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How many death certificates do you need when someone dies?

26/06/2020

When someone dies, you may need to send a death certificate to close their accounts and prove the death. But how many death certificates will you need? Michael Brook, a solicitor in Lodders’ Private Client practice, explains what you need to consider.

Before deciding how many death certificates you need, you need to follow a set step-by-step process to get the death registered.

When someone passes away, the first step is to collect the medical certificate of death. This is not the same as the traditional death certificate that everyone is used to. It is an official medical record confirming the cause of death. You may need to travel to the local GP surgery, care home or hospital to get this from the relevant medical professional.

Remember – the medical certificate of death and the death certificate are different, and you need one to be able to obtain the other.

Once you have the medical certificate of death, you will need to make an appointment to register the death. This is done via the government website which will guide you through the process. You should register the death within five days (including weekends and bank holidays). Traditionally, the registration was usually done in person at the local registry office. However, due to the Covid-19 situation, registrations are now carried out verbally via a telephone appointment with the registrar.

Remember – if you are struggling with the process, speak with a solicitor who can guide you through step-by-step.

It’s important to note that at this stage you will need to gather certain information about the person who has died – such as any other names they were known by, their occupation or former occupation – before you can register the death. It is useful to do this in plenty of time, in case you need to do any research or make further enquiries. Again, the online process will guide you through the information you need, and it is helpful to make a note of these points as you go.

When you come to actually registering the death (whether over the phone or in person), the registrar will ask how many death certificates you want. As already mentioned, there is no easy answer here, but it is recommended that the minimum should always be two. It is important to remember that there is no one ‘original’ death certificate, as each copy issued by the registry office is in itself an original. It is important, therefore, to consider at this stage who may need to see the death certificate. Each copy of the death certificate (currently) costs £11.

Typical examples of individuals and organisations that will want to see the death certificate include (amongst others):

• Solicitors
• Banks
• Pension Companies
• Share Registrars
• Investment Holders
• Credit Companies

Remember – a minimum of two death certificates are recommended, but most people actually need more.

The actual number of death certificates you need will depends whether a solicitor is dealing with the estate, or whether you are doing this yourself.

If a solicitor is dealing with all matters of the estate, they will only need one original death certificate (in addition to the one that you keep, hence the two recommended earlier), as they are able to produce a ‘Death Certificate Verification Form’, which is a widely accepted copy.

If you are dealing with the estate yourself then you may need more death certificates, as you are not allowed to copy the death certificate using a printer or photocopier. In fact, it is illegal to copy a death certificate. You may well need between five and 10 death certificates if the person who has died held assets with several different financial institutions, so create a list of all bank and building society accounts, investment plans and shares to help identify the total number of certificates you will need to provide.

Remember – it is illegal for anyone other than a solicitor to copy a death certificate.

Many organisations will return death certificates to you once they have noted them in their records. However, not all do, and not all process correspondence quickly. There is also the risk of death certificates going missing in the post. Getting further death certificates at a later date is possible, at the same cost of £11 (currently). This can take time though, so it is easier to make sure you have enough copies to start with and request them when the process begins.

Remember – always keep at least one copy of the original death certificate in case others get lost.

Remember that solicitors are there to assist you and have experience of the procedures and requirements. Feeling overwhelmed by the process is perfectly normal but it will get easier.

More information

Michael Brooks is a solicitor in the Private Client team and advises clients on wills, probate and private client related land matters. He also works alongside the firm’s specialist care and capacity team advising on powers of attorney, deputyship orders and vulnerable clients.

This article first published by The Gazette, The UK’s official public record: How many death certificates do you need when someone dies?

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To find out more, contact Michael Brooks on 01789 206132 or via email, or anyone else in the Private Client department.