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Everything you Need to Know about Death Certificates

death certificate

Information on how we can secure a death certificate for our deceased loved ones rarely gets attention until the time comes when we have to do it. If you want to prepare for this eventuality, this is an excellent guide for you. It’s better to be educated about the proper documentation and how you get a death certificate, especially when dealing with individual cases like a death that occurred out of the country. 

This certification comes from the State’s office, dealing with vital statistics and will be issued wherever the death occurred. The registrar of the office will provide an acknowledgment of the death, causes, and specific location.

Death certificates are most often requested and issued for legal purposes such as social security claims, life insurance, estate settlements, medical benefits, and arranging for a funeral service.

Read on to learn about the process and handle the records on the death of a loved one.

What Is a Death Certificate?

Reasons for needing a death certificate

A death certificate is a legal document granted and released by the State upon an individual’s death. It includes details about the person’s death – the time, location and cause, as well as some other pertinent information. This document is filed within the State where the death occurred, and the vital statistics division of the State will keep it as a permanent record.

This certification is validated and confirmed by an official stamp either from the vital statistics state office, other agencies that keep essential records or even government-authorized third-party entities. It is a crucial lawful proof of a person’s death. Reasons for needing a death certificate include various legal transactions such as the transfer of land titles, social security benefits for survivors, closure of investments and bank accounts, and insurance claims (burial, final expense, and life). 

Typically, the first who requests for this document is the funeral company that arranges the memorial service since its part of the requirements in taking care of the dead’s personal affairs.

Reasons You May Need Death Certificates

Apart from serving the legal purposes, these are some other reasons for needing a death certificate:

  • Insurance policies
  • Testament and will
  • Social security administration
  • Federal benefits
  • IRA Benefits
  • Veterans benefits
  • Savings account’s beneficiaries
  • Pension plans
  • Brokerage accounts, treasury bills, stocks, and bonds

Who Prepares the Death Certificate?

The death registration process involves collecting personal information and getting the signatures from a medical examiner, coroner, or doctor. Typically, the funeral director or a person-in-charge can compile and file the death registration. Some states offer relaxed conditions, while others may have complicated procedures that increase dependence on the funeral homes that charge a premium fee. 

Can Anyone Get a Copy of Death Certificate?

Anyone can request a death certificate for information purposes. However, suppose you need a certified copy. In that case, only those who are related to the deceased by blood or marriage (immediate family), the estate executor, or those who have proof of interest on the estate can request for it (valid for most states).

The following people are the only ones authorized to request the issuance of a death certificate:

  • The person who gave the information reflected on the death certificate
  • Estate executor
  • A legal representative for the family
  • Grandchildren
  • Daughter or Son
  • Wife or Husband
  • Brother or Sister
  • Mother or Father of the deceased person

How Can You Obtain Copies of Death Certificates?

Getting death certificate from funeral home

If you wish to request the death certificate via mail or fax, you can send a letter to the Vital Statistics Office. There are guidelines on how you can write a message that will better facilitate your request.

First, you have to know that most state and county offices are understaffed, so you should expect to be waiting for a while before they fulfill your application. To help them, though, you must provide an envelope that has your return address. Also, make sure that you give them all the necessary information to expedite the process, such as complete names (including all that may have been used like aliases, maiden name, married names, and alternative spellings), addresses, and accurate dates.

If you are unsure about the exact dates, you can include a date range (in years) that the office can use to conduct their search. This step will likely cost you extra. But it’s better if you can obtain a more precise date from likely sources.

It will help you to type up your letter to avoid confusion about some handwriting. Also, refrain from providing unclear familial relationships. Try to issue one request at a time and draft a message that is short but concise.

By mail, you can also get the mail-in application by downloading it onto your device. You can then send the filled-out application form and fees to the Bureau of Vital Statistics. The state location will depend on the place of death.

By fax, you do the same thing but send your fulfilled application form to the Vital Statistics Office via fax. 

