Do you need a death certificate to arrange a funeral in the UK?

When someone dies, often the last thing we want to do is think about paperwork. But it's a fact of life that a death needs to be confirmed and registered, and that involves a GP, a death certificate and a few other details. We explain more below.

Do you need a death certificate for a funeral?

Yes, before a funeral can take place, you must have a death certificate and a certificate of burial or cremation, which you must pass to your funeral provider.

You can begin to make funeral arrangements, and the funeral provider can pick up the deceased and take them into their care, but without a death certificate or a certificate of burial or cremation, a funeral - whether it's a burial, cremation or direct cremation - cannot take place.

Any delay in obtaining a death certificate will result in the delay of a funeral and you may receive a fine.

What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is a document you obtain after registering a death in the UK. The death certificate is an essential document required before arranging any type of funeral.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the death needs to be registered within five days. In Scotland, it’s eight days.

Can you arrange a funeral before registering the death?

You can begin getting preliminary funeral arrangements in place before the death has been officially registered, but a date for the funeral can not be scheduled until the death has been registered.

For more information, call our team on freephone 01543 211997.

UK Death Certificate

How do I obtain a death certificate?

  1. Obtain the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death
    Once the death has occurred, you will need to have the death confirmed by a doctor. The doctor will then issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. If the death was unexpected or suspicious, the death will be referred to the coroner. The coroner will advise you on your next step.

  2. Contact the register office
    You can obtain the death certificate by visiting any register office in the UK, but it will be quicker to use one in the area where the person died. A death certificate cannot be obtained online. As there are different procedures for obtaining death certificates in England and Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, your local register office will be able to provide you with accurate information and guidance. Find your local register office here.

  3. Schedule an appointment
    Some register offices require you to make an appointment to obtain your death certificate and in some districts you can complete this over the phone. A relative, a person present at the death or a person arranging the funeral are all legally able to register the death.

  4. Gather correct documentation
    The following information is required to obtain a death certificate: the full name and surname, date and place of birth, occupation (even if retired), address and Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. In the case of a married person, the full name and date of birth of their spouse, and their occupation is also needed.

  5. Be aware of extra fees
    Obtaining the death certificate is free, although you will have to pay for any additional copies. The prices for death certificates vary, depending on where in the UK you are based. In England and Wales, it’s £11, £8 in Northern Ireland and £10 in Scotland.

  6. Acknowledge the waiting time
    Processing times for obtaining a death certificate can fluctuate based on the workload of the register office. Often it takes no longer than 30 minutes, however there are situations where you might have to wait a few days.

Funeral paperwork definitions

It's easy to get a little overwhelmed at the sight of all the funeral paperwork that needs to be completed and all the jargon that you might encounter.

So here are a few quick definitions to make things easier:

  • Medical Certificate of Cause of Death = This is the certificate the doctor gives to the family when the cause of death is clear. If the death is not clear then the certificate won't be issued immediately and the death will be referred to the coroner. The appropriate form will then need to be collected from the coroner by the funeral director or the family.
  • Death certificate / Green form = A death certificate is a document that you obtain after registering a death in the UK. The death certificate is an essential document that’s required before arranging any type of funeral, whether that’s a burial or cremation. If the death is investigated by a coroner, an Order for Burial or Cremation 6 form will be issued instead of a Green form. Read more about how to register a death.
  • Cremation 1 form = Form for applying for the cremation of a deceased person. The form is to be completed by the nearest relative or executor of the will.
  • Cremation 4 form = Form for registered medical professionals to complete to release a body for cremation. The form is filled in by a registered medical professional together with the Cremation 1 form.
  • Cremation 6 form = Form for coroners to complete to release a body for cremation. If the death is being investigated by the coroner, the coroner’s permission will be required before the cremation can take place and this will be provided through this form.
  • Burial form = Form to purchase a grave or reopen an existing plot. This form will be completed by a funeral director or the family can request one from their local council if they decide to arrange a funeral without a funeral director.
  • Order for Burial / Form 101 = Similar to a Cremation 6 form, this form is for coroners to complete to release a body for a burial. In the event that a coroner conducts an investigation into the death, prior approval from the coroner will be necessary before proceeding with the burial. This approval will be granted via the completion of this form.

