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When someone dies in the UK, their death must be registered so that you can get an official death certificate. You’ll also get the paperwork you need to start arranging their funeral.

If you want to find out more about registering a death in the UK our guide below will help. We understand that when you’re dealing with the death of a family member or friend knowing what practical steps you need to take can help ease some of the stress. So we’ve broken it all down for you below. It’ll tell you who can register the death, what you’ll need to take with you to your appointment at the register office, and the time constraints you need to be aware of. If you have more questions, see our FAQs section.

Who can register a death?

The death can be registered by: 

  • A family member or relative of the person who died 
  • Someone who was there at the time of death 
  • A staff member from the hospital where the person died 
  • The person responsible for arranging the funeral 

Some rules are changing in 2024:

Under the current rules it can be difficult for an unmarried partner to register their partner’s death. But this is changing in 2024. The government is planning on making it easier for “unmarried partners” and “representatives” of the person who’s died to register their death. But make sure you check this with the register office first. These rules are slowly changing so not every registrar will have fully rolled this out yet.

How long do you have to register a death?

In England and Wales, once the medical certificate of cause of death has been issued, you have to register the death within 5 days. In Scotland you have 8 days to register the death. But if a coroner has to carry out an investigation to find out the cause of death the medical certificate may be delayed and you’ll be given an extension. 

Where do you register a death?

You’ll need to contact the register office in the area where the person died. Find your local register office and call them to make an appointment. They’ll explain what you need to do and what you’ll need to bring with you to register the death.

What documents do you need to register a death?

Once you’ve made an appointment with the register office you’ll need to get the necessary documents ready. Without the right info at the appointment the registration could be delayed and you may have to book another slot. 

Important:

You must have a medical certificate of cause of death. You can’t register the death without it. The doctor or medical examiner may have sent it directly to the register office, or they may have given it to you. If they've given it to you, you must take it with you to register the death. Read our guide for more info about getting a medical certificate for cause of death.

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Make sure you have the following documents ready as well (if relevant to the person who passed away): 

  • The person’s birth certificate 
  • Their driving licence 
  • Their passport 
  • A council tax bill from their most recent address 
  • Their NHS card 
  • Their marriage certificate or civil partnership certificate 
  • Proof of their address (a utility bill e.g. gas, electricity or internet bill) 

Don’t worry if you can’t find all of the documents above or if they don’t all apply. And don’t let that stop you from making an appointment to register the death either. The above documents will make it easier for the registrar to get all the info they need but they’re not all essential. 

It’s also a good idea to take your own passport or driving licence with you just in case the registrar asks for identification.

Pre-registering a death

Some register offices will ask you to complete a form to pre-register the death before your appointment. You can fill this form out at home. You'll need to make sure you have these documents to hand to help you fill out the form: the birth certificate of the person who has died, their driving licence, their passport, their NHS card, a council tax bill or a utility bill, their marriage or civil partnership certificate. 

If you need to pre-register the death, the register office will tell you when you book your appointment. They'll also send you the form. 

What info do you need to register a death?

The registrar will need the following details about the person who died: 

  • Their full name 
  • Any previous names (maiden name) 
  • Date of birth 
  • Place of birth 
  • Their last address 
  • Their job 
  • Details about their spouse or civil partner 
  • If they got a state pension or any benefits from the government 

These details can usually be noted down from the documents you’ve provided. But having them written down may help you stay on top of things too, especially if you need to organise the person’s affairs and contact banks and other organisations at a later date. 

What happens when you register a death?

Once the death is registered you’ll get: 

  • A death certificate: This is the official document that shows you’ve registered the death. It’s also a copy of the entry that’s made in the death register.
  • A certificate for burial or cremation (green form): This form means you have permission to apply for burial or cremation so you can start making funeral arrangements. 
  • A certificate of registration of death (form BD8): This form may need to be filled in if the person who died got a state pension or benefits from the government. You’ll get it with a pre-paid envelope so you know who to send it back to. 

What do you need a death certificate for?

