What to do when someone dies?

Helpful advice and guidance on what to do when someone dies.

If someone dies at home; you should;

  • Contact the local doctor who the person was registered with
  • Contact a funeral director (undertaker)

If someone dies in hospital, the charge nurse will contact the next of kin to inform them of the death and then family/relatives can make contact with the funeral directors.

Any death that takes place in Scotland should be registered within 8 days by the Registrar. Registration can be made at any Registration Office in Scotland (pdf).

Once family/relative have decided on which registration office they wish to use they must let the charge nurse know as soon as possible. The certifying doctor will issue a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (MCCD) by email to the registrar. This document should only be issued to the relevant registrar as it is for their records only. Registering the death cannot be done without the medical certificate.

Who can register a death in Scotland?

  • Any relatives of the deceased, or
  • Any person present when the person died, or
  • The deceased's executor or other legal representative, or
  • The occupier of the property where the person died, or if there is no such person,
  • Anyone else who knows the information to be registered.

What information will the Registrar need?

  • The certificate of death from the hospital or doctor, this should have been emailed direct to the registrar;
  • Birth, marriage or civil partnership certificates of the deceased, if available;
  • NHS medical card of the deceased (if available);
  • If you would also like to use the Tell us Once Service you will need added additional information.

How to register the death

Contact your local Registrar for further information and to make an appointment.  You can also complete our online appointment form and the registrar will contact you as soon as received.

Appointments are Monday to Friday, there is no need to appear in person as all death registrations are now done remotely over the phone and email.

The registration will take place over the phone with the registrar. The registrar will discuss with the informant all the information they require for the registration. If the deceased was born or married out with Scotland the registrar may ask for a copy of the certificates for these events to scanned to them. A preview of the registration will be read through or emailed over to that all the details can be reviewed and checked before completing the registration.

Due to the introduction of legislation in May 2015 arrangements for death registrations have changed.  Medical Certificates of Causes of Deaths (MCCDs) may be subject to a random review check. For deaths which have not been reported to the Procurator Fiscal a random selection of the medical certificates of cause of death will be selected for review, through the registration system. These reviews are designed to check the quality and accuracy of certificates and to improve how this information is recorded.

If the death you are registering is selected for review you may not immediately be able to complete the death registration. The registrar will explain the review process and timescales, and will contact you when the review is complete.

You can make initial funeral arrangements while the review is underway. However, the funeral cannot take place until the review is completed and you receive the Certificate of Registration of Death (Form 14) from the registrar.

If you need the funeral to go ahead quickly you may be able to apply for advance registration.

Further information on the review service and how to apply for advance registration can be read here - www.healthcareimprovementscotland.org/deathcertification

Deaths referred to Procurator Fiscal

All sudden, suspicious, accidental, unexpected and unexplained deaths are reported to the Procurator Fiscal who will investigate the circumstances of the death.

Deaths are usually brought to the attention of the Procurator Fiscal through reports from the police, the registrar, GP’s or hospital doctors. In some cases which are reported to the Procurator Fiscal it will be necessary to instruct a post-mortem examination, for example, where no doctor is able to issue a medical certificate or where criminal proceedings or a Fatal Accident Inquiry may be considered. The consent of the next of kin is not required where the post-mortem examination is instructed by the Procurator Fiscal.

The examination will be carried out as soon as possible, but the MCCD will not be issued until the examination has been completed. This will cause a delay in the death registration being registered.

If the sudden or unexplained death is that of an infant or child, the Procurator Fiscal may be more likely to ask for a post-mortem examination. If there are any cultural, religious or other objections to a post-mortem examination it is important to tell the Procurator Fiscal as soon as possible. There may be legal reasons why a post-mortem is unavoidable, but where possible the wishes of the next of kin will be respected.

Signing the document

You will not be able to go to the registration office to sign the document. Instead the registrar will ask you how you sign your name. For example using your initial, full first name or in another format.

They will write the signature in the relevant space followed by the word 'Transcribed'.

The entry will have the same legal power as one signed in ink by someone.

