Death certificates

The usual way to prove the death of a person, so that their estate may be administered is to obtain a death certificate from the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages in the state where the deceased died. Below are some commonly asked questions about death certificates.

  1. Why do I need to obtain a death certificate?

Most institutions (such as a bank, share registry or the titles office) will insist upon seeing a death certificate before they will release any information about the assets and liabilities of the deceased.

No institution will allow an executor or administrator to transfer, sell or otherwise deal with the assets of the estate without receiving a certified copy of the death certificate. Some institutions such as the Supreme Court will require (and keep) the original death certificate. Additional copies of a death certificate can be obtained from the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages that issued the original certificate.

  1. Who can apply for a death certificate?

An application for a death certificate can be made by a member of the deceased’s family; a funeral director; a guardian or carer; the Public Trustee; a financial institution representative; an executor or administrator, or a solicitor.[1]

  1. When is a death certificate issued?

No death certificate will issue until the body has been buried, cremated or accepted at a university or other research facility. Once this has occurred, the average processing time for an application received by post is five business days. However, it is possible to make an urgent request (additional fees apply) and if the application is made in person at the counter of the Registry, the death certificate may immediately be produced depending upon when the death was registered.

  1. How do I obtain a death certificate?

An application for a death certificate will often be made by a funeral director as part of attending to the funeral arrangements.

However, should you need to apply to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages for another death certificate or a death certificate of a relative who passed away some time ago, you must complete an application form,[2] provide relevant supporting documentation, provide proof of identification, and submit the application along with the application fee.

  1. What is an interim death certificate?

Sometimes, a death certificate issues and lists the cause of death as “not yet determined”. This is an interim death certificate. An interim death certificate issues where there is further investigation underway into the cause of death of the deceased.

  1. What happens if the coroner has become involved?

If the coroner is investigating the death, the death registration will be updated once a cause of death is finalised. This may take several months, depending on how busy the coroner’s office is. The updated death certificate can be obtained without charge by returning the interim death certificate to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages.[3]