Christo Mulder Attorneys

B3The death of a loved one is a difficult process to go through, and when the inevitable occurs, it is important to remember what happens next. The cause of death is determined under 2 categories: natural death, such as illness or heart attack, and unnatural death, such as a suicide or an accident.

Natural or unnatural death

If the deceased has passed in their home, and cause of death is suspicious, the family is required to contact the South African Police Service (SAPS) to conduct an immediate investigation before contacting the mortuary. In the event where death is natural, the family is required to contact medical professionals to determine the nature of the death, and sign certification of the cause of death.

Death certificate

A prescribed certificate may be issued by the medical practitioner if the death is ruled as natural, either following a period of illness, or a medical examination. Should it be suspected that the death is unnatural, the certificate may only be issued to the concerned police officer after an investigation where the corpse is no longer required for further examination.

An autopsy is not deemed necessary should the death be ruled as natural.

Registration of death may take be done the following places:

  • Department of Home Affairs
  • SAPS, if there are no Home Affairs offices available
  • South African Embassy or Consulate, should the death have occurred abroad
  • Registered funeral undertakers

An abridged death certificate is issued on the same day of registration, free of charge.


  • Births and Deaths Registration Act 51 of 1992. (2017). [PDF] Cape Town: Government Gazette. Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017].
  • (2017). Department of Home Affairs – Death Certificates. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017].
  • Grange, H. (2017). What to do when someone dies | IOL. [online] Available at: [Accessed 31 Jul. 2017].

This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied on as legal or other professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your legal adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)

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