On 25 March 2022, the temporary legislation introduced during the pandemic to permit the registration of deaths via telephone ceased to have effect. Going forwards, deaths must now be registered in person with the Registrar. In a world where people are increasingly used to online and virtual options, some may be dismayed that physically visiting the Register Office has been reinstated. However, it is now possible to register a death in your local district rather than visiting the district in which the deceased passed away. This is called registering a death by declaration.
Reform on the horizon?
Notwithstanding the recent step backwards, there is hope in the form of the Registers of Births and Deaths Bill which is currently at the report stage in the House of Commons. This Bill was proposed by the MP for Sutton Coldfield, Andrew Mitchell, and seeks to reform the registration of births and deaths, moving away from the current paper-based model.
Principally, the Bill removes the requirement to physically sign the register and instead states that where an individual registering a birth or death has complied with the necessary requirements, they can be treated as if they physically signed the register in the presence of the Registrar. It will therefore open up digital registration as a complementary avenue alongside face-to-face appointments.
Despite having the support of both the Government and Opposition, the Bill has yet to satisfy multiple stages of the approval process. It was first introduced in February 2020 and, likely delayed by the pandemic, is still at the report stage in the House of Commons. It must next pass back to the Commons for a final reading before it passes to the House of Lords for three readings and the committee and report stages.
It does offer hope, however, that the outdated and emotionally tiring requirement to physically attend an appointment to register a death might someday be a distant memory.
The current process
As a general reminder of the process for registering a death, they should generally be reported by a relative who was present at the time of death. Where such a relative is not available, someone who was i) present at the time of death, ii) found the body, iii) is in charge of the body or, iv) is in charge of funeral arrangements may register the death. Deaths must be registered within 5 days of the death.
When attending the appointment with the Registrar, you will need to take various identity documents for the deceased. You will also need to take the doctor’s certificate confirming the cause of death (if this has not already been sent to the Registrar directly). Your local Register Office will advise exactly which documents are required in order to register the death.
We have extensive experience guiding clients through the probate process. If you are responsible for the estate of a recently deceased individual and require professional advice on next steps, please call us on 01892 510000 and ask to speak to our Probate department.