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Demystifying the Funeral paperwork

Anyone - not just a funeral director - can organise the burial or cremation of a body.

There are a number of forms that may be needed and used in different situations. This page should demystify the paperwork involved:



Medical Certificate of cause of death (HP4720)

This is sometimes, incorrectly, refered to (especially by medical personnel) as the "death certificate", which can lead to confusion! It is important to note that the true "Death Certificate" is obtained from the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages and is not available until AFTER the burial or cremation. Refer to Death Certificate (BDM93D) further down this page for more information. For a DIY funeral, when placing a death notice in a newspaper the paper will want to see a "death certificate" - use the Medical Certificate of cause of death (HP4720).

In general, when someone dies as the result of an illness, the attending doctor signs a Medical certificate of cause of death (HP4720) and funeral arrangements can go ahead immediately. The doctor certifying the death will supply the form.

A coroner is called in if a doctor has been unable to determine the cause of death, or if a death has occurred in violent or unnatural circumstances.
Refer to Coroners authorisation for release of body (Cor 3) below for more information.

If the body is to be cremated, pacemakers must be removed and the crematorium notified of any radiotherapy prior to death.

  • If a person dies in hospital, the person organising the funeral will need to request that the hospital removes the pacemaker. The hospital will have a hospital surgeon remove the pacemaker and provide the necessary certification for the crematorium on the HP470 certificate. If for some reason the death is referred to the Coroner, the pacemaker is not removed until AFTER the coroner releases the body.
  • If a person dies at home or in a rest-home, request the doctor who is certifying the death to remove the pacemaker. They will then supply the necessary certification for the crematorium.


Medical Certificate of causes of fetal and neonatal death (HP4721)

A Medical certificate of causes of foetal and neonatal death (HP4721) is used in the case of a liveborn baby dying within 28 days of birth, and for a stillbirth. The doctor certifying the death will supply the form.



Coroners authorisation for release of body (Cor 3)

A coroner is called in if a doctor has been unable to determine the cause of death, or if a death has occurred in violent or unnatural circumstances.
All deaths occurring during medical procedures or while a person is in the care or custody of the state are also reported to the coroner.
Any death that occurred while the woman concerned was giving birth, or was as a result of being pregnant or giving birth must be reported to the coroner.
Coroners are appointed by the Governor-General and have the legal duty to enquire into all deaths reported to them. They make enquiries, carry out inquiries and/or hold inquests.
Further information about the Coronial Services of New Zealand is available at www.justice.govt.nz/coroners
In general, if a death has been referred to the coronor the funeral planning can be started but cannot proceed until the coronor releases the body by supplying Coroners authorisation for release of body (Cor 3).
A post-mortem may delay release of the body for burial or cremation. While most enquiries are simple and straightforward, there are sometimes complications that may delay release of the body.
Burial or cremation can take place before an inquest is held, provided that the coroner has signed a Coroners authorisation for release of body (Cor 3).



Transfer of charge of body (BDM39)

When a body is moved from the place of death, the person in charge of the body is required by law to sign a Transfer of charge of body (BDM39).
The funeral director or other person in charge of the funeral keeps this form as evidence that responsibility for the body was transferred appropriately.
The medical certificate of causes of death (either HP4720 or HP4721) or a coroner’s authorisation (Cor 3), is to be held by the person in charge of the body.
If you are not a funeral director and you are transferring the body to a funeral director, a BDM39 is not needed. You must, however, give the funeral director a medical certificate of causes of death or a coroner’s authorisation, if you have one.
BDM39 forms are available from hospital morgues and the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages.
For example: when picking up a body from a morgue, the morgue will normally supply a BDM39 form and will expect you to complete it and also supply some form of identification, for example a driver's licence before you remove the body.



Permission to cremate

Contact your chosen crematorium for a list of local doctors who are authorised to complete a Permission to Cremate. They must be a different doctor than the doctor who signed the HP4720 or HP4721 form.

This doctor's role is to check the information on either the Medical Certificate of cause of death (HP4720), or the Medical certificate of causes of foetal and neonatal death (HP4721), or the Coroners authorisation for release of body (Cor 3) and then give Permission to Cremate. A crematorium will not accept an Application for Cremation without this Permission to Cremate Form.



Application to cremate

Your chosen crematorium will have its own forms for applying to use their facilities. Costs for cremation can vary.



Application to bury

Your chosen cemetery will have its own forms for applying to use their facilities. Costs for burial can vary.



Notification of death for registration form (BDM28)

Notification that a person has been buried or cremated must be sent to the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages within three days of the burial or cremation.

Full details about the information needed on this this form is here: Notifying the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages. The BDM office will supply the form when requested.
The form can take a few days from the time you request it until it reaches you in the post. It is prudent to request the form as soon as possible.



Notification of Birth for Registration (BDM27)

A stillbirth must be notified jointly by the parents using a Notification of Birth for Registration (BDM27) form. The BDM office will supply the form when requested.
The form can take a few days from the time you request it until it reaches you in the post. It is prudent to request the form as soon as possible.

BDM (Births, Deaths and Marriages) Contact Information:

Freephone: 0800 22 52 52 (New Zealand only)

Phone: (+64 4) 463 9362

Email: bdm.nz@dia.govt.nz



Request for New Zealand Death Certificate and/or Death Printout Order Form (BDM93D)

At the same time as you lodge a BDM28 form with the Registrar you can request a copy of the Death Certificate on the BDM28 form. There is a small fee for this certificate.

The Executor of the Will may need this document.

Any time later you can request a copy of the Death Certificate using the form Request for New Zealand Death Certificate and/or Death Printout Order Form (BDM93D) available online here from the BDM website or by phoning them: Freephone 0800 22 77 77 (+64 4 463 9362 if outside New Zealand).



What is Probate?

Probate (a term coming from a Latin word meaning ‘proof’) is the procedure by which the courts recognise a will as authentic.

The executors of the will must obtain probate from the court so that they have authority to deal with assets (and liabilities) of the person who has died and to enable distribution of the estate in accordance with the will.

The Registrar of the High Court carries out probate after receiving an application from the executors. This task involves establishing that it was in fact the testator (the maker of the will) who died, that the will was properly signed and attested, and that executors have been appointed.



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