How to register a death: essential information

Sadly, registering the death of someone close to you is one of the many legal obligations that have to be undertaken when someone dies. In this context, the Funeral Services Guide.com has summarised all the essential information you’ll need to know about how to register a death, as follows:

FAQs & Essential information on how to register a death

Q. How soon after someone has died does the death have to be registered?
A. Under normal circumstances, a person’s death should be registered at the deceased’s local register office, within 5 days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and 8 days in Scotland. However, registration may be delayed for an extra 9 days in England and Wales, if the registrar receives written confirmation that a signed medical certificate of cause of death is available.

Q. Are there any exceptions to the 5- or 8-day time limit?
A. Yes. In certain situations, the deceased may be referred to the coroner e.g. if the death was unexpected or sudden. The deceased’s doctor can only issue the certificate if the cause of death is known. Otherwise, the case has to be referred to the coroner or procurator fiscal to establish the cause of death and the issue of the medical certificate has to be deferred until the coroner has made their decision. However, delays incurred as a result of the coroner’s involvement are excluded from this time-limit.

Q. What are the time-limits regarding the registering of stillbirths?
A. Stillbirths, ideally, should be registered within 42 days or, at the latest, within three calendar months. Stillbirths may be registered either at the hospital or at the local register office.

Q. Who can register the death?
A. Most deaths are registered by the next of kin or a close relative. However, if the death occurred in hospital, at home, in a private property, or in care home, the death can be also registered by the person present at the death, an occupant of the property, a hospital official, friend, carer or the person responsible for making the funeral arrangements. Deaths that occurred elsewhere can be registered by the person officially in charge of the body.

Q. Where does the death have to be registered?
A. The death has to be registered by the registrar of deaths at a local authority register office; see www.direct.gov.uk for a list of register offices in England and Wales; www.gro-scotland.gov.uk, for Scotland; www.groni.gov.uk for Northern Ireland. You can also find out the address of the local register office from the hospital, GP, funeral director or local authority.

Q. Is it possible to register a death that occurred in another area at your local registrar’s office?
A. Yes, although it should be noted that completion of the paperwork may delay the date of the funeral. An option called a Registration by Declaration exists in England and Wales to register a death that occurred elsewhere at your local registrar’s office. Similarly, in Scotland, it is possible to register the death in the area where the person died, or where they lived before death, provided both locations are in Scotland.

Q. Is it necessary to make an appointment to register the death?
A. Usually, yes. An appointment with the registrar is generally required; it is therefore advisable to telephone the registrar’s office, beforehand. Some registry offices operate an emergency, out-of-office-hours service to cater for exceptional circumstances.

Q. What information and documentation do you need to take with you to register the death?
A. The registrar will need to see the signed medical certificate of the cause of death and, if available, the deceased’s birth certificate and NHS medical card. The informant will also need to provide the following information about the deceased: full name at the time of death, any previously used names, including maiden name; date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK; country only, if born abroad); last address; occupation; details of surviving spouse or civil partner including full name, date of birth, occupation, whether they are receiving a state pension or other state benefit, etc.

Q. Where can you obtain the medical certificate of cause of death required for registering the death?
A. The person who registers the death (the informant) should contact the deceased’s GP or the hospital where the person died to obtain the medical certificate of cause of death. The signed certificate will be placed in a sealed envelope and addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Q. Can a funeral go ahead before the death has been registered?
A. In the vast majority of cases, registration of the death is required before the funeral can take place. It is possible, however, to hold a burial before full registration has been issued, typically, when the coroner is involved, although cremation can only occur after the death has been registered.

Q. What forms are issued after the death has been registered?
A. The informant will be given various items of documentation including: (i) the death certificate; (ii) the certificate for burial (also known as the ‘green form’) or cremation which gives permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made (visit www.justice.gov.uk/cremation.htm) for information on the new guidelines on authorising cremation, introduced in January 2009); (iii) the Certificate of Registration of Death, form BD8, (form 3344SI in Scotland) which records the deceased N.I. number and is used to notify the Department of Works & Pensions as well as other relevant government departments of the person’s death.

Q. Is it necessary to obtain additional copies of the death certificate?
A. It is always advisable to obtain extra certified copies of the death certificate, for administrative purposes, (price per copy varies, depending on place of registration). The copies will be needed by the executor of the will and the person dealing with the deceased’s paperwork. It should be noted that photocopies of the death certificate are generally not accepted by the various government authorities, banks, building societies and other legal and financial organisations.