Arranging a funeral once you have the death certificate

After you’ve registered the death, obtained the death certificate and a certificate of burial or cremation, you can go ahead with arranging the funeral. The burial or cremation form will need to be completed, but if you are using a funeral provider like Distinct Cremations, we can help you with the paperwork.

At Distinct Cremations, we’re here to help you every step of the way. Our expert customer service specialists will help to point you in the right direction and provide as much support and guidance as you need throughout the process, whenever you need us, 24 hours of the day, 7 days a week.

Our highly-trained and experienced team support families experiencing a bereavement each day. With a wealth of knowledge and experience gained by supporting families, we'll guide you on what you'll need to do and help to ease your burden by liaising with any hospitals and local authorities to get all of the information needed to keep moving forward.

Get in touch

Want more information? We're happy to answer any questions you may have about our funeral cremations over the phone, or you can request a free guide for details about what we offer.

Have a chat with us

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Want to talk through our options? If you have questions or would like some in-person support we’re just a call away.

Speak to our team

Get a free guide

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Need some time to digest the details? You can download a PDF of our guide online or get a printed copy posted out.

Get our guide

What to do when someone dies

Before someone dies, getting an understanding of what to do when someone dies, can help to ease the stress and confusion that you may face. Here's a handy checklist that will be of help with the legal requirements and the overall logistics for when the time comes.

Download a free checklist

Here at Distinct Cremations, we have created a free checklist for you to download which lets you know what you need to do when someone dies.

Download our checklist below or speak to our expert team on 01543 211997 today
Download free checklist

Other helpful articles

Below are a few more resources that may help when it comes to funeral documentation and organising a funeral.

Funeral documents

Woman smiling at papers

There are a number of documents that need to be completed before a funeral can take place including three different cremation forms. Our article below will detail which forms you need to complete and how our team can help.

The required funeral documents

Registering the death

registering a death

There are legal formalities that need to be completed shortly after someone dies. It may be the last thing you want to be doing at a time of mourning, but they're a necessary step before you can make any funeral arrangements.

How to register a death

Choosing a provider

Woman working out expenses using a calculator, pen and paper with glasses

Choosing a funeral provider is never easy, so we've created a table comparing the best funeral providers' key features and inclusions to help you compare, contrast and choose the right funeral provider for you.

Compare funeral providers

We offer the highest level of support, but don't take our word for it

Below are a selection of reviews from those who have arranged a funeral or purchased a funeral plan through Distinct Cremations.

"Smooth and straightforward purchase with plenty of contact and feedback."

“Easy to use and very helpful. Very easy to use their services and always called with updates. Sorry to say I've had to use their services twice now and I've already booked my own service. On both times I've used this service I've been kept informed by calls to everything going on. All my requests were made to feel like no trouble whatsoever, happy to help attitude made what was a very emotional time pass with no problems. Ty to all the teams involved"

"Quick and easy to arrange. Very good value. The information pack arrived days after I made my enquiry. It was so easy to arrange the plan that I wanted. The follow up call was very reassuring. I am very happy with the service provided."

"Already recommended to other family members. Easy to access and apply for a plan at a good price, and even better, in 20 years time there will be no additional cost. It's not a subject that anyone wants to think about but now I have it sorted it has given me peace of mind knowing my family won't have the worry or cost when that time comes, now I can forget it and enjoy many more years, highly recommended. Hassle free application that was completed in minutes but I'm not planning on using this plan anytime soon!!"

"I was very pleased with the prompt efficient service that I got, everything was explained to me, and the paperwork was easy to understand, and there was no pressure put on me for a decision. I would most certainly recommended this company for price and efficiency."

“Happy with everything. We were well pleased with the consultant Sarah Mills she was very helpful and made us feel very confident that we were doing the right thing about our funeral plan."

"Positive without being pushy. Easy to understand the scheme, helpful brochure and a realistic price. The staff I contacted were polite and professional. Great value. An ideal alternative for those of us who don't want a lot of fuss."

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