Practical Advice...

Expected Deaths

If the death occurs in hospital

If the death occurs in hospital, the hospital staff will contact the person name by the deceased as next of kin (this may be, but need not be, a relative). Upon being informed of the death the hospital will provide guidance of their individual procedures regarding the possible release of a Death Certificate, in the case of most hospitals this will be by means of speaking to the Hospitals Bereavement Officer, usually based with their General Office. If a Death Certificate is not able to be released, the Bereavement Officer will advise you of the next steps and help with the liaison with the local Coroner’s Office (see below). The deceased will remain resting within the hospital until the executor or next of kin has made funeral arrangements and appointed their chosen funeral director, where upon completion of all necessary paperwork the deceased can then be transferred to our private Chapel of Rest.

If the death occurs elsewhere

If the death was expected, you will need to contact the doctor who has attended the deceased during their final illness (or the Out of Hours on-call service if applicable). They will either then attend or organise the attendance of another eligible authority to verify the death. At this point the deceased can then be transferred to our Chapel of Rest if those are our wishes.

If the deceased’s usual doctor can certify the cause of death he or she will give you the following:

  • a Medical Certificate that shows the cause of death (this is free of charge and will be in a sealed envelope addressed to the registrar).
  • a Formal Notice that states that the doctor has signed the Medical Certificate and tells you how to get the death registered.

Unexpected Deaths

All unexpected deaths are referred to the Coroner’s office local to where the death has occurred. The Coroner is a doctor or lawyer responsible for investigating deaths in the following situations:

  • the deceased was not attended by a doctor during the last illness or the doctor treating the deceased had not seen him or her within the 14 days prior to death
  • the death was violent or unnatural or occurred under suspicious circumstances
  • the cause of death is not known or uncertain
  • the death occurred while the patient was undergoing an operation or did not recover from the anaesthetic
  • the death was caused by an industrial disease
  • the death occurred in prison or in police custody

The Coroner’s involvement may be in an advisory capacity to a doctor hoping to release a Death Certificate but who is not in complete compliance with legal requirements in which case they may be able release a Coroner’s Part A certificate to complete the registration process. If they are unable to assist with release of a Death certificate they will be left with no choice other than to order a post-mortem examination.

Coroner's post-mortem

The consent of the relatives is not needed, but they are entitled to be represented at the examination by a doctor. When relatives have told the Coroner they wish to be represented, the Coroner will, if at all practicable, tell them when and where the examination will be.

If the death occurs in hospital, the coroner will arrange for the examination to be carried out by a pathologist other than one employed at or connected with that hospital, if a relative asks the Coroner to do so and if it does not cause an undue delay.

The removal of a body from the place of death to the mortuary for post-mortem examination will be paid for by the Coroner. The relatives may choose the funeral director.

If the post-mortem shows that death was due to natural causes, the coroner may issue a notification known as Pink Form B (form 100) which gives the cause of death so that the death can be registered. The coroner usually sends this form direct to the registrar.

If the body is to be cremated the coroner will give you the Certificate for Cremation (form E) which allows cremation to take place.


An inquest is an enquiry into the medical cause and circumstances of a death. It is held in public, sometimes with a jury. It is up to the Coroner how to organise the enquiry in a way to best serve the public interest and the interests of the relatives.
The Coroner will hold an inquest if the death was:

  • violent or unnatural or
  • caused by a reportable industrial disease or
  • the death occurred in prison or
  • if the cause of death remains uncertain after post-mortem examination

Coroners hold inquests in these circumstances even if the death occurred abroad (and the body is returned to Britain).

If a body is lost (usually at sea) a Coroner can hold an inquest by order of the Secretary of State if death is likely to have occurred in or near a Coroner's jurisdiction.

If an inquest is held, the Coroner must inform the following people:

  • the married partner of the deceased
  • the nearest relative (if different)
  • and the personal representative (if different from above)

Relatives can attend an inquest and ask questions of witnesses but they may only ask questions about the medical cause and circumstances of death.

It may be important to have a lawyer to represent you if the death was caused by a road accident, or an accident at work, or other circumstances which could lead to a claim for compensation. You cannot get legal aid for this.

The Coroner may give you an Order for Burial (form 101) or a Certificate for Cremation (form E) so that the funeral can take place. They will usually also provide interim certificates to allow you to start administering the estate. This may be done before the inquest is completed, provided the body is not required for further examination.

The Coroner will also send a Certificate After Inquest (form 99(rev)), stating the cause of death, to the registrar. This allows the death to be registered.

Registering a death

Every expected death in England and Wales must be registered in the district in which it takes place within 5 working days of the date of death. Information for the registration is given to the registrar by the person registering the death. The information, which is usually recorded on computer, is also recorded in the death register and the person registering the death signs this as a true record of the details they have provided.

All unexpected deaths must be registered using the same process but this cannot take place until all required Certificates have been released (e.g. Coroners Certificate A or form 99 if an inquest has taken place). If an inquest has been opened but has not yet taken place the Coroner will release an Interim Death Certificate to allow executors to proceed with the formalities of processing the deceased’s estate.

If it is inconvenient for the person registering the death to go to the district where it took place, the information for the registration may be given to a registrar in another district. The registrar will record the registration particulars on a form of declaration and send it to the registrar for the district where the death occurred. The registrar who receives the declaration will enter the information in the death register.

Certificates of death, which may be ordered and paid for at the time of making the declaration, as well as the document allowing the funeral to proceed, will be posted to the person registering the death by the registrar for the district where it took place. If the declaration procedure is used, it may take a day or two longer for the document allowing the funeral to proceed to be issued. Relatives should discuss the arrangements with their funeral director and the registrar so as to avoid any delay to the funeral.

The registration of a death in Wales may be made bilingually in English and Welsh if the person who registers the death gives the information in Welsh and the registrar is able to understand and write Welsh. If the registrar cannot understand and write Welsh, the registration may be carried out in a different district where there are Welsh-speaking registrars, using the declaration procedure as described above. A death that takes place in England may be registered in English only.

Most Registrars offices now have access to the national ‘Tell Us Once’ scheme; this is something that has been brought in to assist families with the logistics of informing government organisations of a death. This is a free, no obligation service, and one which has been very well received. Further information can be found here

Moving a body out of England or Wales

Only the Coroner can give permission for a body to be moved out of England or Wales. This permission has to be obtained at least four days before the body is to be moved (although the Coroner may be able to give permission sooner) so that any necessary enquiries may be carried out. Afterwards you will be given a Removal Notice (form 104), part of which is sent to the registrar after the funeral. Permission must be obtained whenever the funeral is to take place outside England or Wales.

This procedure applies in all cases where the body is to be moved out of England or Wales, not just where a death was reported to the Coroner.

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