A death certificate is an official document which confirms someone’s death with the government in their state or territory of residence. It is one of the first documents you will need to get before you can administer a deceased estate.
The death certificate should not be confused with the medical cause of death certificate (the PR315). The latter is a document which is filled out immediately following the person’s death by a doctor. Both documents are required in order to organise funeral arrangements.
When someone dies their general practitioner will need to examine the body and determine the cause of death. The doctor will write a cause of death certificate which details the time, location and reason for the death. If the death is unexpected, suspicious or can’t be easily explained you should call the police and they will refer the case to the coroner for an investigation.
Once the cause of death certificate is written up it can be used to record the death with the registry of births, deaths and marriages and obtain an official death certificate.
Once the medical certificate is written up you can proceed with your burial arrangements. It isn’t until after the burial or cremation that you can register the death and apply for a certificate.
If you plan to use a Funeral Director for any burial arrangements they will organise the application for you. If not, you will need to contact the registry of births, deaths and marriages in your state or territory and complete a death registration form yourself.
In each case you will need to have the following information about the deceased to apply for a certificate:
Dates and places of birth and death;
Marital status and spouse details;
Details of previous marriages;
Parents’ names and occupations;
The names, birthdays and ages of any children; and
Place of burial or cremation.
There are also restrictions on who can apply for a death certificate on behalf of the deceased. You can apply for a death certificate if you are:
The deceased’s next of kin e.g. their wife, de facto partner, parent or child;
Another living relative if the deceased has no immediate living family;
The funeral director (if applying within two months of the death being registered);
The executor of the estate; or
The solicitor acting for the next of kin.
If you are applying for a death certificate without the aid of a funeral director you can follow the links below to visit the registry of births, deaths and marriages in the relevant state or territory. The process is relatively simple and can be done online, by post or by visiting a customer service centre. Each method requires filling out forms with the required information above and supplying identify documents both for yourself and the deceased.
New South Wales
Once the application has been lodged with the registry of births, deaths and marriages it can take between 10-15 business days for the death certificate to arrive. However, if there are any issues with the application or if any documentation is missing it can delay the process. If it is urgent you may be able to organise a priority application to cut down some of the waiting time. Keep in mind that if you are requesting the certificate be posted it will take longer due to potential delays with the postal service.