When someone dies, a trained healthcare professional needs to verify the death, to confirm that the person has died (known as ‘formal verification of death’). A doctor also needs to certify the death by completing a ‘medical certificate of cause of death’. A doctor, nurse, or other trained healthcare professional can verify the death. They do this by making certain checks to be sure that the person has died. It’s best not to move the body from the home before this has taken place.
If the person dies in the evening, at night, at the weekend or on a bank holiday, call the GP and you’ll be given a number to phone for a doctor. If a Marie Curie Nurse or other healthcare professional is present at the time of death, they will check the person’s care plan to see whether the GP needs to be called or if other arrangements are in place.
Some Nurses are trained to verify a death in a person’s home. If they are not able to do this, they can help you contact the GP or district nurse.
A doctor will need to certify the death. This is usually done by a GP who saw the person recently. They’ll complete a medical certificate of cause of death if the death was expected and they’re sure it was from natural causes. They’ll also give you a notice to the informant, which will be attached to the medical certificate of cause of death. It tells you how to register a death.
Sometimes a GP will verify and certify the death at the same time. But if the person who verifies the death is unable to certify it, you’ll need to get a medical certificate of cause of death from the GP the next day. If the body is with a funeral director, the GP will see the body there.
The GP might need to report the death to the coroner. This usually happens if the death was sudden or unexpected, if a GP hadn’t seen the person during their last illness, or if the death may have been related to their work. Try not to worry if the death is reported to the coroner. The coroner may decide that the cause of death is clear and no further investigation is needed. Or they might investigate why and when the death occurred, potentially doing a post-mortem. If you have concerns, contact the coroner’s office to find out what will happen next.
The medical certificate of cause of death is the document that should be taken to the registrar’s office in the local council where the death occurred. Most register offices ask that you book an appointment in advance, so it’s best to contact them first. You can find a registrar’s office on the GOV.UK website or at https://www.gov.uk/register-offices.
When you get the medical certificate of cause of death, ask for the address of the local register office. You can also find your local register office online:
Once the death has been verified and certified, you’ll need to register the death with a local registrar. The registrar will then give you the forms that you’ll need to organize the burial or cremation and to sort out practical things like finances. Many register offices will only see someone by appointment, so it’s best to call in advance to book a time. It usually takesaround half an hour to register a death.
All deaths need to be registered with the registrar for births, deaths, and marriages. This must be done within:
Five days in England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
Eight days in Scotland.
This includes weekends and bank holidays. It may differ if the registrar agrees to extend the period, or if the death has been referred to the coroner. If a death has been referred to the coroner, you’ll need to wait for them to give permission before you can register the death.
There’s no cost for registering a death. But you will need to pay to get copies of the death certificate. The cost of the certificate varies across the UK but it is usually between £8 and £12. It is best to try and get enough copies when you first register the death as buying more copies later can sometimes be more expensive. You will need copies for various bank accounts, pension policies, insurance policies, and financial institution companies so it is normal to order 6 to 12 copies.
Most deaths are registered by a family member. If a family member can’t register the death, it can be registered by one of the following people:
Someone who was present at the death.
The person’s executor or other legal representatives.
An owner or occupier of the part of the building where the death took place if they
were aware of the death.
The person arranging the funeral, but not the funeral director.
You must take the medical certificate of cause of death with you. The GP or hospital doctor will give this to you. You should bring some identification (eg a driving license, passport) as proof of who you are.
You should also try to bring the deceased’s:
Birth and marriage or civil partnership certificate
NHS medical card
Proof of their address, such as a utility bill
Documents relating to the receipt of government pension or allowances
Don’t worry if you can’t find all of these documents – you’ll still be able to register the death without them. The registrar will want to know:
The person’s full name (at the time of their death)
Any other names that the person used (eg a birth or married name)
Their date and place of birth, including the town and county if they were born in the UK, or just the country if they were born abroad
Their last address
Their occupation or last occupation if now retired
The full name of their husband, wife, or civil partner, if they’ve died
Details of any state pension or other state benefit they were receiving.
Tell Us Once is a service offered by most but not all local councils in England, Scotland, and Wales. It allows you to report a death to most government organizations in one go. The registrar can tell you if it’s available in your area.
Organizations that Tell Us Once will contact include:
Local councils, including the housing benefit office and council housing, council tax payments, and benefits office, libraries, Blue Badge scheme, and adult social care department.
HM Passport Office
Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency
Department for Work and Pensions
Ministry of Defence
War Pension Scheme
HM Revenue and Customs
If your local register office offers the Tell Us Once service, you’ll usually be told when you register the death. Ask them if it’s not mentioned. They’ll give you a unique reference number that will allow you to access the service online. Alternatively, you can contact them over the phone or in person. Call the Department for Work and Pensions on 0800 085 7308 to use the phone service. You’ll need to register the death before using the Tell Us Once service unless there’s an inquest. If this happens, the coroner may give you an interim death certificate. However, not all local councils will allow this.
You can see which local register offices provide the Tell Us Once service on the GOV.UK website. You can usually complete the Tell Us Once process at any point within 28 days of first signing up. This time frame applies whether you’re using the service online, in person, or over the phone.
As well as your unique reference number, you’ll need to have the following information to hand about the person who died:
National Insurance number
Date and place of birth
Date of marriage or civil partnership
Driving license number and vehicle registration number.
You’ll also need:
Details of any benefits they were getting, including the State Pension and armed forces pension
Details of any local council services they were getting eg Blue Badge
Name and address of their next of kin
Name and address of their surviving husband, wife, or civil partner
Name, address, and contact details of the person or company dealing with the estate, the executor or administrator.
If you can’t find all the documents, you can still use the Tell Us Once service but not all organisations will be informed. You’ll have to make contact with them individually when you find the information.