How to register a deathLast updated: 24 May 2013 12:40 UK
Registering a death means giving certain information about the person who died to the register office in the district where the person passed away.
You can register a person’s death if you are a relative, someone who was with the person when they died, or someone who is arranging the funeral (but not a funeral director). In certain circumstances it is possible for other people to register the death. If you are unsure, the register office can advise you.
If they passed away in Portsmouth, the death should be registered at the Portsmouth register office, Milldam House, Burnaby Road, Portsmouth, PO1 3AF. To make an appointment, email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 023 9275 6597. Opening hours are 9am to 4.30pm.
If you are arranging a funeral to comply with a specific religious burial requirement, or for emergencies outside normal office hours on Saturdays, Sundays and Bank Holidays, phone 023 9282 2251.
To apply for financial support towards funeral costs if you are on a low income, contact the Department of Work & Pensions.
Cause of deathThe doctor who treated the person during their last illness will usually issue a medical certificate which shows the cause of death. Give this certificate to the registrar of the district where the person passed away and the registrar will issue a death certificate.
You can then buy certified copies of the death certificate which you will need to sort the person's affairs.
If the death has been reported to the coroner because it was violent, unnatural or of sudden and unknown cause, you will have to wait for the coroner to issue a certificate. You will be told if the coroner is involved. There is more information about the role of the coroner below.
You should usually register a death within five days. However, in exceptional circumstances, the registrar may agree to delay this.
Where can a death be registered?You should register a death within five days in the register office for the district where the person passed away.
If this is not possible, you can take the information to any other registrar in England or Wales. However, the death will not be registered there. They will post the information to Portsmouth, to register the death in Portsmouth and your documents will be sent to you from Portsmouth register office. Registering a death elsewhere takes longer, so may delay the funeral arrangements.
Information needed to register a death
The registrar will need the following information about the person who has died:
- date and place of both birth and death
- first name or names and surname, and the maiden surname if relevant
- any other names the person was known as or had previously been known by
- usual address
If the person who died was married, widowed or a civil partner the registrar will also need to know their partner's full name, date of birth and occupation (if retired, the last or main occupation before retirement).
There is no charge for registering a death, but there is a fee for buying death certificates (see below). Gov.uk has more information on registering a death.
Informing other organisations
The registrar will also ask if the person who has passed away received any pension or allowance from government or public funds, such as civil service or armed forces pension. The registrar will forward a copy of the death certificate directly to these organisations, so you do not have to do so.
What documents will I be issued with?The registrar will give you a white certificate (form BD8) which you should use to tell Social Security and the Department for Work and Pensions about the death. The registrar may also give you a green form to pass to your funeral director. If the death has been reported to the coroner you will not need a green form.
Death certificates are £4 each and the registrar can provide as many of these as you need. There are no free original death certificates issued. You may need original death certificates for informing companies, such as banks, building societies, insurance companies or solicitors, about the person passing away.
The role of the coroner
A coroner is an experienced doctor or lawyer appointed by a local authority to determine the cause of deaths which appear to be violent, unnatural, or are sudden and unexplained. The coroner is completely independent of the local authority, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service. Their findings depend entirely on facts. If the cause of death remains in doubt after a post mortem, an inquest will be held.
The coroner and his team deal with all matters relating to post mortems and inquests. They also liaise with bereaved families, police, doctors and funeral directors.
The coroner for Portsmouth is solicitor David C Horsley, LL.B. His office is at Guildhall, Guildhall Square, Portsmouth, PO1 2AJ. Opening hours are 9.am to 4.30pm, Monday to Friday. Email email@example.com or phone 023 9268 8328 -29 or -30. The out of hours emergency number is 0845 0454545.
What is a post mortem?
A post mortem is a medical examination of a body carried out for the coroner by a pathologist of the coroner’s choice. The next-of-kin will be informed of the need for a post mortem, unless this is not practicable or would unduly delay the examination. The consent of the next-of-kin is not required for a post mortem, but they can be represented at the post mortem examination by a doctor of their choice.
If the post mortem reveals that the death was due to natural causes, the coroner will release the body. The death can then be registered and a death certificate issued, which means the funeral can take place.
In certain circumstances, it may be necessary to have a second post mortem, further investigations, or the coroner will order an inquest. If this is the case, the coroner can issue an interim certificate of fact of death to help administer the estate. The death certificate will not be issued until the inquest is complete.
What is an inquest?
An inquest is an inquiry into who has died and how, when and where the death occurred. An inquest is not a trial; the coroner must not blame anyone for the death.
The release of the body and the funeral arrangements will be delayed if there is an inquest, in which case the coroner normally issues a burial order or cremation certificate after the post mortem is completed.
An inquest is usually opened primarily to record that a death has occurred and to identify the dead person. It will then be adjourned until any police enquiries and the coroner’s investigations are completed.
A date for the resumed inquest is set when all investigations are complete. Everyone entitled to be notified is informed. Inquests are open to the public and journalists are usually present.
Coroners decide who should give evidence as a witness during an inquest. Anyone can offer to give evidence by informing the coroner. Anyone who believes a particular witness should be called, should inform the coroner. Witnesses can be compelled to attend.If the death occurs in prison, in custody, at work or if further deaths may occur in similar circumstances, the inquest will be held with a jury. In these cases, the coroner decides matters of law and the jury decides the verdict. Possible verdicts include: natural causes, accident, suicide, unlawful or lawful killing, industrial disease, and open verdicts (where there is insufficient evidence for any other verdict).
The coroner may also report the death to any appropriate person or authority, if action is needed to prevent more deaths in similar circumstances.
When the inquest is completed, the coroner notifies the registrar, who can then issue the death certificate.
Taking a body abroad or bringing it back to this country
If you wish to take a body abroad, you must inform the coroner and complete a form.
If you wish to bring a body back to England or Wales for burial or cremation, the formalities are usually handled by a funeral director. The coroner may need to be involved. Gov.uk offers more information about the repatriation help offered by the British consulate.