The meeting to register a death takes around 30 minutes, and as well as giving information to the registrar you'll be given the documents you need to organise the funeral and start the process of probate.

On this page we give you information about:

1. What will the registrar do when I come to register a death?
2. What documents will I receive when I register a death?
3. What is a death certificate?
4. What is a certificate for burial or cremation?
5. What is a certificate of notification or registration of death?
6. What is Tell Us Once?
How can I register a death that occurred overseas?

What will the registrar do when I come to register a death?

When you go to register the death of a relative or friend, you will be interviewed by a registrar who will use your information to update the official records. The meeting usually takes around 30 minutes and is also a chance for you to get information about bereavement services in your area, as well receiving the death certificate and other documents you need to arrange the funeral.

The interview is a straightforward set of questions and answers, which are entered online and a draft entry is printed out for you to check. Once you are happy that everything is correct, you will be asked to sign the entry with the pen provided by the registrar. This pen is filled with special ink to ensure a clear and permanent record that doesn’t fade and can’t be erased.

Some of the information requested by the registrar, such as the deceased’s NHS number, is used to notify other government departments or for statistical purposes, but doesn’t appear on the death certificate.  

If you’re not sure what information you need to bring to the registry office, have a look at our Checklist: what to take with you when registering a death.

Which documents will I receive when I register a death?

During the meeting, you'll receive a number of documents that you need before you can organise the funeral and arrange probate:

  • the death certificate
  • certificate of notification or registration of death
  • certificate for burial or cremation.

The registrar will also give you leaflets about bereavement benefits for widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, if appropriate. 

In addition, they'll mention the Tell Us Once service, which allows you to inform most government departments about the death in one step. There’s more information about this service further down this page.

 If you are the executor or administrator of someone's estate, Which? Legal Probate offers advice and support through the process. 

What is a death certificate?

The death certificate is the entry in the death register. It contains information about who the deceased is and how they died. After the registrar has entered all the information, they will issue as many certified copies of the entry as you require and sign each one individually. You won’t sign the copies but your name will be printed on the form.

A certified copy of the death certificate is required by banks and other institutions to confirm the death, so it is wise to buy a number of them when you go to register the death, so you don’t have to order more at a later date. The certified copies are duplicate original copies and not photocopies. If someone asks you for an ‘original certificate’, it’s the certified copy that they need .

How much does each certified copy of the death certificate cost?

Registration is free, but the certified copies cost £4 each (2016) if purchased at the time of registration, and £7 each afterwards. After six months, the cost of a certified copy can rise to £9.25.

How many copies of the death certificate do I need?

Re-usable certificates

Organisations and companies won’t keep the certified copies of the death certificate (they'll may make their own photocopy as proof that they've seen it), so once they have been returned, you can re-use them.

Four or five copies should be enough, but the registrar will be able to let you know how many you'll need as it depends on the complexity of the estate. 

A safe assumption is that every major asset holder, such as banks and building societies for bank accounts and life insurance policies, will need to be sent one.

How can I order more certificates later on?

Every entry to the register of deaths has a reference number known as the GRO index reference. This number doesn’t appear on the certified copies, because they each have their own unique reference number.

  • The first six months after death, you will be able to order more certificates from the registry office you visited.
  • After six months, you may be directed to order copies from the General Register Office, at a cost of £9.25. When you order the certificate, you’ll need to give them the GRO index reference. The easiest way to order copies is to contact the General Register Office via their website. You'll find their contact details in Useful websites when registering a death.

What is a certificate for burial or cremation (green form)?

This is a certificate that you will be given for free when you register a death, and you’ll need to hand it over to the funeral director. The funeral can’t take place until the form is with the burial authority or crematorium.

Once the cremation or burial has happened, the cemetery or crematorium office returns part of the form to the registrar. If the form is not returned within 14 days, the registrar may contact the informant to find out why the funeral has been delayed.

If a coroner has carried out a post-mortem examination and your relative or friend is going to be cremated, the green form is replaced by an authorisation from the coroner, which is usually collected by the funeral director on behalf of the family.

