How To Obtain a Death Certificate

There are several reasons why someone might need to get ahold of a death certificate. If a loved one has passed away, or if you are responsible for a deceased person’s assets, you will likely need to have multiple copies of a death certificate. For instance, after someone passes, executors, beneficiaries, and family need copies of death records to show proof for things like life insurance benefits, medical records, 401ks, banking information, funeral arrangements, future marriage licenses, and even genealogy. It’s also a good idea to keep a copy in your personal records.

Whether the death occurred recently or years ago, there are a few simple ways to get copies of a death certificate.

How To Get A Death Certificate

Get a Death Certificate Through Office of Vital Records

The Office of Vital Records is the go-to place to obtain a death certificate or a birth certificate replacement, as well as view marriage and divorce records. There are a few ways to get a death certificate through the Office of Vital Records. First, you can go online to your state’s Vital Records website and purchase certified copies of the death certificate that way with a credit card. If you are in a pinch, expedited shipping is typically offered. You can also call the Office of Vital Records to ask for copies.

Regardless of how you choose to order one, you will be asked for personal information to verify your eligibility to obtain the certified copies.

State Department of Health

You can normally find a Death Certificate Application document online through your state’s department of health, as well as place your order via mail. To do so, you will need to obtain the official state form application to apply for copies of a death certificate. In most states, you can choose between certified and non-certified copies. Once you’ve filled out the application, put it in an envelope along with check made out to your State’s Department of Health. The fee for each copy is usually only a few dollars, and the specific amount should be stated on the application.

Funeral Home

In most cases, immediate family members and legal representatives can get a copy of a death record from the funeral home that handled the deceased person’s proceedings. Contact the funeral director, and they will request your personal information to confirm you are eligible to order copies.

Who Can Obtain A Death Certificate

If someone you know has passed away, you may be wondering who is entitled to a death certificate? The people who are able to obtain a death certificate must have an appropriate reason to do so. Each state has different eligibility requirements, but it is common in most jurisdictions for spouses, parents, grandparents, siblings, children, funeral directors, financial advisors, lawyers, executors, and beneficiaries. In essence, if you are responsible for taking care of any part of the deceased person’s assets, you should have no problems obtaining death records.

However, you will need to be able to show certain forms of identification when you go to order a death certificate, such as driver’s license, passport, or military ID. Many states will also require additional personal information, like a social security card, college identification card, vehicle registration, or voter registration card.

In addition to identification, you’ll need to provide a reason for why you are requesting the death certificate. If you are family, you may need to show birth certificates to prove you a child, parent, or grandparent of the deceased person. If you are a spouse, you will need to have your marriage license, while legal representatives may be asked to share court documents. Requirements vary by state, so be sure to check online or ask your the agency what kind of personal information you need to provide.

Are death certificates public record?

In most places, death certificates are public record in the state where the individual passed away. Laws regarding death records may vary by state, however, so some areas restrict access to death certificates, while some only allow immediate family to view them. Death certificates are not kept on record by federal agencies.

If you cannot find public death records, you can often request access to informational copies of death certificates through the Office of Vital Records. Some jurisdictions do not release death information at first, but after a certain amount of time, the information may become public.

Viewing Death Certificates Online for Free

If death certificates are public record in your state, you may be able to view them online for free. This is a good option if you are in need of information that is on the certificate because you can retrieve them rather quickly. However, online documents are usually not considered to be certified copies, which is necessary for handling things like benefits and insurance. So, if you need an official death certificate, you will need to order one from one of the aforementioned offices.

Is it legal to make a copy of a death certificate?

While laws regarding death certificates vary by state, it is generally legal to make a copy of a death certificate. This act only becomes illegal if someone tries to pass the copy of the document off as the real thing. For example, if photocopy, scan, or take a photo of the document to keep in your personal files and refer to for information, that is usually fine. You simply cannot distribute the copies for official purposes, like obtaining insurance benefits.

To learn more about this topic, take a look at How To Report A Death To Social Security.

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