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Deathmin #1 - Registration

Death of a loved one unfortunately leads to admin. It's inevitable, and when my dad died I did not know where to start, even as a professional woman who helps people deal with death all the time it felt daunting. There is no training for this sort of thing and it is likely something that we will all have to do at some time. I hope this guide to registering a loved one's death helps.

What is death registration?

Death registration is the process by which you legally register the fact that your loved one has died. It is a legal requirement in the United Kingdom. My experience is of the process in England for a death in hospital or at home so I will mainly concentrate on that. In England a death has to be registered with the registrars office within 5 days - this sounds a long time but it can be tight, especially if a loved one dies over a long bank holiday. These days it is likely that the hospital or GP surgery who are doing the MCCD (Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, often termed incorrectly as the "death certificate") will arrange for this to be sent to the registrars office although sometimes in some circumstances you may be asked to collect it. The MCCD is kept by the registrar and they will produce a typed death certificate (the real death certificate as opposed to the MCCD) that is signed by the registrar.

How do I arrange the registration?

You will need to contact the register office in the local authority where the person died. This is something that people often get confused about as they often think it is the local authority where the person lived that will deal with the death. You can normally make an appointment by calling or booking online. The person who goes to register is usually the next of kin or another relative in some circumstances it can be someone else - someone who was present at death, a hospital administrator if the death occurred in hospital or the person arranging the funeral.

What paperwork should I take to the appointment?

When you book your registration appointment you will be advised of which paperwork to take. It will usually be things like the person's birth certificate, marriage certificate, national insurance number, NHS number, driving licence, passport. If you do not have all of the requested paperwork I would suggest contacting the registrar's office before the appointment, they are usually very helpful.

I've been asked if I want to do "tell us once", do I?

Mom and I found this service really useful as we found the prospect of making so many calls to different agencies really hard. Tell us once is basically a way of completing a form about a loved ones death once and that form is shared with multiple agencies so they can log the death on their system. This can help to stop unwanted letters turning up and upsetting family at a later stage and it also prevents multiple phone calls. The registrar may complete the tell us once form with you, ours didn't but they gave us a code to use online. We then went to the following website and put in the required information:

You do not have to use this method, if you want to tell the individual agencies separately you can, or if you want to tell some this way and others personally that is fine too. We found it great because some agencies like DVLA can be difficult to contact and so it cut down the time we had to spent on informing people. The Pension Service can also be tricky to get hold of with long waits on phones and by using tell us once it meant that mom's pension also got sorted too without a separate phone call.

What will the registrar ask me?

They will want to know the following things:

  • The person’s full name at the time of death

  • Names they previously used previously used, eg maiden name

  • Their date and place of birth

  • Their last address

  • Their occupation

  • The full name, date of birth and occupation of a surviving or late spouse or civil partner

  • whether they were getting a State Pension or any other benefits

What will I take away from the register office?

You will take away the death certificate. You will be asked how many copies of this you want. We had 6 as we were told that lots of agencies would want a copy. All that we have contacted so far have just wanted to see it and take a photocopy. I think if people have complicated finances then there will be some agencies such as pension companies and companies the person holds stocks and bonds with may need official copies of the certificate. Once your loved one's death is registered, the registrar issues the green form which allows your funeral director to collect your loved one from the hospital and take them to the funeral home. This means that things can really start to progress in terms of funeral planning.

Our own experience

At the point we registered Dad's death it was 5 days since he had died and I was in full on "taking care of business" mode so I just got on with it and did the necessary - trying to be strong for everyone else! I know that my mom really dreaded this day as it was the beginning of having to start to say goodbye. I think though once we had done it and we knew the green form had been done and dad could be brought to the funeral home we felt a sense of relief. It was particularly bittersweet as my dad was born at home in a house that stood on the site of our chosen funeral directors current offices and funeral home, so for us it truly felt like he could come home.

Useful resources

The site is a great starting point for finding out anything about the administrative tasks that need to be done after the death of a loved one. Here are a few links to relevant pages:

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