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’re a relative, someone who was with the person when they died, or someone who’s arranging the funeral (but not a funeral director). In some situations, it’s possible for other people to register the death. If you’re not sure, 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.

Email registrars@portsmouthcc.gov.uk or phone 023 9275 6597 to make an appointment – 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 death

The doctor who treated the person during their last illness will usually issue a medical certificate which shows the cause of death. In Portsmouth, the medical certificate is emailed directly to the Register Office by the doctor, the medical examiner or the coroner. A Register Office Team Member will call the nominated next of kin to arrange the registration appointment.

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 medical certificate. You will be told if the coroner is involved.

Where can a death be registered?

It is a legal requirement to register a death, in person, within five days at the Register Office for the district where the person passed away. However, if the medical certificate has not been issued in time or if the coroner is involved, this is not always possible. Please do not worry if this happens.

If the death occurred in Portsmouth but you can’t come to the Register Office to register the death in person, you can take the information to any other registrar in England or Wales. They will email the information to us, and the death will be recorded in our register. Once this has been completed we’ll send you your documents. Please be aware that registering a death elsewhere takes longer, and this may delay your 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
  • occupation
  • 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. Gov.uk has more information on registering a death.

Please bring the following documents to your death registration appointment:

  • Proof of your identity (e.g. passport, driving licence or birth certificate)
  • Proof of your address (e.g. driving licence, council tax bill, utility bill)
  • Proof of the deceased person’s name (e.g. passport, driving licence or birth certificate)
  • Proof of the deceased person’s address (e.g. driving licence, council tax bill, utility bill)
  • The deceased person’s marriage or civil partnership certificate (if applicable)

Please note, you can still register a death if you are unable to provide these documents.

Informing other organisations

Tell Us Once is a free service offered by the government. When someone has died, there are lots of things that need to be done, at a time when you probably feel least like doing them. After you have registered the death with the registrar, the registrar will provide you with a unique Tell Us Once reference number, which will enable you to access the service 

What documents will I be issued with?

The registrar will email a green form directly to your funeral director. If the death has been reported to the coroner you won’t need a green form.

You can purchase death certificates at your registration appointment, these are £11 each. There are no free death certificates issued. You may need 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 mortem’s and inquests. They also liaise with bereaved families, police, doctors and funeral directors.

HM Coroners’ Service in Hampshire can be found on the Hampshire authority website.

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.