How to Register a Death

The death of someone close to you is always distressing. Having to deal with the necessary administrative and legal tasks can be extremely hard when you a grieving. However, registering the death is an essential legal requirement and failing to do so has a number of important implications. Our guidance below will help you through the steps.

Timeframe for Registering a Death

The Death Must be Registered Within 5 Days

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland it is a legal requirement to register the death within 5 days. This includes weekends and public holidays.

In Scotland, the Death Must be Registered Within 8 Days

Scotland allows more time for the death to be registered, but it should still be done as soon as possible.

Registering a Stillbirth

The rules are different if you are registering a stillbirth, allowing you more time to do so. In England or Wales, registration needs to be completed within 42 days. If you wish, you can name the baby in the register.

For further details view the Government information about registering a stillbirth. Here you will also find all the information you need about who can register the stillbirth and the financial support available.

In Scotland you must register a stillbirth within 21 days and in Northern Ireland you must register within 1 year.

Registering a Death that Occurred Abroad

If the death happened outside the UK, the death should have been registered in accordance with the rules of that country. Once the person’s body is home, take the death certificate that was issued overseas to the UK Register Office nearest to where the funeral will take place.

The Registrar will give you a ‘certificate of no liability to register’ to give to the funeral director so the funeral can take place. If you are arranging the funeral yourself, the certificate must be returned to the Registrar within 96 hours of the funeral taking place.

For more information, see the Government information on what to do when someone dies abroad.

Delays in Registering a Death

If there are extenuating circumstances, you must contact the local Registrar who may grant an extension.

If the death has been reported to the Coroner or the Crown Office and Procurator Fiscal Service, then the death cannot be registered until their investigations are complete or you have their permission. You need to be aware that the Death Certificate will not be issued until the death has been registered.

Eligibility for Registering a Death

Who Can Register a Death?

To register the death you must be either:

  • a relative or next of kin
  • someone who was present at the death
  • the person responsible for making funeral arrangements (but not the funeral director)
  • the owner or occupier of the place of death
  • the executor (the person/s named by the deceased to carry out the terms of their Will)
  • the administrator (appointed if there is no Will)

How and Where to Register a Death

Contact the Register Office closest to the place where the person died. To find a local Registry Office in England and Wales search the Government website here.

Or find a Registry Office in Scotland here and a District Registration Office in Northern Ireland here.

Required and Useful Documentation for Registering a Death

A death cannot be registered until a  Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) has been issued by a doctor.

As well as the MCCD, it may also be helpful to have other forms of identification belonging to the deceased to hand.

The Registrar will need the following information:

  • details of their full name and any previous names (maiden name)
  • their date and place of birth (plus Birth Certificate, if possible)
  • their last address (plus proof, if possible)
  • their occupation
  • dates of marriage/s or civil partnership/s
  • whether they were getting a state pension or other benefits
  • date and place of death

Other useful documents and information:

  • NHS medical card
  • National Insurance number
  • passport
  • driving licence
  • the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner (including their NI number)
  • Child Benefit number
  • Tax Reference number
  • organ donation information

What The Registrar Will Issue

1. A Death Certificate

Once the death has been registered, the Registrar will issue the Death Certificate. This is a legal document containing information about the deceased and how they died.

The information contained on the certificate includes:

  • date and place of death
  • name and surname of the deceased
  • sex, age and occupation of the deceased
  • cause of death
  • information about the person who reported the death
  • if the deceased is a child, the name of the parent

You may need multiple original copies of the Death Certificate to send to organisations such as banks, legal and insurance companies. Photocopies are not permitted unless they are certified by a lawyer and this can be expensive, so it is worth working out how many are needed beforehand.

Each original Death Certificate at time of registration costs £11.00 in England & Wales, £8.00 in Northern Ireland and £10.00 in Scotland.

2. Certificate for Burial or Cremation (‘Green Form’)

The Registrar will issue a free Certificate for Burial or Cremation (GR021 in N. Ireland). This authorises the funeral to take place and must be given to the funeral director, crematorium or burial authority. The funeral cannot take place without this.

3. Notification of Death Form (DB8)

Lastly, they will issue a free Registration or Notification of Death (DB8) form that must be filled in and send to the Department of Works & Pensions (Form 3344SI in Scotland, form 36/BD8 in N Ireland). The section below explains who else you need to inform and how to do this.

To find more information and guidance, visit Government information – what to do after a death.

Registering an out-of-country death

If the person has died whilst abroad, you will need to register the death with the local authorities in that country. In many countries you can also register the death with the UK Authorities. If a death occurs on a ship or aeroplane, it must be registered in the country in which the craft is registered.

Repatriating the Body or Bringing the Ashes Home

If you wish to bring the body home, you will need to get a certified English translation of the Death Certificate and get permission to remove the body (issued by a Coroner, or its equivalent, in the country where the person died). You must also tell the Coroner in England if the death was violent or unusual.

If you wish to bring cremated remains home you will usually need to show the Death Certificate and the Certificate of Cremation, but each country has its own rules.

Make sure you contact your airline to check their requirements for transporting the ashes.

For further details, view the Government information about a death abroad.

Legal Implications of Unregistered Deaths

There are a number of processes that cannot happen until a death has been registered and a Death Certificate has been issued, and there are also penalties for not registering a death.

Burial or Cremation Cannot Take Place

A burial or cremation cannot take place until the Certificate for Burial or Cremation (‘Green Form’) has been issued by the Registrar.

The Deceased’s Estate Cannot be Distributed

To apply for probate, a certified copy of the Death Certificate is required. Without this, the estate of the deceased will not be able to be distributed.

Unregistered Deaths May Cause Issues with Insurance Claims and Pensions

Most financial institutions will require a certified copy of the Death Certificate before they will process any claims or settle an account.

Registering a Death is a Legal Requirement

Failing to register a death can lead to penalties, fines and even imprisonment.

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