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Registering a death

You normally need to register a person's death within five days, and when someone you love has died this can seem like a daunting task. This article gives an overview of what you'll need to do.

Use our interactive tool to help you register a death

How you register a death varies depending on the circumstances involved. You can find more help by using the Directgov tool linked below - it will give you information tailored to your own situation.

When and where to register a death

In England and Wales, you normally need to register the death within five days. It's best to go to the register office in the area in which the person died, otherwise it may take longer to get the necessary documents and this could delay the funeral arrangements.

Registering the death will take about half an hour; you may need to make an appointment beforehand. You'll find contact details for local register offices in the local area phone book or you can search online below.

Who can register a death

If the person died in a house or hospital, the death can be registered by:

  • a relative
  • someone present at the death
  • an occupant of the house
  • an official from the hospital
  • the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors

Deaths that occurred anywhere else can be registered by:

  • a relative
  • someone present at the death
  • the person who found the body
  • the person in charge of the body
  • the person making the arrangements with the funeral directors

Most deaths are registered by a relative. The registrar would normally only allow other people if there are no relatives available.

Stillbirth

A stillbirth normally needs to be registered within 42 days, and at latest within three months. In many cases this can be done either at the hospital or at the local register office.

You can also get advice for parents who have experienced a stillbirth in our parents section.

Documents and information you will need

Documents

When registering a death, you'll need to take the following:

  • medical certificate of the cause of death (signed by a doctor)

And if available:

  • birth certificate
  • marriage/civil partnership certificates
  • NHS Medical Card

Information

You’ll need to tell the registrar:

  • the person’s full name at time of death
  • any names previously used, including maiden surname
  • the person’s date and place of birth (town and county if born in the UK and country if born abroad)
  • their last address
  • their occupation
  • the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • whether they were receiving a state pension or any other state benefit

Documents you will receive

If a post-mortem is not being held, the registrar will issue you with:

  • a Certificate for Burial or Cremation (called the 'green form'), giving permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made
  • a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8), issued for social security purposes if the person received a State pension or benefits (please read the information on the back, complete and return it, if it applies)

You'll be able to buy one or more Death Certificates at this time, the price varies from local authority to local authority. These will be needed by the executor or administrator when sorting out the person's affairs.

The registrar will also give you a booklet called 'What to do after a death'. This offers advice on probate and other administrative issues that will need to be done around this time. You can also download a copy below.

If a post-mortem is needed, the coroner will issue any necessary documents as quickly as possible afterwards.

If there is an error in a death record, details can be changed or added. Ideally the person who registered the death should arrange this with the office where the death was registered. You may be asked to provide documentary evidence to prove an error was made.

Removing a body from England or Wales

There is no restriction on moving a body within England and Wales, but you need to notify the coroner for the district concerned if you want to move a body to Scotland, Northern Ireland, the Isle of Man, the Channel Islands, or overseas.

To do this you will need a form, which can be provided by a coroner or registrar. You will then need to give the completed form to the coroner, and enclose any certificate for burial or cremation that has already been issued to you.

The coroner will acknowledge receiving that notice, and will let you know when the body can be moved - usually four clear days from when the notice was received. However in urgent situations, the whole process can usually be fast-tracked.

If the death is referred to a coroner

In a small number of cases - where the cause of death is unclear, sudden or suspicious - the doctor or hospital or registrar will report the death to the coroner. The coroner must then decide whether there should be further investigation. The registrar cannot register the death until the coroner's decision is made.

Other things that need to be done

Not everything can be done straight away, particularly as this is a very difficult time for people to cope with, but it is important to:

  • make sure everyone who needs to know is told
  • arrange to see the deceased's solicitor and read the will as soon as possible; this will tell you if there are any special funeral requests and who the executors are
  • start arranging the funeral
  • collect all the information and documents you will need

For more details read our related articles below; included is a checklist to help guide you through the process.

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