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28 February 2022

Certificate of life: what you need to know

Certificates of life are important if you are claiming money or a pension abroad. Here is your guide.

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

Certificate of life

What is a certificate of life?

A certificate of life is a document that is created by a government, insurance company or pension fund to prove the existence of an individual. They certify that the individual concerned is currently living and that they are able to qualify for things like pensions and benefits. 

Other names for this include proof of life certificate, certificate of existence, letter of existence or life certificate.

What are they used for?

Government bodies check periodically that someone who is claiming benefits or pensions is still alive. This prevents the government from overpaying. They are commonly used when people want to claim pensions outside the UK. For example, British nationals who have retired and now live overseas will likely need a proof of life certificate in order for them to be able to claim benefits.

Another example is that the Department for Work and Pensions might require one to prove that you are still entitled to a state pension.

Insurance companies sometimes have their own version of the certificate to check that clients are still alive; for example, in cases where they receive pensions.

How do you get a life certificate?

In most cases, a certificate of life would require a qualified notary public to confirm that the person claiming money is alive.

Normally, you will be asked to complete a form. In most cases, you will be sent the form to complete once you inform the Government of any changes. For example, if are moving abroad and intend to claim money. It is important to be as clear as you can when filling out the form.

Additionally, you will need a witness to see you signing the form. A certified notary public is often the first choice of witness for people who need a life certificate; they are independent, officially recognised, and also understand the process themselves. 

To get your certificate of life properly witnessed, you would need to meet with the notary in person so they could be your witness. You would also need to bring a government-issued ID.

Do life certificates expire?

Yes, life certificates do expire. The relevant government authority will need periodical confirmation that you are still alive. The regularity with which the certificate needs renewing depends on the country you are living in. Latvia, India, and Germany, for example, all require a certificate of life to be renewed once a year. Other countries have a specific window in which the certificate must be renewed. 

We recommend that you familiarise yourself with the requirements of the country you live in, and contact us for advice if you are not certain or you need assistance. 

Notary, apostille and legalisation services

If you plan on using your certificate abroad, you will need to get it notarised. As a registered Notary Public, we can do this for you. 

Furthermore, we can assist you with getting an apostille, or with the process of embassy legalisation. If you are unsure what the requirements of your destination country are, get in touch with us. 

We can manage the whole process of getting an apostille for you, as we work closely with the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office. As part of this, we have a faster fast-track service, where we will ensure your documents are given an apostille in just five to seven days. 

Also, we can manage the entire embassy legalisation process for you. Your certificate of life will be made suitable for any location you wish to go to.

Do not hesitate to get in touch if you need our services.


If you have any questions about our notary, apostille or consular services,
contact Woodcock Notary Public today.

Call us on 0800 049 2471 (free to call) or email

If you have any questions about our notary, apostille or consular services, contact Woodcock Notary Public today.

Call us on 0800 049 2471 (free to call) or email