How to register the death of a loved one

Registering the death of a loved one has changed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some ways, the process has become more streamlined because it is handled remotely. That means you don’t have to make trips to a doctor’s surgery and register office. Instead, everything is done over the phone or online.

Having said that, the requirements remain unchanged and you still need to report a death within five days, or as soon as possible, or risk prosecution. Before registering the death of a loved one, you need a death certificate from a medical practitioner. This is straightforward if someone died at home, or in a hospital, and their death was expected. 

However, an unexpected death may need a coroner’s report. Once the death certificate is signed, a doctor sends it to the register office. You then need to contact the register office to make an appointment. You can use any register office, but the one closest to where the deceased lived is usual.

During the pandemic, after you’ve contacted the register office you’ll get a call back to arrange an appointment. That gives you time to gather the paperwork required.

In order to register a death, you need to be a relative.

If a relative can’t be there, then someone present at the time of death – for example, a hospital administrator or a person responsible for making the funeral arrangements – can do this (but it cannot be the funeral director).

The register office is used to dealing with bereaved people, and will patiently go through everything with you.

However, to be prepared it’s advisable to have the following documents to hand:

  1. Person’s birth certificate
  2. Marriage or civil partnership certificate
  3. NHS medical card
  4. Passport
  5. Utility bill to prove their address
  6. Driving licence
  7. Council Tax bill
  8. Organ donor card

Things you’ll need to know about he deceased loved one:

  • Their full name
  • Any previous names such as their name before they married
  • Their date and place of birth
  • Their occupation
  • The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse, or civil partner
  • The name and address of the deceased’s GP
  • Details of any pension apart from a state pension that the deceased may have held
  • The deceased’s religion

When you register a death you’ll get:

  • A Certificate for Burial or Cremation (the ‘green form’) – gives permission for burial or an application for cremation
  •  A Certificate of Registration of Death (form BD8) – you may need to fill this in 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)

You can buy extra death certificates; these will be needed for things like reporting the bereavement to the Department of Work and Pensions, utility companies, banks, solicitors, or insurance companies.

This does sound a lot, but some only need you to email the certificate across so you won’t need as many copies as you think.

The registrar will be very helpful. After all, this is something they deal with every day, and they’ll point you in the right direction when it comes to sorting out the deceased’s affairs, such as the Tell Us Once service which allows you to report a death to most government departments in one go.

For more details visit the Register a Death page on the Government’s website.