To register a death in the UK, you’ll need to follow these general steps:
Step 1: Obtain a medical certificate:
Before registering the death, you will need a medical certificate from a doctor. If the person passed away at home or in a care home, you should contact their GP who will issue a medical certificate which states the cause of death. If the person died in a hospital, the hospital staff will usually provide you with the necessary paperwork.
Step 2: Find the registration office:
You cannot register a death at any registry office. Deaths must be registered at the Registry Office in the district where the death occurred. You can find the appropriate office by searching online or contacting your local council. If the death occurred abroad, the death needs to be registered at the nearest Registry Office to the funeral location. All death registrations must take place in person at the local registry.
Step 3: Book an appointment:
Contact the Registry Office to schedule an appointment for registering the death. You can contact them by telephone or, most Registry Offices allow you to book online. You can find the correct office on the government website: Find a Register Office
It’s important to do this as soon as possible since there is a legal requirement to register within five days (unless there’s a coroner’s investigation). If the cause of death is yet to be determined as the death is subject to a Corners investigation or inquest the Registrar will issue an interim death certificate which will enable the family to organise the funeral and to start the probate application and estate administration process.
Step 4: Gather the required information:
When attending the appointment, you’ll need to provide certain details about the deceased person. Make sure you have the following information available:
- Full name (including any previous names or aliases)
- Date and place of birth
- Date and place of death
- Occupation (if applicable)
- Last address
- Marital status (if married, provide the spouse’s full name, occupation, and date of birth or age)
- National Insurance number (if available)
- NHS number (if available)
When you book your appointment, the Registrar will tell you exactly what information is required and what supporting documents are needed. They can also tell you what to do if you do not have any of the required information.
Arrive at the registration office at the scheduled time. The registrar will guide you through the process and will require you to sign the death register.
After registering the death, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase additional death certificates. These are official documents that are usually required for legal and administrative purposes. It is advisable to get several copies as they may be needed for various purposes, such as notifying banks, insurance companies, and other relevant organisations. Most organisations will not accept photocopies or digital copies of the death certificate. They only accept copies issued by the Registrar.
What else needs to be done?
Registering the death is one of the first tasks following a death. You may also be interested in reading, “What to do when someone dies?”
Common Questions about How to Register a Death
Who can register a death UK?
In the United Kingdom, a death can be registered by the following individuals, listed in order of priority:
- A close relative of the deceased: This includes the spouse or civil partner of the deceased, their parents (if the deceased was a child), their children (if of legal age), and their siblings (if they have sufficient knowledge of the details required for registration).
- A person present at the death: If no close relative is available, someone who was present at the time of death can register it. This could be a friend, neighbour, or a staff member from a nursing home or hospital.
- The occupier of the premises where the death occurred: If there were no relatives or individuals present at the time of death, the person responsible for the premises where the death occurred (e.g., the manager of a residential care home) can register the death.
- The person arranging the funeral: If none of the above individuals are available to register the death, the person responsible for arranging the funeral can register it.
It’s important to note that the rules may vary slightly across different parts of the UK (England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland), so it’s advisable to check the specific requirements of the relevant local authority.
How long do you have to register a death in the UK?
In the UK, you are generally required to register a death within five days. However, the exact time frame can vary depending on the country within the UK. In England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, the death must be registered within five days. In Scotland, the requirement is slightly different, and the death must be registered within eight days. It’s important to note that weekends and bank holidays are included in the calculation of these time frames. If there are exceptional circumstances, such as the involvement of the coroner, the time frame for registration may be extended. It is best to contact the local registrar’s office for accurate and up-to-date information regarding the registration of deaths in your specific area.
Can you register a death online?
No, all death registrations must take place in person at the local registry. Most registrar’s offices in the UK now offer online appointment booking service.
Can you register a death without a birth certificate?
Registering a death in the UK generally requires the presentation of certain legal documents, including a valid birth certificate of the deceased person. The birth certificate is necessary to confirm the identity of the deceased and establish their personal details.
However, if the birth certificate is not available, there are alternative documents that can be used to register a death. These documents may include:
- Certificate of stillbirth: If the deceased was stillborn, a certificate of stillbirth can be used as an alternative to a birth certificate.
- Marriage or civil partnership certificate: If the deceased person was married or in a civil partnership, their marriage or civil partnership certificate can be used as evidence of their identity and personal details.
- Adoption certificate: If the deceased person was adopted, an adoption certificate can be used as a substitute for a birth certificate.
- Decree of divorce or annulment: If the deceased person was divorced or their marriage was annulled, the decree of divorce or annulment can be used to provide evidence of their identity.
- Foreign birth certificate: In some cases, a foreign birth certificate may be accepted if it provides sufficient evidence of the deceased person’s identity and personal details. However, it is advisable to contact the local register office to confirm if a foreign birth certificate is acceptable.
What is the penalty for not registering a death?
Failure to register a death within the specified time limits is a criminal offence under the Births and Deaths Registration Act 1953. An individual who intentionally fails to inform, or refuses to provide information to a registrar about a death can be fined. The penalty for not registering a death can vary depending on the circumstances and the jurisdiction within the UK.
It should be noted that the normal five day time limit for registering a death can be extended in exceptional circumstances when there is a coroner’s investigation or inquest.
Can you book a funeral before registering the death?
No, it is not possible to book a funeral before registering the death in the UK. In the UK, the registration of a death is a legal requirement before a funeral can take place.
The registrar will issue two forms. The Death Certificate and a Certificate for Burial or Cremation also referred to as the green certificate or form. It gives permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made.