocopies of a death certificate are not typically accepted by legal, financial or insurance companies.


How much is a copy of a death certificate?

Each certified copy of a death certificate will cost £11.00 in England and Wales, £8.00 in Northern Ireland and £10.00 in Scotland.


Who can collect a death certificate?

The following people can register a death which means they are able to collect the death certificate:

  • A relative
  • Someone who was with the person when they died
  • Someone who lives at the address where the person died
  • Someone who is arranging the funeral, but not the funeral director

Notifying organisations after registering a death

The Tell Us Once service will allow you to notify a person's death to various government departments at the same time. Please note, the service isn't available everywhere in the UK.

When you register a death, the registrar will:

  • Let you know if the service is available in your area
  • Give you the phone number
  • Give you a unique reference number to use the Tell Us Once service online or by phone

Tell Us Once will notify:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Passport Office
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)
  • The local council
  • Veterans UK

Read our full guide on who to notify after a death or download our guide.


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

When a loved one dies suddenly or unexpectedly, a coroner or procurator fiscal may be called to investigate the death. It is their duty to identify how, when and where the person died for official records, as well as for giving some level of understanding to friends and family of the deceased.

If this is the case, the death must be reported by the doctor, hospital or registrar to the coroner, or procurator fiscal in Scotland.

Unfortunately, this may delay your funeral plans as a post-mortem or inquest will usually take place. We will be able to help you should a coroner become involved. If you would like more information about how to register a death, please contact your local Funeral Director today.

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