Recording a death

Any death is to be reported immediately to a doctor (the doctor responsible for recording a death, generally the community doctor).

Caution

The deceased must be kept in an unaltered state (this includes not removing any clothing) until the doctor records the death.

As a rule, deaths fall within the responsibility of the municipal authorities. The precise legal basis is governed by provincial law. Consequently, the legal position may vary between individual provinces (e.g. notice periods and procedures). For more detailed information, please refer to your municipality or contact an undertakers.

To record the death, the doctor requires a certificate of medical treatment in order to assess the cause of death. This is issued by the doctor who had been responsible for treating the deceased.

In the event no such doctor is available, the relevant medical documents can be supplied at a later stage by the next of kin.

Following their inspection, the doctor recording the death issues (upon releasing the deceased)

  • the "Notification of death" form (also contains the "Verification of death certificate") and
  • the certificate to release the body.

If the doctor recording the death cannot unequivocally identify the cause of death, the deceased cannot be released, and instead must be sent for an autopsy with the forensic examiner or to the nearest hospital where the exact cause of death can be established. In such a case, the "Notification of death" form is issued there.

The "Notification of death" form and the "Verification of death certificate" therein are required to nofi notification of death to the registry office and the undertaker in order to conduct the funeral. The undertakers also require the "Certificate to release the body" for transportation purposes.

Once the death is recorded and verified and the body has been released, please notify the undertaker immediately so that the deceased can be collected. You can also speak to the undertaker about questions such as the choice of coffin, the type and process of the funeral and the wording of the death announcement (obituary).

The deceased can be brought to the cemetery, where they can lie in state in a closed coffin in a mortuary. In rural areas it is sometimes customary for the deceased to lie in state in their home or in church. The possibility of the deceased lying in state at home is dependent on the applicable provincial law (burial law) and on any relevant municipal regulations.

For more information, read the "Transporting a body".

Some undertakers also take care of the official channels (e.g. reporting the death to the competent registry office). In this instance, give the "Notification of death" form and the enclosed "Verification of death certificate" and the deceased's  personal documents to the undertakers. 

If the doctor recording the death establishes that the deceased died of a transmissible disease subject to reporting requirements, they are legally obligated to report this to the competent public health authority (district administrative authority: district authority or magistrate). Furthermore, the public health authority may request specific conditions regarding how the body is placed in the coffin or subsequently interred.

Further links

Translated by the European Commission
Last update: 1 January 2022

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