How to Register a Death

When a death occurs to someone close to you, registering the death is may be one of many unenviable tasks that fall upon you to complete. However, compared to other tasks such as arranging a funeral and executing a will, registering a death is comparatively simple, provided that the death did not occur in suspicious or unusual circumstances.

If there are such circumstances surrounding the death, the process of registering the death may be a little more complicated.

Who Can Register the Death?

Before you register a death, you need to be sure that you are eligible to do so. Deaths cannot be registered by anyone – they can only be registered by certain people related to the deceased, or on some occasions, with some connection to the passing.

Most deaths are registered by relatives of the deceased – in fact, a registrar will generally only accept a death registration from someone else if there is no relative to do so.

If a relative does not carry out the registration, the registration can be carried out by the person handling the funeral arrangements, or someone who was present at the death.

Certain other parties can register the death, but their eligibility depends on where the death occurred.

If the death occurred in a hospital or home

  • Someone who lives in the home
  • A hospital official

If the death occurred somewhere else

  • The person who found the body
  • The person in charge of the body

At the Register Office

Registering the death must usually be done within five days of the death itself. It is best to carry out the registration in the district in which the death occurred – this will mean that the documents necessary will be obtained more easily, minimising any delays to the registration.

Delays to the registration mean delays to the funeral, as a funeral can’t take place until the death is registered – however, contrary to common misconception, contacting a funeral home before registration is allowed.

To register the death, you may need to make an appointment with the register office (although, this is not always necessary – contact the register office to make sure).

You will need a number of documents, although only the medical certificate of the cause of death is a strict requirement. The following documents should also be procured, if available:

  • Birth Certificate
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • NHS Medical Card

You will also need to give the following information about the deceased:

  • Their full name, as well as any previous (including maiden) names
  • Their date and place of birth (including the town if born in the UK)
  • Their occupation and last address
  • The details of a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • The details of any state benefit or pension

Once the death is registered, you will receive the Certificate for Burial or Cremation, which gives permission to have the body buried or cremated. If the deceased was on state benefits or a state pension, you will also receive the Certificate of Registration of Death.

The Government’s “Tell Us Once” Service

The government is rolling out a new service in some areas of the UK, which can spare the register of the death a lot of trouble.

All that needs to be done is inform the register office of the death, and they will take care of many of the other governmental tasks associated with registering a death, such as cancelling a passport or a driving licence.

Only some register offices carry this service at the moment – to find out more and if your local office does, search our Register Office Listings.

Registering a death is usually quite straightforward, and the information here will largely tell you all you need to know.

However, there are situations in which the process can become more complicated – for instance, if a death was unexpected, or you wish to transport the body outside of the country. Visit our section on Complications in Registering a Death for more guidance on this.