What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is an official copy of the details held by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in relation to a death. This certificate is essential for managing the legal and financial matters that follow the passing of a loved one.

It has a very similar name to another important document, the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, but the two are quite different.

The cause of death certificate cannot be used in place of a death certificate. A death certificate serves as proof of death in various financial and other matters, such as accessing pension benefits, claiming life insurance or selling assets.


Applying for a death certificate

Usually, the funeral director will register the death after the funeral by submitting the relevant details to the registry of births, deaths and marriages. A death usually needs to be registered within seven days (although this varies from state to state) of the funeral or cremation, after which the death certificate will be produced. If your funeral director registers the death, you do not need to submit a separate application to get a copy of the death certificate.

Where a funeral director is unavailable or a member of the family wishes to register the death of their loved one themselves, it can be done by the next of kin e.g. the current spouse, parent or child of the deceased). The executor of a deceased’s estate, or the solicitor acting for the next of kin or the estate, can register a death.

It can take two or more weeks to receive the death certificate, but the timing can vary from state to state.


What information is required? 

The registration process for a death certificate varies from state to state. To organise the registration of a death document, your funeral director will need some basic information about your loved one. This includes:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Place of death (full address of hospital or residence)
  • Residential address
  • Occupation during working life
  • Place of birth (City and Country)
  • Marital status at time of death
  • All marriages (place of marriage; city, state & country, full name of spouse, age at the time of marriage)
  • Parents’ names and occupations, including mother’s maiden name
  • Children’s names, dates of birth and ages (if applicable)
  • Place of burial or cremation
  • Religion (if applicable)
  • Your relationship to the deceased

However, this is only required if no prepaid or preplanned funeral arrangements have previously been made. If they have, most, if not all, the above information has already been documented.

If you have any questions about the Death Certificate, you can talk to your funeral directors or visit one of the following Births, Deaths and Marriages registry offices for more information:

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