- A Guide to Funerals and Funeral Directors
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The paperwork


Medical Certificate of Death

The first formality to be completed after a death is the doctor’s certificate, which establishes the cause of death. If the death occurs at home, or at a nursing home, a doctor must be called. If it occurs in a hospital, nursing staff will call the next-of-kin and make arrangements for the certificate.

Obtaining a Medical Certificate of Death should present no problems if the cause of death is clear. For a sudden and unexpected death, however, the cause of death may be more difficult to establish. It may require an investigation by a coroner (in Scotland, a procurator fiscal) and possibly a post-mortem, which will usually take place at a hospital mortuary; these are standard procedures, and you will be guided through the process by the authorities.

Registering a death

All deaths have to be formally registered with a Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within five days (this can be extended only if a coroner’s report is pending, in which case the certification process is slightly different); eight days are allowed in Scotland.

Deaths are usually registered by a relative, and the registrar is only likely to accept someone who isn’t a relation if there are no relatives available.

The local authority can tell you where to find your local registrar, or you can consult Certain documents will be required for this registration, the most important of which is the Medical Certificate of Death. Also helpful (if available) are the deceased’s birth certificate, marriage certificate and National Health Service medical card.


On completion of the formalities, the registrar will issue a green Certificate for Burial or Cremation; the funeral cannot take place without this – nor indeed can the date of the funeral be confirmed until this certificate has been issued.

The registrar will also issue a Certificate of Registration of Death (Death Certificate); it is a good idea to get several officially-authenticated copies of this certificate, as it may well be required as proof of death for legal and financial purposes. (The certification process is slightly different in Scotland.)


Note that if the deceased has died while away from home, it’s usually easiest to register a death in the local authority area where the death occurred, rather than where the deceased normally lived.

To remove a body from England and Wales for a funeral – even just to Scotland or Ireland – you will have to apply to the coroner in the area where they died for a removal notice, which they normally take four days to provide.

Guidance and advice

If you need further guidance, the government has a range of online resources to assist with registering a death.

The Directgov online guide provides a thorough overview of all the conditions governing who can register a death and where they need to do it, while they also have an interactive tool to assist with the registration process.

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