  • In Northern Ireland, this form is called GR021.

What is a certificate of notification or registration of death (BD8 or white form)?

After someone close to you has died, you need to let government departments know so any benefits or pensions that your relative or friend was receiving can be stopped. You can do this through the Tell Us Once service (see below), but if you choose not to use that, you have to send in the certificate of notification or registration of death.

This certificate has a form on the back which you can send to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to let them know that your relative or friend has died. They will then forward the information to Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC).

If the deceased was receiving any benefits or state pension, you can use this form to ensure that those payments are adjusted and avoid overpayments. If they were a pensioner, you can also notify the death to the Pensions Service.

  • In Northern Ireland, the certificate is known as form 36/BD8. You can also contact The Bereavement Service to report the death of someone who was receiving social security benefits.
  • In Scotland, the certificate is called from 3344SI.

Contact details for the Pensions Service and The Bereavement Service are available on our  Useful websites when registering a death page.

What is Tell Us Once?

This government-run service allows you to report the death of a relative or friend to most of their departments in one go, so you don't have to contact each one separately. The registrar will give you a unique reference number to access the Tell Us Once service online or by phone. When you contact them, you will need to give this information about the deceased:

  • date of birth
  • national Insurance number
  • driving licence number
  • passport number.

You’ll also need to know:

  • any benefits or entitlements they were receiving, such as the state pension
  • any public sector or armed forces pension schemes they were getting
  • any local council services they had access to, for example a Blue Badge or free public transport
  • name and address of their next of kin
  • name, address and contact details of the person or company dealing with their estate (property, belongings and money), known as the ‘executor’ or ‘administrator’.

Before you give the details of the next of kin, executor, administrator and anyone who was claiming joint benefits or entitlements with the person who died to Tell Us Once, you must have their permission.

After you’ve sent in the details, Tell Us Once will notify:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Passport Office
  • the local council: to cancel housing benefit, council tax benefit, Blue Badge, inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
  • public sector and armed formed pension schemes
  • the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA): to cancel the person’s driving licence, but you’ll still need to send DVLA any registration certificates (V5C).

If your local register office doesn’t offer the Tell Us Once service or you choose not to use it, you’ll have to let the relevant organisations know about the death yourself. The registrar will give you a letter and reference number to help with this.

You can find out how to sign up for Tell Us Once in Useful websites when registering a death.

How can I register a death that occurred overseas?

Wherever your relative or friend died, you must register the death according to the regulations in that country. Ask the local embassy, consulate or high commission what information it will need to do this.  

You will be given a local death certificate, although this does not always record the cause of death. The document will be accepted in the UK, but you may need to get a certified translation if it’s not in English.

You can also apply to register the death with the UK authorities. You don’t have to do this, but if you do, it means the death will be recorded with the General Register Offices (for England, Wales and Northern Ireland) or the National Records Office (for Scotland). To do this (and in addition to the details listed above), you must provide:

  • the original local death certificate (not a certificate issued by a doctor)
  • a photocopy of the photo page of the passport of the person who died
  • their original full UK birth, naturalisation or registration certificate (if you can’t provide their passport)
  • written permission from the next of kin or the executor of their estate (if you’re not next of kin or the executor).

You can also order a consular death registration certificate. This is when the Foreign and Commonwealth Office registers the death at both the local consulate and in the UK. You don’t have to do this, but it ensures there is a local record of the death where it occurred. It costs £105, with copies of the certificate priced at £65. See Useful websites when registering a death for information on how to contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

More information

  • First steps when someone dies: read about the first practical steps that need to be taken after someone has died, whether this was at home, in a hospital or in a care home.
  • Getting bereavement support: trained volunteers and professional counsellors can support you with your grief if you feel you need more help outside your family and friends.
  • Funeral costs: find out what funeral directors' fees are made up of together with the costs of a cremation, burial and church service.

Page first published: 31 December 2015
Next review due: 31 May 2017