Arranging a funeral is one of life’s hardest and saddest tasks. By familiarising yourself with the rules associated with funerals before you need that information, you will be in a better position to make informed decisions that may prevent you from paying more than you need to.

The registration of a death

Last updated

1 July 2020

Unless stated otherwise, all references to legislation in this ‘Registration of a death’ section are references to the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (Vic).

Under section 34 of the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Act 1996 (Vic) (‘BDMR Act’), when a person dies in Victoria, their death must be registered in Victoria. When a person dies outside of Victoria, but leaves assets in Victoria, their death may be registered in Victoria (s 34).

A doctor who attended a person during their last illness, or who examined the body after death, must sign and send to the BDM registrar a notification of the death, as prescribed by section 37(1) of the BDMR Act, within 48 hours of the death.

This notification must be supplemented by a completed form given to the BDM registrar within seven days of the disposal of the body by the funeral director or the person who has custody of the body (s 39(1)).

The name and address of the medical practitioner who certified the death can be found in the schedule 5 form (under the Births, Deaths and Marriages Registration Regulations 1997 (Vic)) entitled ‘Notice of signing medical certificate concerning death’. A copy of this form must be delivered or sent to one of the persons required to notify the BDM registrar within 48 hours of the death. This notice, however, shall not be issued if the doctor is required to report the death to a coroner or a police officer (s 37(4)).

Where a death occurs in hospital, these legal requirements will be seen to by the medical staff (s 39(1)). If the death occurs in a private house, by the funeral director. If the services of a funeral director have not been obtained and the death occurs in a private house, notification must be forwarded to the BDM registrar in the prescribed form. This form can be obtained, free of charge, from the office of the BDM registrar by the person disposing of the body (s 39(1)). 

If the remains are not disposed of within 30 days of the death, the funeral director or the person disposing of the body must notify the registrar of this fact in the manner prescribed by the registrar. Failure to do so is an offence (s 39(2)).

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