How to get a death certificate in the UK

In order to get a death certificate, you need to register the death in a local register office. It’s free to register the death, but you’ll need to pay £11 for each copy of the death certificate.

What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is a document obtained after registering a death in the UK. The certificate itself is a copy of the vital records present on the death register. A death certificate is required before you can arrange a funeral or deal with someone’s estate.

If the person died in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, you need to register their death within five days. If they died in Scotland, the death can be registered within eight days.

Where do you get a death certificate?

To get a certificate of death, you usually need to visit a register office. If the person died in England or Wales, it’s best to visit the register office closest to their place of death, otherwise the paperwork could be delayed by a few days. If they died in Scotland or Northern Ireland, you can use any district or council registration office.

You can find your local register office using the links below:

Register offices are often very busy, so it’s important to call and arrange an appointment before registering a death. The appointment itself usually takes around 30 minutes.

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How to get a death certificate in the UK

In order to get a death certificate, you need to have the medical certificate of the person who died. This should have been given to you by the GP or doctor in the hospital and should give details of the cause of death.

If registering the death at a register office, you should also bring a form of identification with you, such as your passport or driving licence. This is so the register office knows exactly who you are in relation to the person who died.

It may also be helpful to bring some documents about the person who died, including:

  • Driving licence

  • Passport

  • Birth certificate

  • Marriage or civil partnership certificate

  • NHS medical card

  • Proof of address, such as a bank statement or utility bill

  • Documents relating to a government pension or allowances

You won’t need all of these documents to register the death, but they may help you find information about your loved one that’s needed by the death registrar. This includes things like:

  • Their full name at the time of their death

  • Their birth name or married names

  • Their date of birth

  • Their place of birth

  • Their last address

  • Their occupation or last occupation if retired

  • The full name of their spouse or civil partner

  • Details of a state pension or other state benefit they were receiving

Why do I need a death certificate?

You need a death certificate before you can hold a funeral or arrange a cremation. If you're using a funeral director to arrange your cremation or burial, they will ask to see the death certification before the day. A death certificate is also required when applying for probate and dealing with assets like property and bank accounts.

If you’re the executor of a will or administrator of someone’s estate, you’ll need to send a death certificate to various financial organisations. This includes places like banks, pension providers and insurance companies.

Most financial organisations require an official copy of the death certificate, rather than a photocopy. Most companies return the death certificate in good time so that you can send it to other organisations but, if you really want to deal with things quickly, you may choose to order several copies of the death certificate.

Who can get a death certificate?

Most deaths in the UK are registered by a relative. However, if a relative isn’t available, a death can also be registered by any of the following people:

  • Someone who was present at the death

  • An administrator from the hospital (if the person died in hospital)

  • Someone in charge of arranging the funeral

How long does it take to get a death certificate?

It takes around 30 minutes to get a death certificate from your local register office. However, you may need to wait a couple of days for an appointment after getting in touch. After the appointment, you’ll be able to take the death certificate away immediately.

Remember, a death needs to be registered within five days in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, or eight days in Scotland. So, if you’re registering the death at a register office, it’s important to get in contact with them as soon as possible to make an appointment.

How much is a death certificate?

A death certificate costs £11. Registering the death itself is free, but you will need to pay £11 for each copy of the death certificate.

How many death certificates do I need?

The number of death certificates you need will depend entirely on your situation. If the estate is fairly complex and contains assets with multiple financial organisations, you could speed up the probate process by getting several death certificates.

Please note that most financial companies only accept official copies of the death certificate – or certified copies made by a professional. This means that you won’t be able to buy one certificate and photocopy it at home.

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