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Registering a death

All deaths need to be registered with the registrar for births, deaths and marriages. This must be done within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and eight days in Scotland. These timeframes may differ if the registrar agrees to extend the period, or if the death has been referred to the coroner.

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Where to register a death

When you get the medical certificate after the death, ask for the address of the local register office. You can also find your local register office online:

In England and Wales, it’s best to use the register office closest to where the person died. You can try to use a register office in another area, but the paperwork may take a few days and could delay funeral arrangements. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, the death can be registered in any district registration office. Many register offices will only see someone by appointment, so it’s best to call in advance to book a time. It usually takes around half an hour to register a death.

If a death has been referred to the coroner, you’ll need to wait for them to give permission before you can register the death.

There’s no cost for registering a death.

If someone dies abroad

If the person dies abroad, you’ll probably need to register the death in the country where they died.

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Who can register a death?

A death can registered by one of the following people:

  • Anyone who was present at the death.
  • A relative who was present during the person’s final period of illness.
  • A relative living in the register office district where the death took place.
  • An owner or occupier of the part of the building where the death took place if they were aware of the death.
  • The person arranging the funeral, but not the funeral director.
  • An occupier from the hospital or hospice where the death occurred.

In Northern Ireland, the death can also be registered by:

  • the governor, matron or chief officer of a public building where the death occurred
  • a person finding, or a person taking charge, of the body
  • the executor or administrator of the person's estate (this also applies in Scotland)

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What you'll need to register a death

You must take the medical certificate showing the cause of death with you. You should also try to bring the person’s:

  • birth certificate
  • NHS medical card
  • proof of their address, like a utility bill
  • a driving licence
  • passport
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate

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

  • the person’s full name (at the time of their death)
  • any other names that the person used (eg a maiden name)
  • their date and place of birth, including the town and county if they were born in the UK, or just the country if they were born abroad
  • their last address
  • their occupation or last occupation if now retired
  • the full name of their husband, wife or civil partner, if they’ve died
  • details of any state pension or other state benefit they were receiving

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Forms you'll get from the registrar

England and Wales

The registrar will give you:

  • a Certificate for Burial and Cremation – this is known as the green certificate. This gives permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made, and you should give this to the funeral director
  • a Certificate for Registration of Death. You’ll need this to deal with the person’s affairs if they were getting a pension or benefits

Scotland

The registrar will give you:

  • a Certificate for Registration of Death (form 14) so the funeral can take place
  • a Registration or Notification of Death (form 334/SI), which you’ll need to deal with the person’s affairs if they were getting a pension or benefits

Northern Ireland

The registrar will give you:

  • a GRO form which gives permission for the funeral to take place
  • a Certificate for Registration of Death (form 36/BD8), which you’ll need to deal with the person’s affairs if they were getting a pension or benefits

You might also be given a document for a service called Tell Us Once (in England, Scotland and Wales). This will forward details of the person who died to all central and local government departments.

If the burial needs to happen quickly

Some burials need to happen within 24 hours of the death. For example, for religious or cultural reasons. You can get advice from the local registrar or funeral director about this.

Getting copies of a death certificate

After the death has been registered, you can get a death certificate, which is a copy of the entry made in the death register. You’ll probably need a number of copies of the death certificate, for example to give to any insurance, bank or pension company. You may also need to give copies to the executor or administrator who is dealing with the property of the person who’s died. The executor of the Will or the registrar should be able to help you work out how many copies you need.

You can get copies of the death certificate from the local register office where the registration took place. It’s best to get them when you register the death as they will be cheaper. The cost usually starts at £4 per copy. You can also get copies from the General Register Office   (England and Wales), the General Register Office Northern Ireland   or National Records Scotland.   The cost for getting a copy from a national registation office starts at £9.25 in England and Wales, and £15 in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

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