Registering a death

Note on COVID-19: Rules to protect people during the pandemic may affect registering a death.

Notifying the registrar

When someone dies their death needs to be registered with the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

However, in some cases of sudden death, it is not possible to register a death; for example, if a coroner is involved in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or a procurator fiscal in Scotland.

A death must be registered by one of the following:

  • a relative
  • someone who was present at the death
  • the occupier of the house or an official from the public building where the death occurred (eg. the hospital or care home)
  • whoever is arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director)

Paperwork you need to take

When you visit the register office to register a death, check if you need to make an appointment first. You will need to take:

  • the medical certificate of death issued by the doctor (this is compulsory)
  • the deceased’s NHS medical card, if possible, and/or
  • their birth certificate and/or
  • their marriage certificate 

Information you need to provide

You will also need to provide information on the deceased’s:

  • date and place of death
  • full name (including any maiden name) and their last address
  • date and place of birth
  • employment status
  • living or dead spouse or civil partner (including their full name, date of birth and occupation) 
  • pension or other social security benefits

What the registrar will give you

Once the death has been registered, you will be given certificates and forms that will allow a burial or cremation to go ahead and the deceased’s financial and legal affairs to be managed.

While some of the paperwork is free of charge, fees may apply to others, including certified copies of the death certificate (check with the registrar for any applicable fees).

When a coroner or procurator fiscal is involved

A coroner (in England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or procurator fiscal (in Scotland) investigates certain types of death. The coroner or procurator fiscal is a senior doctor or lawyer, appointed by the local authority.

The coroner or procurator fiscal will be notified of a death if:

  • the deceased had not been seen by doctor within 28 days before death
  • the death was not caused by natural illness
  • the cause of death was unclear, sudden or suspicious

Such deaths cannot be registered until the coroner or procurator fiscal has completed their investigation.