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How to Get a Death Certificate

When someone dies there are administrative hoops to jump through before you can proceed with burial arrangements. Death certificates are one of the first steps; marking a priority service before the funeral or estate or the deceased person can be planned. In this article we explain how to apply for a death certificate, as well as why this written authority is important.

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What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is an official document for death registration- confirming someone's death with the relevant government agencies in their state or territory of residence. Obtaining a certified copy of the death certificate is required before the estate of the person who has died can be administered.

The death certificate should not be confused with the medical cause of death certificate (the PR315). The latter is a death record document, which is filled out immediately following the person's death by a doctor. Both documents are required in order to organise funeral arrangements.

What is the difference between a death certificate and a cause of death certificate?

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, date, 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.

This medical certificate can be used to provide evidence if there are suspicious circumstances surrounding a person's cause of death. In this sense, the cause of death certificate is more of a medical certificate.

The death certificate is more about death registration.

Once the cause of death 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. This is the necessary proof of death required to administer the estate of the deceased person.

How to get a 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 death certificate.

Using a funeral director

If you plan to use a Funeral Director for any burial arrangements they will organise the certificate application on your behalf. Marked as a priority service, this can alleviate some pressure and stress on you at an already stressful and upsetting time.

Applying for death certificates yourself

Without a funeral director, you can apply for a death certificate and register the death of the person yourself- this requires contacting the registry of births, deaths and marriages in your state or territory.

Necessary information on the deceased person:

  • Full name;

  • Dates and places of birth and death;

  • Occupation;

  • Residential Address;

  • 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.

Restrictions on who can fill out death registration form:

  • 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.

Death certificates by state

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 you can apply for the death certificate online, via australia post or by visiting a customer service centre. Once you have filled in the completed form wth relevant information and documentation, the deceased estate can be administered. For this reason, it's important to register a death as soon as possible- to provide proof via relevant certificates that the person has died.

New South Wales


The Australian Capital Territory


South Australia

The Northern Territory

Western Australia


How long does it take to receive a death certificate?

Processing time of a death certificate can vary depending on whether you use a registered post, or an online application form.

In most cases, once the application has been registered 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 form 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 processing 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.

To Wrap Up

After someone dies, it's important that the death is registered so the funeral can be organised and the estate administered. Your relationship with the deceased dictates whether you are eligible to apply for a standard death certificate on the deceased person's behalf.

There are several options; including applying online, via a customer service centre or registered post service. Once the death register has received the relevant documents, they will contact relevant parties to confirm that the death is registered. At this stage, the deceased person's estate can be administered.

Get in touch with Safewill today

Safewill offers the most affordable and flexible end-of-life support service in Australia. From cremation plans, to estate administration- our team of compassionate, legal experts are here to help.

Get in touch today for assistance in administering a deceased estate, or for planning your own estate ahead of time.

We're available on 1800 103 310 , or via livechat now.

Last updated 04th January 2023
Louise Ayling
Copywriter & Content Developer
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Safewill is an online service providing streamlined forms and information. Safewill is not a law firm or a substitute for a lawyer’s advice about complex estate planning issues.