Registering a death

In Northern Ireland, a death should be registered within five days to allow funeral arrangements to be made. This is with the exception of deaths which have been referred to the coroner. A death may be registered in any district registration office in Northern Ireland.

Coronavirus (COVID:19) restrictions

Due to the ongoing restrictions as a result of coronavirus (COVID 19), registration offices are not open to the public for the registration of deaths and emergency processes are in place.

Following a death the doctor or hospital will forward a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death electronically to the General Register Office for Northern Ireland (GRONI), who will forward it to the registration office which covers the deceased’s home address.

The doctor who signed the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death may have passed your contact details to the registrar so that the registrar can contact you to organise the registration of the death.

Once the death has been registered, the registrar will issue a Certificate for Burial or Cremation to the funeral director so they can proceed with the burial or cremation.

If you are unable to buy a death certificate from the registration office you can order a death certificate online. The cost will be £15. 

As a death certificate bought at the time of registration usually costs £8, GRONI will refund £7 for any death certificate applied for where the death has occurred from 1 March 2020 to date. The refund will be issued in due course.

Who can register a death

Most deaths are registered by a relative of the deceased. If the deceased has no relatives or none are available then any of the following can register the death:

  • any relative of the deceased – including a relative by marriage
  • a person present at the death
  • a person taking care of the funeral arrangements
  • the executor or administrator of the deceased's estate
  • the governor, matron or chief officer of a public building where the death occurred
  • a person living in and responsible for a house, lodgings or apartments where the death occurred
  • a person finding, or a person taking charge, of the body

Information needed to register a death

To complete the registration you will need to know:

  • full name and surname of the deceased
  • deceased’s usual address
  • date and place of death
  • marital status (single, married/civil partner, widowed/surviving civil partner or divorced/civil partnership dissolved)
  • date and place of birth
  • occupation of the deceased
  • if the deceased was married/civil partner, full name and occupation of husband/wife/civil partner
  • if the deceased was a child under the age of 16, the full names and occupations of the parents
  • maiden surname (if the deceased was a woman who had married)
  • name and address of the deceased's GP
  • details of any NI Civil Service or Teacher’s pension that the deceased may have held

Completing the registration

You should register a death within five working days from when the certificate has been received from the hospital, not from when the death occurred, unless it has been referred to the coroner, you will need to:

  • complete the registration of a death form
  • provide the medical certificate of the cause of death, signed by a doctor
  • bring the form and medical certificate to any District Registration Office in Northern Ireland

There is no cost for registering a death. The only cost will be for copies of the death certificates if required.

You can download the registration form at the link below.

Find contact details for the District Registration Offices across Northern Ireland.

Documents you will receive

Once the registration is completed, you will receive a GRO21 form giving permission for the body to be buried or for an application for cremation to be made.

If the body is to be cremated, the GP or hospital will arrange for a second doctor to sign the cremation certificate.

Death certificates

You’ll be able to buy one or more death certificates at the time of registration. These will be needed by the executor or administrator when sorting out the deceased person's affairs.

For deaths registered after 17 December 2012, a short form of death certificate is available. The short death certificate will not show the cause of death.

Death certificates, either short or full, may be purchased from the Registrar at the time of registration for £8.00 per copy.

After the registration, copies of death certificates can be purchased from the General Register Office at a fee of £15.00 for the first copy and £8.00 for each additional copy purchased at the same time.

If the death is referred to a coroner

Some deaths are referred to the coroner, this is usually because:

  • the deceased had not been seen by doctor within 28 days before death
  • the death was not caused by natural illness
  • the cause of death was unclear, sudden or suspicious

If a death is referred to the coroner, funeral arrangements should not be made before the consent of the coroner has been obtained. The coroner can give consent for burial or cremation to take place before the death is registered.

The death can only be registered and a death certificate obtained after the registrar has received the necessary certificate from the coroner.

When the registrar receives the certificate they will contact a relative of the deceased and ask them to call in at the office to register the death.

Find out more about coroners, post-mortems and inquests.

Other things that need to be done

Not everything can be done straight away, particularly as this is a very difficult time for people to cope with, but it is important to:

  • make sure everyone who needs to know is told
  • arrange to see the deceased person's solicitor and read the will as soon as possible - this will tell you if there are any special funeral requests and who the executors are
  • start arranging the funeral
  • collect all the information and documents you will need

You can find out more, including a checklist to help you through the process at the links below.


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