Before you organise a funeral, you will need to register the death and receive a death certificate.
When a person dies, a doctor will complete a medical certificate showing the cause of death. The death must be registered within five days (eight days in Scotland). If you decide to use a funeral director, they usually need the death to be registered before collecting the body.
Make an appointment at the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. Alongside the medical certificate (or medical certificate of death form 11 in Scotland), take the following documents belonging to the person who died with you if available:
- Birth certificate
- Marriage/civil partnership certificate
- Medical card or NHS number
- Proof of address, such as utility bill
- Council Tax bill
- A document showing your address
And the following information about the person who has died:
- Their full name, including previous names such as maiden name
- Date and place of birth
- Last address
- Last occupation
- Whether they are getting a state pension or benefits
- Spouse or civil partner’s full name, date of birth and occupation
At the end of the registration, you should receive:
- A copy of the entry made in the death register, commonly known as the death certificate.
- A certificate for burial or application for cremation, commonly known as the ‘green form’.
- OR Certificate of Registration of Death (form 14) in Scotland
Death certificate costs
You need to pay for copies of the death certificate. The cost is £11 in England and Wales, £8 in Northern Ireland and £10 in Scotland. In Northern Ireland and Scotland, the cost can increase to £15 and £12 respectively if you need certificates at a later date.
Medical examiners are being introduced in some part of England and Wales, and they may be your main point of contact if a death has occurred in hospital. They can help to agree the proposed cause of death and discuss this with the next of kin as well as answering their questions. They can refer to a coroner if needed.
Sometimes a death needs to be referred to a coroner such as if the cause of death is unknown or if the death was sudden or unexplained. If the coroner decides the cause of death is clear they will issue a medical certificate that can be taken to the registrar to register the death.
If the cause is not clear, the coroner is likely to say a post-mortem is needed to find out how the person died. This may take several weeks. After the post-mortem, if no further examinations are needed the body can be released for the funeral.
Sometimes the coroner may decide to hold an inquest, such as if the cause of death is still unknown or the person died in prison. You cannot register the death until after the inquest but the coroner will issue an interim certificate so the funeral can take place and you may be able to access money from the estate (see Section 9 of our guide).
In Scotland, the system is similar but a Procurator Fiscal takes the role in place of the coroner.
Support with an inquest
In some parts of England, an independent organisation called the Coroners’ Courts Support Service can provide emotional support and practical help to those attending an inquest.
Tel: 0300 111 21412.