Registering a death

Registering a death at your local register office

Dealing with the realities of admin when you’re grieving is never easy. But when you’re faced with the loss of a loved one, the death needs to be recorded as a formal record, like births and marriages. Not registering a death is against the law and a criminal offence.

After the death has been registered, you can then start to move forward with arranging a funeral and begin the process of sorting out the deceased’s estate.

How much does it cost to register a death?

There are no costs or fees to register a death – it’s a service offered free of charge and includes the documentation you’ll need to arrange the funeral. However, you would need to pay if you want any copies of the registry entry.

How do I register a death?

The Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages will make the formal record of the death, so you would need to arrange to see them to register the death at your local register office.

The main document you’ll require to register a death is the medical certificate of death, which will have been signed and issued by the doctor who was looking after the deceased person.

However, if the death is classed as unexpected – or, for example, if a terminally-ill person dies faster than was expected - the death can be regarded as suspicious. In this case, the death would be referred to the coroner, and no death certificate would be issued until the coroner had completed their examination.

Along with the medical certificate, you will also need to give the following details for the person who has died:

  • Full name and maiden name (if relevant)
  • Last address
  • Marital status
  • Last occupation
  • Dates of birth and death
  • Place of birth and death
  • Full name of spouse or civil partner, along with date of birth and occupation
  • For a child, the parent’s full names, dates of birth and occupations
  • Details of pensions and other benefits

Who can register a death?

The following people can register a death:

  • Relatives who were present at the time of death or living in the same district the death took place
  • People who were with the person when they died
  • Owner of the building where the deceased past away
  • People who are arranging the funeral (apart from the undertaker)

Do I need a birth certificate to register a death?

Although further supporting documents such as a birth certificate are not usually essential, it’s advisable to bring them with you in case the register office asks for them. As well as the deceased’s birth certificate, you may also need the following documents under their name:

  • Driving licence
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • Council tax bill
  • Bank statement or utility bill to confirm address
  • NHS medical card or number

How long do I have to register a death?

Apart from Scotland, a death should be registered within five days. This includes weekends and Bank Holidays, so bear in mind that it isn’t the usual five working days. If you are registering a death in Scotland, this can be done within eight days of the person’s death.

The exception to this is if there are signs that the death was suspicious, or there are further questions about the deceased that would require a coroner to step in. An autopsy can cause delays but this is taken into account when registering the death.

There are times when someone dies and there is no one available who meets the requirements to register their death. In these cases, knowing some of the deceased person’s details and having as many identifying documents as possible (listed above), will enable someone else to register the death.

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