Registering a Death – Death Certificates – A Carers Guide

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A Guide to death certificates and when and where you must register a death and what information the Registrar will require from you.

Certificates issued, the coroner and probate.

Death Certificates when someone dies

Deaths in hospital

Most deaths now take place in a hospital or nursing home. If your relative dies in hospital, staff will contact you, lay out the body and arrange for it to be taken to the hospital mortuary. You will then be asked to arrange for the body to be collected by funeral directors, who will normally take it to their chapel of rest. At the same time, you will be asked to collect the person’s personal possessions.Before a death can be formally registered, a doctor will need to issue a medical certificate giving the cause of death. In hospital, this is usually done by a hospital doctor, who will hand the certificate to you in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will also be given a notice, explaining how to register the death. There is no charge for either of these. If the person has not been seen by a hospital doctor, their GP may be able to issue a certificate instead.

A hospital may ask you for permission to carry out a post-mortem examination to learn more about the cause of death. You do not have to agree to this.

In some cases, a doctor may not be able to issue a medical certificate of the cause of death. There may be a number of reasons for this. If the doctor isn’t able to issue a medical certificate, they will refer the death to the coroner. The coroner may order a post mortem examination. You do not have the right to object to a post-mortem ordered by the coroner, but you should tell the coroner if you have religious or other strong objections.

You can find more information about post-mortems on the Directgov website at:

Where cremation is to take place, a second doctor will be needed to sign a certificate that the body has been examined. There will be a charge for this.

Deaths at home

When someone dies at home, their GP should be called as soon as possible. The GP will normally visit the house and, if the death was expected, should be able to issue a certificate giving the cause of death. If the person did not have a GP or you do not know the name of the GP, an ambulance should be called instead.

A doctor is not allowed to issue a certificate if they are unsure about the cause of death. When this happens the death must be reported to a coroner and the body will be taken to a hospital mortuary, where a post-mortem may need to take place.

Deaths abroad

If a death takes place abroad it must be registered according to the law of that country. The death should also be reported to the British Consul who may be able to arrange for the death to be registered in the UK as well.

Returning a body to the UK is expensive but the cost may be covered by any travel insurance taken out by the person. If the death was on a package holiday the tour operator should be able to help with arrangements.

When a body is returned to the UK, the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages for the district where the funeral is to take place must be told and will need to issue a certificate before burial can take place. If cremation is to take place the Home Office also needs to give permission.

If the death was not due to natural causes the coroner for the district will also need to be told and an inquest may need to take place. In Northern Ireland a coroner can also arrange a post mortem or an inquest if the family requests it.

Where can I register a death?

When someone dies you must register the death at the Register Office for the district in which the death occured. This may not be the same as the district in which the deceased usually lived.

A Register Office is responsible for:

  • the registration of births, marriages and deaths
  • the legal preliminaries to marriages other than those in the Church of England
  • the arranging and conducting of civil marriage ceremonies at the Register Office and at Approved Premises
  • the issuing of certified copies of register entries held at the Register Office
  • the legal preliminaries to and registration of civil partnerships

When can a death be registered?

A death must be registered within five days of it’s occurrence unless the Registrar says this period may be extended.

Alternatively, you can go to any other Register Office in England and Wales to make a declaration of the particulars required for registration. The Registrar will then send those details to the appropriate Register Office. Any certificates you require will be sent to you by post. Please note that certificates can only be obtained from the Register Office in the district where the death occurred (not where the declaration was made). However, this may cause delay for you in organising a funeral.

The addresses and telephone numbers of Register Offices can be found in your phone book or at a GP’s surgery. A search online for Register Office and where you live should give you offices in your area. If the person has died in hospital they will give you appropriate advice (see “Deaths in Hospital” above).

To prevent unnecessary waiting, you may wish to telephone and enquire about the most convenient day and time to visit, Please call as soon as the doctor has issued the medical Certificate of Cause of Death, and take this with you to the Register Office.

Where cremation is to take place, a second doctor will be needed to sign a certificate that the body has been examined. There will be a charge for this.

Where cremation is to take place, a second doctor will be needed to sign a certificate that the body has been examined. There will be a charge for this.

Who can register the death?

It is preferred that a relative of the deceased registers the death.

If there are no relatives, it is possible for other persons or carers to register the death, such as someone who was present at the death, a senior administrator of the establishment in which the death occurred or the person instructing the funeral director.

What information will i need to give the Registrar?

The date and place of death

The full name of the deceased ( and maiden name if appropriate).

The date and place of birth of the deceased ( a birth certificate would be helpful )

The deceased’s occupation and the full name and occupation of her husband if she was a married women or widow.

The deceased’s usual address.

Whether the deceased was in receipt of a pension from public funds.

The date of birth of the deceased’s spouse, if any

Either, the deceased’s NHS number or medical card. However please do not delay registration if the medical card is not available.

What certificates are issued?

A Certificate for Burial or Cremation

(known as the green form) allows the funeral to take place. In some circumstances a coroner may issue this.

A Certificate of Registration of Death

(Form BD8/344) is for Social Security purposes. Please read the back of the form. If any information applies, please complete the form and return it to your local Social Security Office.

You may also need to purchase some additional death certificates for banks, building societies, solicitors, pension claims and insurance claims.


For enquiries regarding Probate, please refer to the chapter on page 35 of the booklet entitled “What to do after a death in England and Wales” which the Registrar will give you. For further details please apply to your local Probate Office, (addressand telephone number available from your Registrar).


In certain circumstances a death will have to be referred to a Coroner. He may do one of three things:

1. He may decide that no action is necessary and inform the registrar accordingly.

2. He may decide to hold a post-mortem examination, in which case the cause of death will be notified directly to the registrar instead of a medical certificate.

3. He may decide to hold an inquest. The Coroner’s Office or the Registrar will advise you what to do in these circumstances.


The above information relates to England and Wales. For comprehensive information on registering a death in Scotland see
Registering a Death in Scotland on the General Register Office for Scotland website.

Northern Ireland (NI)

For comprehensive information on registering a death in Northern Ireland see Registering a Death in Northern Ireland on the nidirect website.


Bereavement – Benefits and Pension Advice

Cruse Bereavement Care promotes the well-being of bereaved people and enables anyone bereaved by death to understand their grief and cope with their loss

They have a Helpline:0844 477 9400 open for calls from 9.30am to 5pm working days.

Helping children when someone close dies information from