A Quick Guide to Getting a Death Certificate
Published July 13, 2020
You mean to tell me even after I die, there’s more paperwork?
Yes, there is. All jokes aside, death is a crucial matter which requires many official records and documents. Navigating through a loved one’s death can be exhausting and confusing. You’ll not only have to deal with emotional troubles, but you’ll have to go through many legal processes too.
This article presents a quick guide about the ins and outs of a death certificate. In this article, we’ll answer these questions:
- What is a death certificate?
- Why do I need a death certificate?
- How do I obtain copies of a death certificate?
- Who can obtain copies of a death certificate?
- How long does it take to get a death certificate?
What is a death certificate?
A death certificate is an official document issued by the government, which officially acknowledges a person’s passing. This document is typically prepared and filed by a medical examiner, crematorium, funeral home, or the person in charge of the deceased’s remains.
Shortly after a person dies, a representative will need to register his or her death with the local or state vital records office. The vital records office maintains all birth, marriage, divorce, and death records for a state or county. They’re the organization responsible for issuing certified copies of death certificates.
In this document, you can generally find information about the deceased’s demographics. Listed below are standard information you can expect to find in a death certificate:
- Full name
- Birthdate and birthplace
- Parental information
- Spousal information
- Complete or partial Social Security number
- Date, place, and time of death, and
- The cause of death
- Medical examiner/Coroner’s signature
Why do I need a death certificate?
You’ll need copies of a person’s death certificate for many reasons, mostly legal and financial. On average, you will need at least ten copies of a death certificate to settle multiple accounts.
You will need a death certificate to complete financial transactions involving the deceased. These transactions include closing accounts, claiming life insurance benefits, and claiming pension benefits.
Another use would be to notify government agencies like Social Security or Veteran Affairs, of the death.
How do I obtain copies of a death certificate?
You can order copies from the funeral home or mortuary with the deceased’s remains. Usually, these organizations are in charge of filing and preparing the document.
If some time passes after the death, you’ll likely need to approach your local or state vital records office to request a copy. You can check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for full details of vital records offices. The cost for each copy will vary between states.
In many states and counties, the government-endorsed VitalChek network also allows you to process them online.
Who can obtain copies of a death certificate?
It also varies between states. For some states, death certificates are official public documents that anyone can access. They can come in either informational or “certified” copies. Informational copies are readily available for anyone who requests them.
Others have specific requirements for you to obtain these files. You’d need to be one of the following to access them:
- Legal counsel or representative
- Immediate family of the deceased
- Government agency
- The executor of the estate
- Someone with a direct financial interest in the estate
How long does it take to get a death certificate?
The process of filing for a death certificate can take anywhere between one day and a few weeks. To help speed up this process, we’d recommend you have the complete information required in filling out the necessary forms.
Just as the prices vary between states, processing time can too. In some states, you may even be able to get it on the same day. For more information, you may want to visit your local vital records office.
About The Author
Terrence Tan Ting is an industrial engineer by profession but a full time writer by passion. He loves to write about a wide range of topics from many different industries thanks to his undying curiosity.