You’ll need a death certificate if you’re responsible for managing the personal affairs of the person who’s passed away. For example, when you start contacting their bank or their insurance company you’ll need to provide them with official proof that the person has died so that you can pay off any debts for them or close accounts. If you’re not the executor of the person’s estate (you’re not responsible for managing their will) then you might also need to get copies of the death certificate for them too. And keep in mind that photocopies of the original version are not usually accepted when you contact banks, insurance companies and lots of other organisations so it’s always best to get several official copies. 

How much does a death certificate cost?

There’s no cost for registering a death in the UK. But you’ll need to pay for copies of the death certificate. Each copy costs £11. It’s sensible to get several copies of the death certificate so that letting other organisations know about the person’s death is more straightforward.  

phone calls and hands
Need a list of organisations to contact after someone's passed away?

Use our guide for a full list of who you’ll need to get in touch with.

How long does it take to register the death?

It will only take about half an hour. But make sure you book a slot as soon as you can because you may not be able to get an appointment for a couple of days. Check if your register office also offers the Tell Us Once service. This may take a bit longer. But it means that the registrar can help you contact several government organisations about the death of the person at once. That way you have more time to concentrate on saying goodbye to the person who died and making funeral arrangements

FAQs

Do you need a birth certificate to register a death?

It’s not essential to have the person’s birth certificate to register their death. It’s useful to have because the registrar will add their place of birth to the death certificate. But don’t worry if you don’t have it. Just provide them with all the info you can. For example, if you know the town or county they were born in that can be added to the death certificate instead of an exact address. 

Can you arrange a funeral before registering the death?

You can get in touch with a funeral director to discuss some options for the funeral before registering the death. But it’s best not to set a date for the funeral. This is because you won’t get the death certificate or certificate of burial or cremation until you’ve registered the death. And these documents are required before the funeral takes place. 

Can you register a death anywhere?

No – you’ll need to register the death with the council where the death took place. For example, if your loved one died in Birmingham, you’d have to book an appointment with the register office associated with Birmingham City Council. But if you’re in Northern Ireland or Scotland, you can register a death with any register office.  

If your loved one died somewhere else in the UK and you’re unable to go to the local register office, you can book an appointment elsewhere and carry out a declaration of their death instead. But this means that the death certificate and certificate of burial or cremation will be delayed because the register offices will need to send the paperwork through the post. 

Do you have to register a death in person?

Yes, the death must be registered in person by a relative, someone who was present at the death, or by the person arranging the funeral. There’s currently no way to register a death online, or via email. But you will need to book your appointment online with the local register office. 

What happens if you don’t register a death?

If you don’t register a death within 5 days (or 8 days if you’re in Scotland), or you withhold information from the registrar, you could get a fine. You could also be charged with a criminal offence. But if there are delays that are out of your control, such as the coroner being involved, then this will be communicated with you and the relevant register office so you know what to expect. 

If a person dies in hospital who registers the death?

If someone dies in hospital, it’s typically a relative, or the person who’s arranging the funeral who’ll register the death. But if this isn’t possible or the person who died has no family or friends, then someone from the hospital staff who was present at the death will do it instead. 

Can a funeral director register a death?

No – a funeral director can’t register a death for you. But they can offer you advice on what you’ll need to do to prepare. 

Can you register a death at the weekend?

It is possible to register a death at the weekend in certain circumstances. Some register offices have out of hours services for people who need to register a death as soon as possible, sometimes within 24 hours of the death, so that their loved one can be buried quickly. This can be for religious reasons. It’s always worth checking the specific register office though, so that you know if they have specific times when you need to contact them and if you need to use their pre-registration service to speed things up. 

Can an unmarried partner register a death?

Under the current rules, an unmarried partner is not on the list of people who can register the death of their partner. It would have to be done by a relative, someone who was present at their death, or the person who’s organising their funeral. (Technically speaking, if an unmarried partner took on the responsibility of organising the funeral then they’d be allowed to register the death. But if this applies to you, make sure you check this with the register office first.)  But these rules are changing in 2024. The government is introducing new categories of “qualified informants” to make it easier for a partner of someone who’s died to register their death. They’re also making it possible for a “representative” of the person who died to register their death too. 

Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash.