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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 can I register a death?
3. How 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 a certified copy of the death certificate, which you'll need so that you can 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 or civil partner of the deceased present at the death
  • a relative or civil partner of the deceased in attendance during the illness
  • a relative or civil partner of the deceased residing or being in the sub-district where the death occurred
  • a person present at death
  • the occupier if he/she knew about the death happening
  • any inmate if he/she knew of about the death happening
  • the person who is organising disposal of the body, eg the person responsible for paying the account.

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

  • any relative or civil partner of the deceased having knowledge of any particulars required to be registered
  • any person present at the death
  • any person who found the body
  • any person in charge of the body
  • the person who is organising disposal of the body.

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 registry 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 only register a death 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 has died, 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. The funeral director or bereavement officer (if death was in hospital) should give you details of how to contact the registrar.

You can go to any registry office to register the death but, if possible, register the death in the county where your relative died. This will save time and you should get the necessary documentation on the same day.

If you register the death in a different county, which is called ‘registration by declaration’, it will take longer to get the necessary documentation. Forms will need to be sent back and forth between the registry office in your county, and the registry office in the county where the death occurred. If you choose this option, the death certificate and other forms will be posted to you.

Use the Gov.uk website to search for your nearest registry office by postcode. Many offices are only open part-time so check opening times. Some offices require you to book an appointment time.

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 last reviewed: October 2017