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Family law

Confirming and registering the death


Note: In this chapter, we use the term “the deceased” to refer to the person who has died.

When someone dies, the death and the cause of death have to be confirmed by a doctor or nurse, or sometimes by the coroner, before the body can be buried or cremated.

In most cases it will be confirmed by a doctor or nurse, who’ll issue a “Certificate of Cause of Death”. But if the death was accidental or involved violence in some way, or if the cause of death isn’t known, the death has to be reported to the local coroner; they’ll investigate if necessary, including by ordering a post-mortem (autopsy) if one is needed, and confirm the cause of death.

As well as this official confirmation of death, there are other documents the funeral director or relatives will need to complete or obtain from others – for example, special approval forms if the body is to be cremated.

After the deceased’s body has been buried or cremated, the death must be officially registered with Births, Deaths and Marriages at the Department of Internal Affairs, who’ll then issue an official “Death Certificate”.

This section of the chapter explains these processes and the different documents that are needed.

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A death in the family

Where to go for more support

Confirmation of the cause of death – Coroners


The website of Coronial Services of New Zealand has information about the role of coroners in investigating the causes of deaths.

Registering a death


The Births, Deaths and Marriages section of the Department of Internal Affairs has information on its website about registering deaths.

Burial and cremation

Local council websites have information about burial and cremation in their particular areas.

Financial support for bereaved families


Work and Income’s website has information about possible financial support for funerals and tangihanga. Click on “Benefits and payments / Urgent or unexpected costs”.

ACC‘s website has information about different types of accident compensation and payments that can be made to family members when a person has died in an accident. Go to: www.acc.co.nz , and click on “I’m injured / Types of financial support / Financial support if someone has died”.

Gathering kaimoana for tangihanga


The Ministry of Primary Industries has information on its website about Māori customary rights for gathering kaimoana for tangihanga, hui and other traditional purposes.

Organ donation


The website of Organ Donation New Zealand has information about organ and tissue donation.

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