Our Comprehensive Guide to Death Certificates & Why We Need Them

Ian Lewis[1]

Ian Lewis

Money Savings Advice Our guide to death certificates

What Is a Death Certificate?

A death certificate is an official document which contains a copy of the information recorded on the death register. It includes basic information about who the deceased person is and how they died and is used to prove that the person named on it has passed away.

Copies of the death certificate are required for probate and funeral arrangements.

Why Do You Need a Death Certificate?

You need an official copy of the death certificate in order to arrange a funeral, burial or cremation in the U.K.

It is also essential for managing the distribution of a deceased person’s estate. As the executor of a will, you need to provide an official copy of the deceased person’s death certificate to any financial organizations or creditors with whom they held an account.

Without a death certificate, you will not be able to close these accounts, pay off outstanding debts or access the funds in order to distribute the inheritance. Similarly, an official copy of the death certificate is required to sell or transfer ownership of any physical assets according to the will of the deceased.

How Do You Get a Death Certificate?

Registering a Death

Death certificates can be issued by a registry office after the death has been officially recorded on the death register.

In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a death must be registered within five days of the event, while in Scotland, you have up to eight days to register a death.

To record a death on the register, you must make an appointment with the registry office closest to the place where the deceased lived. An appointment lasts around 30 minutes, and during the course of the meeting, you need to provide some basic information about the deceased person as well as a copy of the medical certificate confirming their death.

The information you’ll need to give includes personal details such as the person’s place of birth, NHS number and date of birth. To ensure this is recorded accurately, it may be helpful to bring any identification documents which belonged to the deceased.

Anyone can register a death. However, they need to provide I.D. and explain their relation to the person whose death they are registering.

Once all this information has been provided, the death will be officially added to the register.

Obtaining a Death Certificate

After a death has been registered, it is possible to order a death certificate and official copies. You may place an order for copies at the registration appointment, or for up to six months afterwards by calling the registry.

In England and Wales, death certificates cost £11 per copy; in Northern Ireland, they cost £8 each when ordered during the appointment or £10 each in Scotland.

The certificates take around two weeks to arrive after an order has been placed. In Scotland, there is also a priority service available which allows you to get a copy of the certificate the next working day for a cost of £37.

If more than six months have passed since the death was registered, you may request a copy of the death certificate from the central General Register Office.

Who Can Get One?

Anybody who knew the deceased person or is working on behalf of the family can register a death and apply for a copy of the death certificate.

However, when the death is registered, they will need to be able to provide personal information about the deceased and confirm their own identity with the registry office.

Do You Need to Pay to Get a Death Certificate?

Although it is free to register a death, you need to pay for each copy of the death certificate. The cost of a certificate varies slightly depending on where you live in the UK and when you order the certificates:

Price for a Copy of the Death Certificate

CountryAt the appointmentAfter the appointment
England £11£11
Norther Ireland£8£15 for the first copy, £8 for subsequent copies
Wales£11£11
Scotland£10£12 online, £15 by post of phone

How Many Copies Do You Need?

The number of copies that you need will depend on the complexity of the estate. However, most people will not require more than five copies.

When you send an official copy of a death certificate to a financial institution or insurance company, they normally return the document once they have finished processing the account. It is, therefore, possible to complete probate with just one or two copies of the certificate.

However, it could drag the process out for a long time as you would need to wait for the certificate to be returned each time.

To speed the process up, it is better to get at least one copy of the certificate for every major bank account or insurance policy that the deceased held.

Can You Get More Copies Later On?

You can order more copies of the death certificate from the registry office where the death was recorded for up to six months after the entry was made on the register.

After that, you need to make a request with the General Register Office online.

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Money Savings Advice Author Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis

Ian Lewis is one of our specialist financial writers. Ian has over 15 years of financial writing experience, having worked for some of the largest financial publications in the UK covering topics from mortgages, equity release, loans and financial claims, to name a few.

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