The following information applies to normal conditions. During Covid19 restrictions most face-to-face services have been suspended. Doctors, registrars and coroners are communicating by telephone and electronically and you will probably be asked to register the death by telephone or online. Your local council will advise what arrangements are in place in your area.  

Registering the death of someone is the official record that their life has ended and is the formal government record of that fact.

A variety of people can register the death but it is usually done by the closest relative, someone from the immediate family or it can be someone who was present at the time of death.

If the person has died of a known illness for which they were being treated by a doctor, in the majority of cases, the doctor will issue a Medical Certificate of the Cause of Death (MCCD).  This is usually done by a hospital or hospice doctor if the person who died was an in-patient or by the general practitioner (GP) if the person died in a home or care home.  An exception would be a condition such as mesothelioma which is an industry associated condition which must be referred to the coroner.

There are certain checks which take place before the MCCD is issued. Do not be worried if you receive a telephone call from a doctor called the Medical Examiner. This is normal and ensures that you understand why your loved one has died and are in agreement with the cause of death given. This is gradually being introduced throughout England & Wales but has not yet been fully implemented. Different arrangements are in place in Scotland & Northern Ireland.

A hospital/hospice will give you information about when and how to obtain the MCCD. Call the GP surgery to ask when the MCCD will be available if the GP will issue the MCCD.

You must make an appointment with the Registrar of Deaths. You can contact them via your county or city council website or switchboard. Deaths have to registered in the area in which the death occurred. It is possible to attend a registrar in another county but the process takes considerably longer. Most councils have arrangements in place for rapid registration or an alternative which allows the funeral take place if this is urgent for reasons of faith.

The registrar requires the MCCD which they retain, and the following information:

  • full name of the person who has died, former names and any aliases or known as
    their place of birth (town or county or country if not UK as it is known now e.g. Bangladesh not East Pakistan
  • marital/civil partner status and if married/in a civil partnership or widowed, the name and occupation of their spouse/partner
  • the occupation of the deceased person and whether or not they were retired
  • their address
  • the name, address and relationship to the deceased person of the individual registering the death

You do not need documentary evidence of any of this information though if you have birth and marriage certificates it can be helpful to have them, or to make a note of the information before the appointment. Memory can be unreliable in the early days following a significant bereavement.

If you have the NHS Medical Card of the person who died you can give this to the registrar but it is not essential.

There is a statutory fee for death certificates which must be paid to the registrar. Further certificates can be obtained at a later date but they are often considerably more expensive.

The registrar will issue:

  • as many certified copies of the entry in the register of deaths as you need – this is commonly called the death certificate and what banks and other organisations mean when they ask you for an ‘original death certificate’ rather than a photocopy. They are all individually signed by the registrar.
  • a free form which allows the funeral to go ahead which should be given the funeral director (or the burial ground/crematorium if you are arranging the funeral yourself). In some cases this may be replaced by a form issued by the coroner direct to the funeral director if they have had involvement following the death (see below).
  • there is also a free form which you can use to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) of the death. It has a form to complete on the reverse side but it is better to use the Tell Us Once service to notify all government departments for which the registrar will give you a unique code. This must be done within 84 days of receiving the code.

Registering a death where the cause of death is unknown or uncertain

If the coroner initially investigates because the cause of death is not known or the circumstances are uncertain, you will be told by the coroner’s office when you can make an appointment with the registrar. You will need the information listed above but the coroner contacts the registrar directly with information on the cause of death.  Permission to hold the funeral is issued to the funeral director by the coroner.

If the coroner decides an inquest is needed because of the circumstances of the death, it is not registered until after the end of the inquest. This is part of the formal process and you will be able to obtain certificates from the registrar.  However, the coroner’s office will issue you with a Certificate of the Fact of Death, commonly referred to as an Interim Certificate. You will normally be able to obtain probate and deal with the majority of the estate using this certificate but depending on their terms and conditions, some insurance policies may not make a payment until the inquest is concluded. 

Once you have the interim certificate you should also be able to obtain a Tell Us Once Code from the registrar. More information about steps to follow when someone dies, including benefits you may be entitled to, can be found on the Government's website HERE


We advise you to get several copies as many organisations will require a certified copy as proof of death including pension and insurance companies etc. They are cheaper to buy at the time of registration than going back later.

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