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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 this 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, or if the cause of death isn’t known, the death has to be reported to the local coroner. The coroner will 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

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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