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’re happy that everything is correct, you’ll be asked to sign the entry with the pen provided by the registrar. This pen is filled with special ink that doesn’t fade and can’t be erased to ensure a clear and permanent record.
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, read our checklist on 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 in order to finalise the funeral and arrange probate:
certified copy of the death certificate
certificate of notification or registration of death
- certificate for burial or cremation.
The registrar will also give you leaflets about Bereavement Allowance for widows, widowers and surviving civil partners, if appropriate.
In addition, it will mention the Tell Us Once service, which allows you to inform most government departments about the death in one step.
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, it 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’s 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 a certified copy of the death certificate cost?
Registration is free, but the charges for the certified copies vary depending on when you purchase them and which country you live in.
Cost per certificate
at time of registration
|Cost after that|
|In England and Wales||£11||£11|
|In Northern Ireland||£8||£15 (first copy); £8 (thereafter)|
|In Scotland||£10|| |
They are sent out after 14 working days of ordering them, but if you need a certificate sooner, you can use the priority service, which costs £35 (£15 in Scotland). Order this by 4pm (1pm in Scotland) and you’ll receive it the next working day.
How many copies of the death certificate do I need?
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, bank and savings accounts, and life insurance policies, will need to be sent one. Most organisations and companies will photocopy certified copies of the death certificate and then return them, so that you can use them again. However, not all do this.
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.
During the first six months after death, contact the register office that registered the death to order more certificates. After that, you can get them from:
- The General Register Office, at a cost of £11 in England and Wales. When you order the certificate, you’ll need to give them the GRO index reference (without a GRO reference, there will be an additional £3 search fee).
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 that any benefits or pensions your family member or friend was receiving can be stopped. You can do this through the Tell Us Once service, but if you choose not to use that, you have to send the form on the back of the certificate of notification or registration of death to the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) to let them know that your loved one has died. It will then forward the information to HMRC.
If the deceased was receiving any benefits or the State Pension, you can use this form to ensure that those payments are adjusted and avoid over-payments.
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.
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 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 a coroner has carried out a post-mortem examination and your loved one is 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.
Our checklist of what to take with you when registering a death will help this upsetting experience run smoothly.
There are many decisions to make when arranging a funeral. Use our checklist of things to consider in the early stages.
Up-to-date advice and information from Which? to help older people stay safe during the coronavirus crisis.