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Do I need a death certificate to claim life insurance?

Claiming on a life insurance policy can be an upsetting experience due to the circumstances, so it’s important to know what you need in order to make the process as smooth as possible. One thing you may be wondering, is do you need a death certificate to make a claim?

The short answer is yes - an original death certificate for the policyholder is one of three documents you need to claim on a life insurance policy alongside an insurance claim form and the policy document.

To obtain a death certificate, you must register the death in a local register office. If the person died in England or Wales you should use the register office closest to their place of death, but in Scotland or Northern Ireland you can use any district or council registration office 

You need to register the death within five days in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland and within eight days in Scotland. However, you should request a slot as soon as possible after the death as register offices are busy, and it might take a few days to be allocated an appointment.

To register the death, you must bring a medical certificate of the death, provided to you by a GP or a doctor at the hospital and stating the cause of death, and provide vital details about the deceased, including their full name, date and location of their birth, and details of their spouse.

Deaths can only be registered by a relative of the deceased, someone who was present at the death, someone who lives at the address where the person died, or someone arranging the funeral.

It’s free to register a death, but you must pay for each certified copy of the death certificate: £11 in England and Wales, £10 in Scotland, and £8 in Northern Ireland. You should obtain several copies, as you’ll need death certificates to deal with other aspects of the deceased’s estate. Insurers insist on seeing an original death certificate and won’t accept a photocopy.

If you didn’t obtain enough death certificates at the time of registering the death, you can request more at a later date. You can do so online by using the website of the General Register Office. You can also contact the General Register Office by phone or by post, or return to the local register office where the death was registered. Anyone can obtain a death certificate for the deceased, provided they can supply details about that person and the death, including their full name and where the death was registered.

A death certificate is also required to deal with other aspects of the deceased’s estate, to hold a funeral, and arrange a cremation.

If someone dies unexpectedly, suspiciously, or of uncertain causes, a coroner may be called to investigate the death. In these cases, you won’t obtain a death certificate until the coroner’s investigations are complete - including a post-mortem and inquest, if necessary - and they have settled on a cause of death. These investigations can take many months. If you need proof of death while you wait for the inquest to finish, you can ask the coroner for an interim death certificate. Insurers can accept this interim death certificate although they usually request more information from the coroner before beginning to assess the claim.

If the policyholder dies overseas, the death should be registered in that country. Most countries, but not all, issue death certificates for foreign nationals who die in their jurisdiction. That local death certificate can be used for most purposes in the UK, including claiming on a life insurance policy. But if it’s not in English, you’ll need to obtain and pay for an official translation and submit that to the insurer as well.

In the event of deaths of British nationals in some overseas countries, you can choose a consular death registration. This records the death with the General Register Office in the UK and allows you to obtain a death certificate that way.

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