Registration of a death
Registration of a death must in all cases happen within 5 days; the only exception is if the death is being investigated by the Coroner.
In theory you can go to any registry office that you choose for registration of a death, but if you visit one in a different area, it could take longer for the process to be completed, hence delaying the funeral.
The death certificate
The death certificate is issued by the Registrar for Births, Marriages and Deaths and is legally required.
Once you have the formal notification of death and medical certificate stating the cause of death, you should go to the Registrar to complete the registration of the death. Most Registrars operate an appointment system and you will be required to bring certain documentation with you (more of that below).
You should be able to find the local office yourself quite easily but the funeral director, hospital or doctor will let you know where you need to go and what to do.
Once the process is complete you’ll be given a cremation or burial certificate; this is not the same as a death certificate. You’ll also receive a certificate of registration of death which you will need to complete if the deceased was receiving state benefits.
You’ll also be issued with a death certificate. Most of the organisations you inform about the death will ask to see the death certificate, and very few will take photocopies. It’s therefore a good chance to request a few extra copies. There will be a charge for this (it varies between each office) but it’s cheaper than trying to get more copies at a later date.
Documents you'll need
When you arrive at your appointment with the Registrar to register the death, you’ll need to have a few pieces of documentation with you, if they are available:
the medical certificate with the cause of death (issued by the doctor or hospital)
the birth certificate of the deceased
marriage or civil partnership certificate of the deceased
the medical card of the deceased
You won’t be able to register the death without the first requirement; the others aren’t compulsory but will help to speed up all the checks that need to be done.
Embalming - is it required?
Not all bodies are embalmed in the UK and there’s no legal responsibility to do so. However, embalming does improve the appearance so if you’re planning on having an open coffin or want to arrange viewings in advance, you may want to consider it.
If you’re not sure what to do, speak to the funeral director to get their advice. Bodies which haven’t been embalmed can sometimes be distressing, particularly if the death was traumatic
If the individual died of a notifiable disease such as Hepatitis B or C or HIV, embalming will not be possible (your GP can provide more information regarding this if required).