Registering a death in the UK is an official requirement which must be undertaken within five days (eight in Scotland) of a death occurring. Though a simple enough process, it can be a difficult and confusing thing for the bereaved to deal with so close after losing a loved one.
In this guide, we answer some common questions about the process of registering a death including who can do this, what they need to do and how long the process takes.
- Who can register a death?
- What information do I need to register a death?
- What documents will I need to register a death?
- What if death occurred abroad?
- What are the costs for registering a death?
- How long does registering a death take?
- What could delay registering a death?
- What documents will I receive after registering a death?
Who Can Register a Death?
Most deaths are registered by the deceased’s closing relatives such as spouse, sibling, parent or children.
If none of these are available then any of the following persons can register a death in the UK, providing they have the relevant information and documents (see below):
- Any other relatives of the deceased (uncles, aunts, grandparents, cousins or even a relative by marriage) who were either present at the death or final period of illness and/or living in the register district where the death occurred.
- A person who is taking care of the funeral arrangements but not the funeral director.
- A person who was present at the death.
- An occupier of the hospice or hospital where the death occurred.
- Any person who either occupied or owned part of the premises where the death occurred
Additionally, in Scotland and Northern Ireland, the following people can also register a death:
- Any person who found or is taking charge of the deceased’s body after death including the funeral director.
- The executor or administrator of the deceased's estate.
- The chief officer, matron or governor of a public building where the death occurred.
You may not delegate the responsibility of registering a death to someone else who is not covered by this list.
What Information Do I Need to Register a Death?
Whoever registers a death in the UK will need to have the following information in order to complete the relevant paperwork.
- Full name of the deceased including any other names by which they were known (e.g. maiden name in the case of a married woman).
- Details of the deceased’s usual place of residence.
- The deceased’s date and place of birth.
- The date that death occurred.
- The address of where the death occurred.
- Name and address of the deceased's GP
- Marital status of the deceased (single, married, divorced, widowed or other)
- Full name and occupation of the deceased’s spouse (even if widowed)
- The occupation of the deceased
If the deceased was a child then the full names and occupation of the parents will be required.
What Documents Will I Need to Register a Death?
Registering a death, whether this is in England, Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland, requires you to produce a medical certificate of death.
It is also recommended that you also bring along the deceased’s:
- NHS medical card.
- Birth certificate.
- Marriage certificates (if applicable).
Having proof of identity for the deceased is also a good idea and if you can find a passport or driving license plus proof of their address then this can be useful.
In Scotland, it is also recommend that you bring with you the details of any pensions that the deceased may have held (private or state).
If a death has been reported to a coroner (see ‘What Could Delay Registering a Death?’, below) or is subject to an inquest you will also need a certificate from the coroner’s office to register the death.
What if Death Occurred Abroad?
If death occurs outside of the UK then you will need to register the death with the local authorities of the country in which this happened.
If death occurs on board an aircraft or ship then death must be registered in the country where the aircraft or ship is registered.
Every country has their own procedures for handling the official business of registering a death but you can get assistance by contacting the local British Embassy, Consulate or High Commission.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office can also offer advice and support for when this happens.
Once the death has been registered with the country where this took place and the body has been repatriated, you should then contact a register office to obtain a certificate which authorises burial or cremation of the deceased in the UK.
Because the death has already been registered abroad, instead of a death certificate you will be issued with a ‘Certificate of No Liability to Register’; this must be passed to the funeral director but returned to the register office within 96 hours of the funeral taking place.
If the deceased was living abroad but collecting a UK pension then you may also need to contact the International Pension Centre.
What are the Costs for Registering a Death?
There is no charge for registering a death in the UK but you will need to pay for any copies of the death certificate.
How Long Does Registering a Death Take?
All deaths in England, Wales and Northern Ireland must be registered with the Register Office within five days of the date of death. In Scotland, this is eight days.
The process to register the death with the registrar is usually quite straightforward as long as you have all of the above information and documents with you. Expect the appointment to take no longer than 30-60 minutes.
What Could Delay Registering a Death?
The registration can be delayed if you do not have the correct information and/or documents or if the coroner has not given permission for the death to be registered. This can happen in the event of a query regarding the cause of death or if there is an inquest pending.
Common reasons for a coroner being appointed to investigate a death are if:
- death was sudden and unexpected (i.e. the deceased’s doctor had not seen, treated or looked after them in the period prior to death).
- the deceased was not seen by a doctor in the 14 days prior to death (28 days in Northern Ireland).
- the cause of death was unnatural or violent such as alcohol or drug overdose, suicide or a car accident.
- the cause of death is unknown.
- the death took place in police custody or in prison.
- the death was caused by industrial disease.
- the circumstances of death were suspicious in any way.
- the death took place during surgery or following surgery including recovery from an anaesthetic.
In most instances, the coroner will usually conduct a post-mortem to further investigate the cause of death.
Deaths that have been reported to a coroner may not be registered until the coroner has completed their investigations and issued a certificate allowing registration of the death to take place.
Depending on the complexity of the circumstances surrounding death, delays of a few days to a few weeks can be expected once a coroner has been appointed.
What Documents Will I Receive After Registering a Death?
The process for registering a death in England & Wales varies from that in Scotland and Northern Ireland and you can expect to receive the following documents in accordance with where in the UK a death has been recorded:
England & Wales
When you have registered the death, the registrar will provide you with two official forms:
- a green certificate which must be passed to the funeral director in order to authorise either burial or cremation to proceed, and
- a form which is to be sent to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to make adjustments to any social security benefits and state pension(s).
On occasion, the registrar may also issue a certificate for burial (not cremation).
A charge is made for any and all copies of the death certificate.
For deaths registered in Scotland, you will be given:
- form 14 - a certificate of registration of death which should be provided to the person(s) in charge of the funeral, burial ground or crematorium (often the funeral director);
- form 334/SI - a notification of death certificate to be provided to Social Security for adjusting Social Security and Pension benefits.
- an abbreviated extract of the entry of death in the register.
Please note that, as with deaths recorded in England & Wales, a charge is made for any death certificates required.
For deaths registered in Northern Ireland, you will be provided with:
- a GRO21 form which grants authority for the deceased to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made.
- form 36/BD8 which is issued for social security purposes and confirms registration of death.
Again, a fee is payable for any and all copies of the death certificate.