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How to Formally Register the Death of a Person

Dealing with the death of someone you know, whether family, friend or colleague is an extremely difficult and emotional process. This is not made any easier by the practical arrangements that then need to be made. Unless you have experienced this in your life previously, having to make arrangements in such circumstances for the first time can be quite daunting at a time of great emotional distress.

Knowing what those practical matters are in advance can alleviate some of the distress. Firstly, the death needs to be formally registered at a local registry office. This should be done within 5 days of death. If this is not possible then registration should take place as soon as possible thereafter.

If a person dies at home or in a hospice, for example, the attending doctor will issue a cause of death medical death certificate, if the cause of death is known and the death is not unexpected. This certificate is normally collected from the doctor’s surgery. If a person dies in hospital, a hospital doctor will issue the certificate and you will need to contact the hospital, normally Patient Services, to arrange to collect the certificate.

When the death is unexpected or the cause of death is unknown, the doctor may refer the matter to the local coroner. The coroner may make an initial investigation to see if the cause of death can be determined. If the cause of death can be determined, the coroner will issue a cause of death medical certificate and then the death can be formally registered. However, if the coroner decides that an inquest is required, the coroner will issue an interim death certificate, which like the full death certificate can still be used to notify organisations of death, whilst the inquiry is being completed.

When the cause of death medical death certificate has been issued, you then need to make an appointment at the local registry office. Normally a relative will undertake the task of registering the death. However it can also be a non-relative if they were present at the death or they are the person who is responsible for organising the funeral arrangements.

To formally register the death, you will need to supply the following information to the registrar:

  • The full name of the person who died
  • All names previously used, such as maiden name or names they were otherwise known as
  • The person’s date and place of birth
  • Their last address
  • Their occupation
  • The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
  • Whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits
  • Whether the person will be buried or cremated

You should also attempt to take the following documentation to the appointment to register the death:

  • The person’s birth certificate
  • Their Council Tax bill
  • Their driving license
  • The marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • Their NHS medical card
  • Their passport
  • Proof of their address (e.g. utility bill)

Finally, the person registering the death should also take proof of their own name and address by providing a recent utility bill showing this or their own passport and driving licence. However this is not mandatory.

There is a fee for obtaining a death certificate and this is normally £4.00. You can ask for more than one certificate and for each copy requested, if ordered at the time of registering the death the fee is £4.00 for each . If further copies are subsequently required, the change is around £10 for each. It is therefore advisable to obtain more than one copy of the death certificate on the day that you register the death, as this will be more cost effective.

When you register a death you will receive the death certificates (they will all be certified copies of the original certificate, which the registrar will retain) and a certificate for burial or cremation, called the ‘Green Form’. The Green Form gives permission for burial to take place or for an application for cremation to be made. You are also likely to be given a Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8) which you may need to fill out and return to the Department for Work and Pensions if the person was getting a State Pension and/or benefits (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope)

Once the death has been formally registered and you have received the above documentation, you can start arranging the funeral. Contact can now be made with a funeral director, although there is nothing to prevent you making contact before registration in order to begin this process. This is often preferable as in most circumstances it will be necessary for the deceased to be moved immediately after death into the safe custody of the funeral directors, before and whilst the death registration process is underway.

In addition to registering the death, you or the person responsible for dealing with the estate (the Personal Representative) will need to determine whether a Grant of Probate (where the deceased left a Will) or Letters of Administration (where there is no Will and the deceased is considered to have died intestate) is required to deal with the assets of the estate. This will depend on the type of assets that are comprised within the estate and the value of such assets. You will find that upon notifying banks/building societies, investment and insurance companies of death, they will respond notifying you whether they need to see a Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration before they can realise the assets of the estate.

The time following the death of a loved one is very upsetting and it can be difficult to focus on dealing with all the practical matters that are required

Our Private Client Team have a vast amount of experience dealing with the requirements following death and estate administration so if you experience any problems or have any questions about what to do following a death then please contact Louise Wilson or our Private Client department.

Please read Reliance on information posted in our Terms of Website Use - see Legal section - before relying on this commentary.

Before relying on this commentary please read the Reliance on information posted section in our Terms of Website Use in our Legal section. Please note that specialist advice should be taken in relation to any specific queries and the information above is provided for general information purposes only.


Louise Wilson

Wills, Tax & Estate Administration


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