How to register a death

A man's hands with a pen signing paperwork

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After someone dies, their death must usually be registered within five days. Once you’ve done this, everything else can happen at a pace that works for you. There’s no rush.

Here, we share some of the most important things you need to know about registering a death. Do get in touch with any questions we’re here to help if we can.

You must be a relative of the person who has died or have been present when they died to register the death.

However, if you are arranging the funeral of a friend or neighbour who has died, you can register the death if there are no relatives able to do so.

It is possible for someone to nominate a Next of Kin while they are alive, who can be a friend or ‘chosen family’ member. This person should also be able to register the death.

1. You need an in-person appointment to register a death.

During the Covid-19 pandemic it was possible to register a death online. But that has changed. Now all appointments must take place in person at the register office.

When you book your registration appointment, you will need to give your name and your relationship or connection with the person who has died.

The doctor who certified the death will send a form called the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death to the register office. Once the register office has received this form, they will contact you to book an appointment.

However, if you are confident the register office has received the form, you can call to book an appointment. Some register offices, such as Lambeth, also offer online booking.

If the death was referred to the coroner, the register office needs to wait for the coroner’s paperwork. You should be given a contact for a Coroner’s Liaison Officer — ask them about how long the process will take, as this varies from case to case.

If you are registering a baby’s death, their birth and death can be registered at the same appointment. For a stillbirth, you have a longer time period in which to register — within 42 days. Find out more about funerals for children and babies here.

2. You (usually!) need to go to the local register office in the area where the person has died.

You can only a register a death at the register office in the area where the person died. This may be different from the area where they lived or where you live.

If you are unable to do this, you can 'make a declaration' at another register office. The registrar taking the declaration will send it to the local register office, along with your payment for any certificates.

The local register office can issue the death certificate straightaway. However, it can take up to ten days if you make a declaration at another register office.

3. You need to know basic information about the person who has died.

You will need to know some basic information about the person, including their full name (and any previous names); date and place of death; date and place of birth; last address; occupation; and whether they were receiving a pension or allowance from public funds.

You may also need some information about their surviving partner if they have one.

However, you do not need to bring any documents, like a passport or birth certificate. If you have these, they can be helpful to refer to, but they are not essential, so don’t worry if you can’t find them!

You will need to sign the record at the appointment to confirm that the information is correct.

4. You need to think about how many copies of the death certificate you will need.

Copies of the death certificate can be useful when administering the person’s estate. You may be asked to show the death certificate when accessing or closing accounts. Although many places will accept a scan or a photo of the death certificate.

Each copy costs £11. At some register offices, you can order and pay for copies on the day of the appointment or when you book your appointment. It’s worth checking the website for your local register office first, as the process can vary from area to area.

If you are not sure how many copies you need, you can order extra copies at any time afterwards, via the register office website, for the same cost plus a delivery charge.

You will need to give the person’s name and the date and place of death when ordering certificates to help identify the right record on the register.

5. Once you’ve registered the death, you will be able to access Tell Us Once.

At your appointment, the registrar will give you a unique Tell Us Once reference number.

Tell Us Once enables you to notify all relevant government departments about a death through a single process. It covers benefits, vehicle registration, the electoral register and even some public sector pensions. Find more death admin tips in this handy blog.

6. If you need to hold the funeral within 24 hours for cultural or religious reasons, it is possible to register a death more quickly.

The website for your local register office will have more information and an out-of-hours number to call.

7. You can start thinking about the funeral that’s right for you before registering the death.

Once you register the death, the registrar will send what’s called the ‘green form’ to your funeral director. If we’re supporting you to arrange a funeral, we will let you know how to get the form sent to us.

We can’t book a funeral date at a crematorium, cemetery or natural burial ground until we have this form, but we can answer your questions, listen to what you need and share advice, information and ideas with you on the phone on 020 3589 4726, by email or through our Talking Death blog.

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