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Registering a death

After the medical certificate of death has been issued, the next stage is to register the death. Here, we explain what steps you should take.

In this article
Who can register a death? When can I register a death? How do I register a death? What happens at the registry office? Documents to take with you Which documents will I receive when I register a death?
What is a death certificate? How much does a death certificate cost? Can I order more certificates later on? Tell Us Once What is a certificate of registration of death (form BD8)? What is a certificate for burial or cremation?

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 copy of the death certificate, which you’ll need to inform authorities and companies of your loved one’s death.

The person who registers the death is known as the informant. In most cases this should be a relative of the deceased, but it may be another person. This depends on the circumstances of the death as well as relatives’ wishes. 

If the death occurred at home or in a hospital or care home, there are a few different people who can register the death:

  • a relative or civil partner of the deceased present at the death or 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 or resident of the property if they knew about the death happening
  • the person responsible for making funeral arrangements.

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

  • a relative or civil partner of the deceased having knowledge of any particulars required to be registered
  • any person who found the body or was present at the death
  • 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.

When someone dies abroad

If your loved one dies abroad, you will need to follow the regulations of that particular country. You can find guidance on how to approach this on Gov.uk. The British embassy or consulate in the country where your loved one died can also provide support.

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 have to register a death in person at a registry office. 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.

How do I find my local register office?

Some offices require you to book an appointment time.

What happens at the registry office?

When you go to register the death, 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 as 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. 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.

The registrar will also explain the Tell Us Once service, which allows you to inform most government departments about the death in one step. We explain more about this service later in this article.

Documents to take with you

The only document that is legally required to register a death is the medical certificate of the cause of death or the coroner’s form (which will usually be sent directly to the registrar).

However, it can be helpful to bring more information about the deceased to the registry office. Here is a checklist of the most important documents and information to bring.

Useful documents

  • birth certificate of the deceased
  • NHS medical card
  • proof of their address, such as a utility bill
  • driving licence
  • passport
  • marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • death certificate for the spouse or civil partner if the deceased was already widowed. 

Additional information to bring

The following information about the deceased will make registering the death easier:

  • full name
  • maiden name and any other previous surnames, if applicable. You can also record any other names by which the person was known.
  • date and place of birth
  • date and place of death
  • last usual address
  • occupation or former occupation
  • national insurance number
  • date of birth, name and occupation of a surviving spouse or civil partner
  • details of state pension or other pension or benefits from public funds received by the deceased, such as a local authority pension or Department for Work and Pension benefits
  • name of the person dealing with their estate.

Remember to get the permission of any people whose details you give to the registrar. It is also a good idea to bring some documents to verify your own name and address, such as a passport or driving licence and a utility bill.

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 information about Bereavement Allowance, if appropriate. 

What is a death certificate?

The death certificate 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 certificate as you require and sign each one individually. A certified copy is required by banks and other institutions to confirm the death, so it’s wise to order a number of them when you register the death. 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. You can order more copies at a later date if needed.

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. 

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 death certificate cost?

Registering a death 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 
England and Wales     £11 £11
Northern Ireland     £8 £15 (first copy); £8 (thereafter)
Scotland     £10 £12

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 Gov.uk or the General Register Office (GRO).

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). In England certified copies will be sent out after 4 working days of ordering them, but it may take longer in the other nations. If you need a certificate sooner, you can request the priority service. This will cost extra (£35 in England), but the copies will be sent out by the next working day.

Tell Us Once

Tell Us Once is a service that allows you to report a death to most government services in one go.

When you’re registering a death, the registrar will either fill in the form for the Tell Us Once service or give you a unique reference number to use the service yourself online or by phone.

Once you’ve provided the necessary details, Tell Us Once will notify:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • Passport Office
  • the local council – to cancel any housing benefit, council tax benefit, or a Blue Badge, and to inform council housing services and remove the person from the electoral register
  • public sector and armed formed pension schemes
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) - but you need to contact DVLA if you want to sell or keep a vehicle.

If you don’t use the Tell Us Once service, 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.

Sign up for Tell Us Once on gov.uk.

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

After a loved one has died, you need to let government departments know so that any state pension or benefits they were receiving can be stopped. If you choose not to use the Tell Us Once service, you have to send the form on the back of the certificate of registration of death (form BD8) 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.

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 form 3344SI.

What is a certificate for burial or cremation?

You will be given this certificate when you register the death, and you’ll need to provide 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.

In Northern Ireland, this form is called GR021.

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