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Registering a death

You have to register the death. Not to do so is a criminal offence.

Deaths in hospital

When a death takes place in a hospital or nursing home, the staff will contact you, lay out the body and arrange for it to be taken to the hospital mortuary.

You will have to arrange for the body to be collected by funeral director, who will take it to their chapel of rest. You will also have to collect the deceased's personal possessions.

A doctor at the hospital will issue a medical certificate giving the cause of death, in a sealed envelope addressed to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. You will also be given a notice, explaining how to register the death.

The medical certificate is not the Death Certificate.

You will need the medical certificate before you can register the death. When you register the death you will be given the Death Certificate.

If the doctor is unsure about the cause of death, he/she will not issue the medical certificate but will instead refer the case to the coroner. The coroner may order a post mortem examination.

Deaths at home

When someone dies at home, their GP should be called as soon as possible. The GP will normally visit the house and, if the death was expected, will issue a certificate giving the cause of death.

If the person did not have a GP or you do not know the name of the GP, an ambulance should be called instead.

If the GP is unsure about the cause of death, the death must be reported to a coroner and the body will be taken to a hospital mortuary, where a post mortem may take place.

Registering the death

The registration of the death is the formal record of the death. It is done by the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at the register office in the appropriate local authority, (local council), area.

In England and Wales, it is possible to register the death at a more convenient register office and the details will be passed to the correct office.

When someone dies at home, the death should be registered at the register office at the Council where they lived.

If the death took place in hospital or in a nursing home it should be registered at the register office at the local authority area in which the hospital or home is situated.

A death should be registered within five days but registration can be delayed for another nine days if the registrar is told that a medical certificate has been issued.

If the death has been reported to the coroner you cannot register it until the coroner's investigations are finished.

Who can register a death

The death should be registered by one of the following (in order of priority):-

  • a relative who was present at the death;
  • a relative present during the person's last illness;
  • a relative living in the district where the death took place;
  • anyone else present at the death;
  • an owner or occupier of the building where the death took place and who was aware of the death;
  • the person arranging the funeral (but not the funeral director).

What you will need to register a death

You will need to take with you:

  • the medical certificate of death;
  • the deceased person's NHS medical card and birth and marriage certificates.

The registrar will require the following information:

  • date and place of death;
  • the full name of the person (including maiden name) and their last address;
  • the person's date and place of birth;
  • the person's occupation and, in the case of a woman who was married or widowed, full name and occupation of her husband;
  • if the person was still married, the date of birth of their husband or wife;
  • whether the person was receiving a pension or other social security benefits.

Forms

When you have registered the death, the registrar will give you a green certificate to give to the funeral director.

This allows either burial or cremation to go ahead. Occasionally a registrar may be able to issue a certificate for burial only where no one has yet been able to register the death.

The registrar will also give you a form to send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to enable them to deal with the person's pension and other benefits.

Death certificate

The death certificate is a copy of the entry made by the registrar in the death register.

This certificate is needed to deal with money or property left by the person who has died, including dealing with the will.

You may need several copies of the certificate, for which there will be a charge. A list of the organisations that will require a death certificate are given in Advice when most needed.

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