How to register a death

- 20/08/21

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It’s an unfortunate reality that when someone dies, there are legal formalities that need to be completed shortly after. While these can feel like the last thing you want to be doing at a time of mourning, they’re a necessary step before you can start making funeral arrangements.

In most cases, registering a death is straightforward and simple to take care of. Here’s what you need to do:

Get a medical certificate of cause of death

It’s an unfortunate reality that when someone dies, there are legal formalities that need to be completed shortly after. While these can feel like the last thing you want to be doing at a time of mourning, they’re a necessary step before you can start making funeral arrangements.

In most cases, registering a death is straightforward and simple to take care of. Here’s what you need to do:

The first thing you’ll need to get is a medical certificate of cause of death (MCCD). If your loved one died in hospital and the cause of death is clear, their doctor will normally give you this automatically, together with information about how to register the death.

However, if they died at home or somewhere else, you’ll need to contact the deceased’s GP. They’ll normally visit to establish the cause of death and issue the certificate in-person on location, or you might need to visit the GP surgery to collect it later.

Occasionally, the GP can’t give you the certificate immediately as they’re unsure of the precise cause or circumstances of death. In this case, they’ll refer to a coroner to investigate the death which may involve a post-mortem or inquest. Usually, the coroner will issue an interim death certificate so you can go ahead with funeral arrangements and organising probate.

Register the death

Now you have the MCCD certificate, you need to formally register the death. You can’t do this online, you’ll need visit a register office within five days (or eight in Scotland). Normally you’ll go to the register office closest to where the deceased passed away - find the nearest register office.

Contact the register office first to arrange an appointment and they’ll tell you what else you need to bring, possibly a council tax bill, passport or birth certificate as well as the MCCD. Your visit should take around 30 minutes.

You’ll also be asked to provide some information about the deceased so it’s a good idea to find and keep this information to hand before you visit. This will include:

  • The deceased’s full name and address and, possibly, maiden name (if applicable)
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of death
  • Their most recent occupation
  • Their marital status and the name, occupation and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner
  • The full names, occupations and dates of birth of their parents, if the person who died was a child
  • The name and address of their GP
  • Their benefits status, including the details of any pensions held by the deceased

Who can register a death?

Although this usually done by a relative of the deceased, It’s not always the case. Deaths can also be registered by anyone who was present at the death, an administrator at the hospital the deceased passed away in or the individual making funeral arrangements.

What documents will you get?

When you register a death you’ll receive:

  • A Certificate for Burial or Cremation, the ‘green form’ that gives permission for burial or an application for cremation.
  • A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8 in England and Wales or form 3344SI in Scotland) - if the person was getting a State Pension or benefits, you may need to complete this form and return it in the envelope provided.

Important tip – when you visit the register office, it’s well worth ordering extra copies of the death certificate as you may need to send them to organisations such as banks and building societies when sorting the deceased’s affairs. It will cost you more to order the copies at a later date.

That’s the legal formalities sorted, now you can get on with organising the funeral. Distinct Cremations offer a helpful guide on how to arrange a funeral that can help with your planning.

Distinct Cremations Limited [Trading as Distinct Cremations] | Registered in England No: 13366310 | Registered Office Westerleigh Crematorium, Westerleigh Road, Bristol BS37 8QP | Part of the Westerleigh Group