If you wonder how do you get a death certificate online, some companies can process your request for a death certificate online, such as the SearchQuarry who keeps online death records. However, the copies that they can provide you will not act as official records. Going directly to the Local Health Department or the Vital Statistics Office is still the best way to obtain certified copies where you can wait while they process your application.

Suppose, for whatever reason, there is no way for you to request by other means. In that case, VitalCheck can help you secure your vital records quickly, being a government authorized third-party online provider.

Information in the Death Certificate

Personal details included in the issuance of the death certificate are the following: The cause of death, place, time, date of death, social security information, veteran’s discharge number, education, name of spouse, marital status, mother’s unmarried name and birthplace, complete mailing address, birthday/place, and full name.

What Are the Steps for Death Certification?

You can choose to secure your death certificate certified copies by requesting for it yourself, getting it from the funeral home, or a third-party office. However, the quickest way is to get it from the funeral home. 

Where you can get the death certificate will depend on when you requested it since the time of the passing. If you tried to get one after the cremation or burial or even up to a month after, you can go directly to the Local Health Department or County Recorder’s Office in the State where the death occurred. It’s only after several months when the State will have a copy on file.

Similarly, the Vital Records Office of the State will have a record. Before your visit, you can go to the online site of the Centers for Disease Control and locate the Vital Records Office of your State to know their contact details and the requirements for obtaining copies of the death certificate. 

How Much Do Death Certificate Copies Cost?

Can anyone get a copy of a death certificate

Typically, the cost is $10-$25 per print, which may vary from State to State. If you choose to request additional copies, it gets cheaper. Also, if you are the state executor and you get multiple copies on your account, the estate can later reimburse you for it.

The fees are non-refundable, and cash is not accepted as a payment mode due to the difficulty of issuing a refund for payments that could be missing in transit. Fees change from time to time, so it’s best to contact the State for verification before making payments.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate?

According to your state laws, you should apply for the death certificate within 3-10 days from the date of death. After receiving the vital statistics information, the authorities send a death registration form to a medical examiner or physician for signatures. Then, the form is transferred to the vital statistics office for processing the certified copies. The entire process takes 10-12 days, excluding n autopsy or investigation. 

Do You Need A Death Certificate for Burial?

If you want to bury your loved one, you may need a death certificate along with a burial or disposition permit from the funeral home. The burial permit is prepared in the county or municipality where the death occurred after the death registration. The cemetery or funeral home adds their signature to a burial permit for confirmation of disposition and filing of documents with local authorities. 

What Is a Certified Copy and Who Can Order It?

A certified copy is an original document verified by the government-controlled vital statistics office. You may need certified copies for several purposes, ranging from getting burial permit to transferring the deceased’s properties. 

Typically, the information copies meant for personal records are made available to anyone who requests it. But, many states provide certified copies only to the immediate family, estate executor, or someone directly tied to the deceased’s financial interests. 

How Many Certified Copies Should You Request?

Ten death certificate copies are generally sufficient to complete all the necessary documentation for the deceased. 

Make sure that you obtain enough copies for all legal purposes that will require a copy of the death certificate. This step includes Social SecurityVeteran’s Benefits, POD accounts, Insurance claims (life and burial), and other benefits that you cannot acquire without this legal document.

How Do You Get a Death Certificate Copy?

The first thing you need to do is visit the Center for Disease Control and Prevention website and locate the State where the person died. Prepare a copy of a valid ID (government-issued) with photo and your payment of $15-$25 depending on the State.

Money Orders or Checks payable to the State Board of Health or State Vital Statistics Office can be made. If you wish to obtain more copies, the cost goes down to $6 per piece.

Whether you are looking for life insurance, burial insurance, or funeral insurance, Insurance for Final Expense can help you all the way. Just fill out the form on the right-hand side of this screen or call us directly at 1-800-400-8319.