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Preparing to register a death

We explain how to formally register a death and what information you’ll need.
3 min read
In this article
Who can register a death? When can I register a death? How do I register a death?
How do I find my local register office?

Who can register a death?

When someone dies, it’s a legal requirement to register the death. It’s the last formal step before you can hold a funeral. 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 loved one’s 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.

If the death occurred at home or in a hospital or care home, there are a few different people who can register the death. 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 they knew about the death happening
  • any resident if they knew of about the death happening
  • the person who is organising the removal of the body, such as 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 removal 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 the certificates to be posted.

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When can I register a death?

You are legally obliged to register the death within five working 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 loved one’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.

How 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 the 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 loved one died. This will save time and you should get the necessary documentation on the same day.

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

If you register the death in a different county in England and Wales, 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.


How do I find my local register office?


Many offices are only open part time so check the opening times. Some offices require you to book an appointment time.

Which? Probate
Our free checklist breaks down the probate process into essential tasks and will help keep you on track.

Further reading

Registering a death

After the medical certificate has been issued, the next stage is to register the death. Here, we explain the next steps.

Last updated: 10 May 2019