There’s a set process that needs to happening before a funeral can take place. You need to obtain certain forms from the doctor or hospital and present these at your local town hall register office. The register office will then issue the documents you need for the funeral.
Here’s what you need to do:
The Medical Certificate
You need to obtain the Medical Certificate (‘Medical Certificate of Cause of Death’) signed by a doctor. This will be either the GP who attended the person before death or the hospital doctor (in which case the hospital bereavement office / patient affairs office will organise this). This document certifies the medical cause of death and you will need it in order to register the death.
Obtaining this certificate is normally straightforward as long as the doctor knows the cause of death and has been treating the deceased within the last 14 days. If the death was sudden or the cause of death is unknown then the doctor will issue a notification of referral to the coroner. The coroner will then need to decide if the cause of death is clear (see deaths reported to the Coroner).
Once you have the certificate you can go ahead and register the death (see below).
Registering the death
You need to register the death to a Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages at a Register Office within five days of the death occurring (8 days in Scotland). It takes about 30 minutes and you may need to make an appointment in advance.
You can go to any register office, but it’s preferable to use the one closest to where the person died in order to receive the documents you’ll need on the day. Use this tool to find your local register office. If you use a different register office the documents will be sent to the office in the area where the person died before they’re issued to you. This means you’ll usually wait a few days.
The UK government also provides an online service to register a death to find out if you can register the death yourself and to see what you need to do.
If the death has been reported to a coroner (Procurator Fiscal in Scotland) you can’t register the death until the coroner gives permission.
You can register the death if you’re:
- a relative
- someone present at the death
- an administrator from the hospital
- the person making the funeral arrangements
You must have the medical certificate showing the cause of death (signed by a doctor) with you. If available also bring the person’s:
- birth certificate
- marriage certificate
- NHS medical card
Other useful documents to bring are the person’s:
- Council Tax bill
- driving licence
- proof of address (eg utility bill)
You’ll need to tell the registrar:
- the person’s full name at the time of death
- any names previously used, eg maiden name
- the person’s date and place of birth
- their last address
- their occupation
- the full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner
- whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits
You should also take supporting documents that show your name and address (eg a utility bill) but you can still register a death without them.
See Registering a Death Checklist
Visit https://www.gov.uk/register-a-death for more information.
When you register a death the registrar will provide you with the following:
- Certificate for Burial or Cremation (a green square form known as the ‘Green Form’). This gives permission for a burial or an application for cremation. This is the form you will need to give the Funeral Director.
- Certificate of Registration of Death (a white form BD8 known as the ‘White Form’) – you may need to fill this out and return it if the person was getting a State Pension or benefits (the form will come with a pre-paid envelope so you know where to send it)
- Death Certificate (Certified Copy of an entry of death). This is legal proof of the death. It’s a good idea to pay for a few additional certified copies as you may need to post them to various organisations when settling the affairs and estate of the person who has died, including applying for probate.
- A Tell Us Once reference number. You will need this to register on the Tell Us Once service.
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