March 2020 – Covid-19 & Registering a Death Remotely

Author: Mitchells Roberton
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Registrars’ offices are currently closed to members of the public owing to the Coronavirus outbreak. But no burial or cremation can go ahead in Scotland without a Certificate of Registration of Death (“Form 14”)  having been issued by the registrar. This note outlines the current system for obtaining a Form 14 which applies with effect from 26th March. 

The Coronavirus Act 2020

  • The UK Government’s emergency coronavirus legislation became law this month as the Coronavirus Act 2020 (“the Act“). The Scottish Parliament agreed to Westminster’s enacting the provisions of the Act that concerned matters “devolved” to the Scottish Parliament.
  • The Act contains 102 sections and 29 schedules but the aim of this Note is not to give an overview of the Act as a whole but to focus on one particular aspect of it: registering a death.

Registration of deaths

  • The registration of deaths in Scotland is governed by the Registration of Births, Deaths and Marriages (Scotland) Act 1965 (“the 1965 Act”) under which the “Registrar General” is in overall control of the system which is operated by local authority “district registrars”.
  • Section 18 and schedule 13 of the 2020 Act provide the framework for the registration of deaths in Scotland during the Coronavirus outbreak by way of various adjustments to the procedures under the 1965 Act. In particular:
    • Information required under the 1965 Act may be given to the “district registrar” by telephone or such other means as the Registrar General may provide and allows for a form of “signing” of the death registration form by the district registrar on behalf of the informant.
    • Any “relevant document” required under the 1965 Act may be given or delivered by any electronic or other means specified in guidance issued by the Registrar General.
    • A funeral director who is to arrange the funeral may give information concerning the death if authorised to do so by a relative of the deceased.

Official guidance on registration of deaths remotely

The National Records of Scotland website provides useful guidance and a “flowchart” which can be found here The following is a summary of that guidance.

  1. The doctor providing the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death (“MCCD”) will ask the person who will be making funeral arrangements which local authority registration office they intend to deal with.
  1. The doctor will then send a copy of the MCCD to the registrar electronically – also copying in the person making funeral arrangements.
  1. Once the doctor has sent the MCCD to the registrar, the person who will register the death (“the informant”) should contact the registrar by telephone or e-mail to make arrangements to begin the death registration process. For Glasgow City Council see the relevant page  https://www.glasgow.gov.uk/coronavirus
  1. Families can now also ask their funeral director to serve as the informant – although the funeral director does not have to agree to do so.
  1. In particular, the district registrar will ask the informant for (a) contact details from the informant including a telephone number and/or e-mail address; and (b) information about the deceased’s birth and any marriage(s).
  1. The district registrar will then make up a sample register page and send a copy of that to the informant asking him or her to check that the information is correct. The sample register page will normally be sent by email but if the informant cannot access e-mail, the registrar may read out the information listed over the telephone.
  1. Instead of the informant physically signing the form they will be asked to tell the registrar how they usually sign their name. For example, Mr Andrew John Baxter might usually sign: “A Baxter” or “A J Baxter” or “Andy Baxter” and so on.
  1. The registrar will then write that usual signature in the appropriate space on the register page so as to indicate that the informant has remotely “attested” to the page and agreed that it is accurate.
  1. If the informant is not a funeral director serving on behalf of a family, they will be asked to confirm which funeral director will be dealing with funeral arrangements.
  1. If the informant wishes, a scanned copy of the Form 14 Certificate of Registration of Death can then be e-mailed to the funeral director, to allow the funeral arrangements to be made.
  1. If the informant does not yet know which funeral director will be making arrangements, the Form 14 will be e-mailed or sent by post to the informant, as they prefer.

Note: This material is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of advice or recommendation by us. You should not rely upon it in making any decisions or taking or refraining from taking any action. If you would like us to advise you on any of the matters covered in this material, please contact Allyson Gilchrist: email ag@mitchells-roberton.co.uk

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