Register a death

Last updated: 31 July 2017
Any death which happens in Scotland must be registered within 8 days of the death.

You can register a death if you:

  • are related to someone who has died
  • were there when the person died
  • are an executor or solicitor of the person who has died
  • lived with the person who died, if they died at home

If you're none of the above, but no one else can register the death, you can register the death as long as you:

  • know the details of the person who has died
  • have the right documents

What documents you'll need

You should take the medical certificate of cause of death with you – a doctor should be able to give you this when someone dies.

You can't register a death without a medical certificate of cause of death.

You should also take, if you have them:

  • the birth and marriage certificate of the person who has died
  • their NHS medical card
  • anything you have that confirms they had a pension or payment from government funds

If you only have the medical certificate a registrar can still register the death.

How to register a death

You can register a death at any registration office in Scotland – it doesn't need to be the district where the person lived or died.

When the registration is complete

The registrar will give you:

  • a certificate of registration of death – you'll need to show this to the funeral director
  • a shorter, known as 'abbreviated', copy of the full death entry made in the national register

There is no charge for these documents.

If the death happens outside Scotland

You must register the death according to the laws of the country where the person died.

Once you get a death certificate, you can use it in the UK if you need to confirm the person has died – such as with a bank or a funeral director. You may need to get a certified translation of the death certificate if it's not in English.

You can also apply to register the death in the UK. This means a record of the death will be sent to the National Records of Scotland and you can order a consular death registration certificate from New Register House, if you need one. You don't have to do this.

Find out more about how to register a death overseas.

Review of Medical Certificates of Cause of Death

Some medical certificates will be selected for review when you attend the registration office. This is done to help check that medical certificates are correct.

When a medical certificate is chosen for review, it means there will be a delay in registering a person's death. If you're trying to arrange a funeral for someone, the funeral can't go ahead until their death has been registered. The delay should be no more than 3 days.

If you object to the delay, for example if your religion requires the funeral to go ahead quickly, you can apply for 'advanced registration'. If advanced registration is given, you'll be able to go ahead with the funeral without delay.

If you wish to make an application for advanced registration, tell the registrar when you attend to register the death.