When someone dies, one of the first practical things to take care of is to register the death. Once you have, you’ll be given the key paperwork you’ll need to arrange the funeral, notify government departments and settle the estate. Don’t worry: registering a death in the UK is quite simple. Here’s what you need to know …


How to register a death in the UK

This guide will cover:


How long do you have to register a death?

While you don’t have to do it right away, there is a time limit for registering a death. What that time limit is depends on where you are in the UK. If you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, the limit is five days. If you’re registering a death in Scotland, the limit is eight days.

However, if the coroner (or procurator fiscal, if in Scotland) is investigating the death, you can’t register it until they give permission. You can find out more about what to expect when the coroner is involved here.


Who can register a death?

Usually, a close relative would be the one to register a death: a spouse, child, parent or sibling of the person who died. If a close relative isn’t able to do it, the person who registers a death could be:

  • Any relative, including in-laws
  • Someone who was with the person when they died
  • Someone who lives at, or is responsible for, the address where the person died
  • The persom who is taking care of the funeral arrangements (not the funeral director, though)

In Northern Ireland, the death can also be registered by:

  • A governor, matron or chief officer of the public building where the person died
  • The executor or administrator of the estate (applicable if registering a death in Scotland as well)
  • Someone who has found or is taking charge of the body


Where to register a death

The best place to register a death is the registry office closest to the place where the person died. If this isn’t possible, any other registry office is okay – it will just take a little longer.

It’s important to call ahead and make an appointment, as registry offices tend to be quite busy. You can find contact details for the nearest registry office using the links here:

England & WalesScotlandNorthern Ireland

You can expect the appointment to take about half an hour. Staff at the registry office will understand if you get upset. While they do their best to make this a quick and easy process, it’s a good idea to bring someone with you for support.


What do you need to register a death?

When registering a death, the only document you really need is the medical certificate of cause of death given to you by the hospital or the GP who tended to the person when they died.

However, it can help to bring along a few of the following documents as well:

  • Birth certificate
  • NHS medical card or number
  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate
  • Proof of address (such as a utility bill or bank statement)
  • Driving licence
  • Council tax bill

If you don’t have all of these, don’t worry – they’re not essential. As long as you can provide the information below, they’re not needed:

  • The full name of the person who died
  • Their maiden name, if applicable
  • Their date and place of birth
  • The date and place of death
  • Their address
  • Their marital status
  • Their most recent occupation
  • The full name, occupation and date of birth of their spouse or civil partner
  • The full names, occupations and dates of birth of their parents, if the person who died was a child
  • The name and address of their GP
  • Their benefits status, including details of any pensions


What will the registrar give you after registering a death?

The documents you’re given after registering a death are slightly different depending on where you are.

If you’re registering a death in England or Wales, you will get:

  • A green certificate for burial or cremation, which should be given to the funeral director.
  • A certificate of registration of death (form BD8), which you may need to fill out and post using the supplied envelope if the person who died was getting a state pension or benefits.
  • Copies of the death certificate, which you will need to buy. These can be used for settling the estate.

If you’re registering a death in Scotland, you’ll get:

  • A certificate for registration of death (form 14), which allows the funeral to go ahead.
  • A registration or notification of death (form 334/SI), which is used for updating benefits records.
  • An extract of the entry recorded in the Register of Deaths, which you will need to buy. This is the Scottish equivalent of the death certificate, and is used when settling the estate.

If you’re in Northern Ireland, you’ll get:

  • A GRO21 form, which is equivalent to the green certificate and should be given to the funeral director.
  • A certificate of registration of death (form 36/BD8), which is used for updating benefits records.
  • Copies of the death certificate, which you will need to buy. These can be used for settling the estate.


How much does registering a death cost?

Registering a death is free, but you will have to pay for any copies of the death certificate you order. If you buy them now, they will cost £11 each in England and Wales, £8 each in Northern Ireland and £10 each in Scotland. In Scotland and Northern Ireland, the cost increases by about £2 if you order the copies later. It’s best to have at least three copies.


Tell Us Once

The UK government runs a free ‘Tell Us Once’ service that helps you tell multiple government departments about a death at the same time:

  • HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC)
  • Department for Work and Pensions (DWP)
  • HM Passport Office
  • The local council
  • Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA)

Many registry offices run Tell Us Once appointments to help you use the service after you’ve registered the death. If you’d rather wait until another time, they can also give you a unique reference number you can use to access the Tell Us Once service online or over the phone.

To use Tell Us Once, you’ll need:

  • The date of birth of the person who has died
  • Their National Insurance number
  • Their passport number
  • Their driving licence number and vehicle registration number
  • Details of any benefits, pensions, or local council services they were getting

With the permission of the people involved, you will also need to tell the service:

  • The name and address of their next of kin
  • The name and address of their living spouse or civil partner, if applicable
  • The name, address and contact details of the person settling the estate, such as the executor or administrator

Tell Us Once isn’t available everywhere in the UK yet. If your registry office doesn’t offer it, you’ll need to notify the relevant government departments individually.

What happens if you don’t register a death? If you intentionally fail to inform a registrar about a death, or withhold information from them so that it can’t be properly registered, you can technically be fined £200. That said, prosecutions only tend to take place when the family has been deliberately hiding the death.


What happens next?

Once you’ve finished registering a death, your next steps are:


Do you have any questions about registering a death? Ask away in the comment box below!

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