When the registration is complete the registrar will give you the following, free of charge :

  • Form 14 – will be issued to the funeral directors to confirm the death has been registered
  • An abbreviated extract of the death entry.
  • You can obtain a full extract of the death entry for a fee of £10.00


After the death registration has been completed you will be offered the 'Tell Us Once' service to allow us to notify all agencies about a death..  Your registrar can help complete this for you or you can be given a reference number if you wish to complete over the telephone or online.

You can use our 'Tell Us Once'service to let us notify all agencies about a death after your registration.

Other Useful Information

The Scottish Government website has helpful information about what to do when someone dies, with practical help and advice on registering a death, planning a funeral, bereavement support organisations and financial support.

Funeral support payments are available to people in Scotland who are on certain benefits or tax credits to help meet the cost of a funeral.

Welfare Rights

Suicide Bereavement Support Service

Thanks to funding from the Scottish Government, national mental health charities Penumbra and Support in Mind Scotland are working in partnership to deliver a Suicide Bereavement Support Service in Ayrshire and Arran and the Highlands.

The services have been designed in consultation with people who have lived through the experience of the loss of someone to suicide and they have been established to help people with emotional, as well as practical needs. Support takes the form of phone calls, video calls or face to face and is compassionate, flexible and user-led. It is also free and completely confidential. Support can be provided to people immediately after a suicide, or if they need support in the weeks, months or years after losing their loved one. We can also support both family members and friends.

When Registering a death for someone who has committed suicide and they lived or died in Argyll and Bute, Registrars can make a referral to the Suicide Bereavement Support Service.

You can also access the service directly by email using: suicidebereavementsupport@nhs.scot or by calling 0800 471 4768. Please note the telephone line is not manned 7 days per week so you may be asked to leave a message.

Civil Funeral Services

Registrars in Campbeltown provide a service to perform civil funeral services in co-operation with the local undertaker. This service will be offered for Campbeltown and the surrounding area. Arrangements for a registrar performing the civil funeral service can be discussed by contacting T.A.Blair Undertaker. 

Funeral Directors

Below is all the funeral directors who are located locally to each area.


Caladh - caladh.dunoon@dignityfunerals.co.uk - 01369707000

Co-op - dunoon@coop.co.uk -  01369706607


D McKellar  - mckellarfuneraldirectors@btconnect.com – 01700502751

Alexander McNab and son - amcnab-funerals@btconnect.com - 01700502780


James Auld - info@jamesauldfunerals.co.uk -01436 677768

Co-op - helensburgh@coop.co.uk - 01436 673322

George Skea - georgeskea.helensburgh@dignityfunerals.co.uk - 01436 898196

Cardross Crematorium - cardross_crematorium@argyll-bute.gov.uk - 01389 841313


TA Blair Funeral Directors - funerals@tablair.co.uk - 01586552918


Donald MacDonald - info@donaldmacdonald.org - 01546 602226 

Stan Lupton - mail@stanlupton.co.uk - 01880 820995


D & A Munn - info@munns-oban.co.uk - 01631 562562 or 07778 373759

Hamish Hoey & Sons - catriona@hamishhoeyandson.co.uk-  01631 562269

Duncan Gunn - 01631 730279


William McClymont – Mull Funeral Services - mullfuneralservices@yahoo.co.uk - 01680 812435


A, J & C MacAffer - craigmacaffer@btinternet.com - 01496 302428

If you decide to use a funeral directors/undertaker out with Argyll and Bute we will require their email address so that we can forward them the relevant document (Form 14) when the registration is complete.

What if the death occurs abroad?

You should register the death according to local regulations in the country concerned and obtain a certificate of death. You may also be able to register the death with the UK Authorities in that country, a fee maybe payable. However, there is no obligation to do so. A record of the death will be sent to National Records Office of Scotland.  For further information contact your local registrar.

However, you may be interested to know that National Records of Scotland have a Book of Scottish Connections (BSC). The BSC is a public record that allows people all over the world, with a Scottish connection, to apply for a birth, death, marriage or civil partnership abroad to be recorded in the BSC held by the Registrar General in Edinburgh.

For more information please see the National Records of Scotland website regarding the Book of Scottish Connections.

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