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Family law

Confirming and registering the death

Confirmation by a doctor or nurse of the cause of death

When can doctors and nurses issue a certificate of cause of death?

Burial and Cremation Act 1964, s 46AA-46B

If a person has died after an illness or due to some other natural cause, usually the doctor or nurse who has been caring for them will issue a “Certificate of Cause of Death”. The body can’t be buried or cremated without this certificate. (This certificate isn’t a “Death Certificate” – a Death Certificate is issued by Births, Deaths and Marriages after you’ve officially registered the death with them).

If the deceased had been ill, the doctor or nurse can’t issue the cause of death certificate unless they’re satisfied the death was a natural consequence of the illness.

Usually doctors and nurses can’t issue a certificate of cause of death for an accidental death, and instead have to report it to the coroner. But there’s an exception when a person over 70 dies after an accident – in these cases, the doctor or nurse can issue a certificate so long as the accident resulted from physical problems linked to the person’s age, and the death wasn’t suspicious or unusual and wasn’t caused by someone else.

Once the doctor or nurse has issued their certificate, the deceased’s body can be released to the family, so that they can prepare for the funeral. The family can move the body to a funeral home or to their own home if they prefer.

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A death in the family

Where to go for more support

Community Law

Your local Community Law Centre can provide you with free initial legal advice.

Find your local Community Law Centre online: www.communitylaw.org.nz/our-law-centres

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.

Website: coronialservices.justice.govt.nz

Registering a death

The Births, Deaths and Marriages section of the Department of Internal Affairs has information on what to do when someone passes, including registering a death.

Website: www.govt.nz/browse/family-and-whanau/death-and-bereavement

Burial and cremation

See your local council website for information about burial and cremation in your area.

Gathering kaimoana for tangihanga

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

Website: www.mpi.govt.nz/fishing-aquaculture/maori-customary-fishing

Financial support for bereaved families

Work and Income’s website has information about possible financial support for funerals and tangihanga.

Website: www.workandincome.govt.nz/eligibility/urgent-costs/bereavement.html
Phone: 0800 559 009

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.

Website: www.acc.co.nz/im-injured/financial-support/financial-support-after-death
Phone: 0800 101 996

Organ Donation New Zealand

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

Website: www.donor.co.nz

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