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, commonly known as the "green form" given after registering the death, which is necessary for funeral arrangements.

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

Any delay in obtaining a death certificate can lead to a postponement of the funeral and may result in fines. If you encounter delays in registration, promptly contact the local register office for guidance. Seeking assistance from a funeral service provider, such as Distinct Cremations, can also help navigate these challenges efficiently and ensure a smooth process.

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.

A death certificate facilitates matters such as estate settlements, pension claims, and insurance payouts, serving as a vital document for government agencies. This comprehensive document includes details such as the deceased's full name, date, and place of death, along with their age, occupation, marital status, and, if known, the cause of death, ensuring transparency and aiding in legal proceedings.

In the UK, death registration, overseen by local registrars, must occur promptly within specific deadlines: five days in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, and eight days in Scotland. Failure to adhere to these deadlines can lead to complications in funeral arrangements and potential legal ramifications.

UK Death Certificate

Can you arrange a funeral before registering the death?

While you cannot set a date for the funeral until the death has been officially registered, you can certainly initiate preliminary funeral arrangements. This allows you to begin the process of honouring your loved one's memory and preparing for the upcoming funeral service.

Before registration, there are several important tasks you can handle to streamline the funeral planning process. Firstly, you can research and select a reputable funeral provider who can guide you through the necessary steps and offer support. Additionally, you can start considering the type of ceremony you want, whether it's a direct cremation, a traditional funeral service, or a non-religious gathering. Discussing your preferences with the funeral provider can help ensure that your wishes are understood and accommodated.

It's understandable that navigating funeral arrangements can feel overwhelming, especially amidst the grief of losing a loved one. If you find yourself unsure about where to begin or have any concerns during this process, don't hesitate to reach out for guidance and support.

Our team at Distinct Cremations are here to assist you every step of the way, offering compassionate guidance and assistance to help you create a meaningful and dignified farewell for your loved one. Give us a call on 01543 211997 if you need assistance or have any questions.

How do I obtain a death certificate?

Here's a step by step process of how to obtain the 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:

Paperwork Purpose More information
Medical Certificate of Cause of Death To provide clarity on the cause of death This certificate is issued by a doctor when the cause of death is clear. If the cause is unclear, the case is referred to the coroner, and a specific form must be collected from the coroner by the funeral director or family
Death certificate Essential documentation for funeral arrangements A death certificate is obtained after registering a death in the UK. It's a prerequisite for arranging any funeral, be it a burial or cremation. If the death is investigated by a coroner, an Order for Burial or Cremation 6 form is issued instead
Certificate for Burial or Cremation / Green form Authorises the burial or cremation Provided with the death certificate when a death is registered and gives permission for the deceased to be cremated or buried. This form needs to be given to the funeral provider.
Cremation 1 form Application for cremation Completed by the nearest relative or executor of the will to apply for the cremation of the deceased
Cremation 4 form Authorisation for cremation release Filled out by a registered medical professional in conjunction with the Cremation 1 form to release the body for cremation
Cremation 6 form Coroners' authorisation for cremation release Required if the death is under investigation by the coroner. This form grants permission for cremation following the coroner's investigation
Burial form Purchase or reopening of a grave Completed by a funeral director or requested from the local council by the family for purchasing a grave or reopening an existing plot
Order for Burial / Form 101 Coroners' authorisation for burial release Similar to the Cremation 6 form, this is completed by coroners to authorise burial release if an investigation into the death is conducted. Prior approval from the coroner is necessary before proceeding with burial, granted via 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.

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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.

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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

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

Below are a selection of reviews from those who followed their instinct with Distinct and chose to buy a funeral with us.

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Anon 30 May 2024
first class
Mark 21 May 2024
Excellent communication, very helpful and we got just what we wanted in a service. Highly recommended and we will use again. Mark Oliver
Anon 2 May 2024
Service very efficient, and comprehensive. Understandably, you "chased me up" when there was a delay in my response to place an order, but this delay was whilst I contacted all those relatives who might have had a view to express.
Anon 24 Apr 2024
I was very happy with the service I received and they are only a phone call away if I or my sons should need advice or help in any way
Wendy 8 Apr 2024
This is a good company, the cremation was dealt with very smoothly without any problems. The staff were very courteous and professional throughout. Everything was explained over the phone and they were very patient answering my questions. The ashes were delivered on time to my door. Highly recommended.
Anon 7 Apr 2024
They gave a superb service, they were very professional from start to finish, but also friendly and empathetic too, at what was a very difficult time for myself and the family
Anon 6 Apr 2024
Dee was lovely and understanding and advice was easy to understand
Anon 5 Apr 2024
Very kind and helpful lady. She talked me through everything that I asked her about.
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