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We take you through how and when to register the death of someone close to you, so you’ll be able to confirm funeral arrangements and administer the estate.

On this page we give you information about:

1. Who can register a death?
2. Where do I register a death?

When someone dies, it is a legal requirement to register the death. It’s the last formal step before you can hold a funeral, and after the registration you’ll receive the death certificate, which you'll need to inform authorities and companies of your relative or friend’s death.

Who can register a death?

A number of people can register the death, and who it ends up being usually depends on the circumstances of the death as well as relatives’ wishes. The person who registers the death is known as the informant.

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If the death occurred at home or in a hospital or care home, there are a few different people who can carry out the role. They are:

  • a relative
  • someone present at the death
  • an official from the hospital or care home
  • the person making the funeral arrangements.

If the person has been found dead elsewhere, the following people are qualified to register the death:

  • a relative of the deceased able to provide the registrar with the required details
  • a person present at the time of death
  • the person who found the body
  • the person in charge of the body
  • the person arranging the funeral.

In cases where a coroner’s inquest has been held, the coroner will act as the informant and provide the registrar with all the necessary details. In this case, there is no need for the family and relatives to register the death, but they will need to attend the register office if copies of the death certificate are needed, or to arrange for them to be sent home.

When can I register a death?

You are legally obliged to register the death within five days of the death of a relative or friend (eight days in Scotland). You can register once you have the Medical certificate of cause of death, or the coroner has let the registrar know that the death can be registered.

If a coroner has decided to open an inquest into your relative’s death, you can’t register the death until after the inquest is complete. However,  the coroner can give you an interim death certificate to prove the person is dead which you can use to let organisations know of the death and apply for probate.

Where do I register a death?

You always have to register a death in person at a registry office, and the process takes around 30 minutes.

If you want to, you can register the death in the local authority registry office where your relative or friend died. The envelope containing the medical certificate of cause of death often contains contact details for the local register office.

However, you can go to any register office, so if you don’t live near to your relative, you can register the death at an office close to you. If you do this, the death certificate and other forms will be posted to you. If you attend the register office in the area where your relative died, the documents will be given to you immediately.

Many offices are only open part-time so in the larger registration districts it may be necessary to travel.

In Northern Ireland, a death may be registered in any district registration office.

In Scotland, you can go to any register office.

You can find information on how to find your local register office, district registration office or register office in Useful websites when registering a death.

More information

Page first published: December 2015
Next review due: October 2017