If you’re wondering how to get a death certificate and how many copies you need, this article is for you. Not every one of us knows the paperwork process of getting the proper documentation for a death certificate, especially when dealing with out of country issues.
The certified copy of the death certificate is issued by the State vital statistics office in the state or area where the death occurred. The registrar will acknowledge that a person has died on a specific date and record the location of the death and the cause of death.
A death certificate is a vital document required for funeral arrangements, medical benefits, estate settlements, life insurance benefits, and claiming social security survivor benefits. Most of the time death certificate is used as proof for legal purposes.
In this article, we will explore the different ways to get a death certificate that you can use for your records or handle the personal affairs of the deceased.
WHAT IS A DEATH CERTIFICATE?
A death certificate is an official, government-issued document issued at the time of a person’s death, which states the detailed information about the deceased. It indicates the time of death, location of death, and the cause of death, as well as additional personal information.
A death certificate should be on file in the state where the death occurred. These death records are permanently kept on file by the State vital statistics office or city office.
A certified death certificate is a stamped document that is generally issued by the state vital statistic office, vital record agencies, or government-approved third-party agencies. It serves as proof the someone has died and can be used for various purposes, including closing bank and investment accounts, claiming life insurance, burial insurance, final expense insurance benefits, transferring land titles, and claiming social security survivor benefits.
Generally, your funeral director will request copies of death certificates for you. It is necessary for making funeral arrangements and taking care of the personal business of the deceased. For many people, the ten copies of the death certificate are enough for completing the necessary paperwork and other purposes.
DEATH CERTIFICATE INFORMATION
Every death certificate contains essential information about the deceased. Details may be different depending on the state, but if often include the following:
- Full name
- Birthday and birthplace
- Complete address
- Name of the father and birthplace
- Mother’s maiden name and place of birth
- Marital status
- Name of surviving spouse
- Veteran’s discharge or claim number
- Social Security Number
- Date, time, and place of death
- Cause of death
WHO CAN FILE A DEATH CERTIFICATE?
Any person processing the deceased remains such as the funeral home, crematory, or the police can file and prepare the death certificate. Death certificate preparation involves obtaining all information from the family and getting the signature of a paramedic, doctor, coroner or medical examiner. The process should be completed immediately – within 3-10 days, according to the law of the state, where the death occurred.
WHO CAN REQUEST A DEATH CERTIFICATE?
You can easily get a certified death certificate in most states. Certified copies of death certificates have an official stamp that can be used to accomplish many things after death. It can be used to get a permit for cremation or burial and for transferring the property of the deceased to inheritors.
Informational copies of death certificates for personal records are usually available to anyone who requests them. However, certified copies of death certificates are only available to the immediate family of the deceased, the estate executor, or anyone who has proof of interest in the estate in most states.
The following people can request death certificates:
- Father or mother of a person named on the certificate
- Sister or brother
- Husband or wife
- Son or daughter
- A legal representative of the family
- Estate executor
- The informant who provided information on the death certificate
GETTING A DEATH CERTIFICATE
There are different ways you can get certified copies of the death certificate:
- You can request the copies yourself from the state where the person died.
- Request a copy from the funeral home; most of them include this service in their funeral package.
- You can request certified copies of the death certificate from a third-party agency.
The easiest method of getting a certified copy of the death certificate is requesting a copy from the funeral director or crematory when the death occurred. You should order at least 10 copies if you’re the one getting the deceased legal affairs in order.
You need a certified copy when you get benefits or property such as life or burial insurance proceeds, POD accounts, veteran’s benefit, Social Security, and other benefits.
If you need death certificates after the burial or cremation, you should request death certificates by yourself. Contact the County Recorder’s Office or Local Health Department in the county or state where the person died and request certified copies of the death certificate directly.
If you need a death certificate after a month when the death occurred, you could request a copy from the local health department, county office because they have copies of death certificates on file. After a few months, the state office will have a copy.
You can also obtain certified copies of the death certificate by visiting the State’s Vital Records office. Go to the website of the Centers for Disease Control to find the State office for Vital Records, their contact information, and application requirements for each state.
You will need to pay for every certified copy of the death certificate. Each copy cost differs by state, but you may pay between $10-25 for the first copy. Additional copies will cost less. If you are performing as the state executor and you paid the copies of death certificates, the estate can reimburse your cost later.
SUBMITTING YOUR REQUEST FOR DEATH CERTIFICATE
- In-person – walk-in service is available at your State Vital Statistics office or county health department. The copies of the death certificate can be issued while you wait.
- By mail – Download the Mail-in application. Send the completed application form and appropriate fee to
Bureauof Vital Statistic on the state where the death happened
- By Fax – Download the Main-in application. You may fax your completed application form to your State Vital Statistics office.
- Online – you can submit your request through the Vital Records website or through a third-party provider called VitalCheck using a credit card.
To locate the Vital Statistics office in your area, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and click the link of the state where the death occurred.
All requests must include a copy of the government-issued picture ID with the signature of the person requesting the death certificate. For all death certificate requests, make check or money order payable to the State Vital Statistics office or State Board of Health, in the correct amount for the number of copies requested.
The cost of obtaining a death certificate is $15.00 – $25.00, it includes one copy of the certified death certificate or a “Certificate of Failure to Find.” The fee for each additional copy of the certificate ordered at the same time is $6.00. Only Checks or Money Orders are accepted. Cash is not accepted, and fees are not refundable.
Sending cash payment is not recommended because the office cannot refund money lost in transit. All fees are subject to change. That’s why a telephone number has been included in the information for each state for use in verifying the current fee.
Here is the information needed to obtain a death certificate:
- Full name of the deceased person whose record is requested
- Fathers name
- Mother’s maiden name
- Month, day, and year of birth
- Month, day, and year of death
- Place of birth and death (city or town, county, and state; and name of the hospital, if known)
- Name of spouse
- Social Security number
- The purpose of requesting a death certificate
- Relationship to the deceased person whose record is requested
- Day time telephone number with area code
- Address where the death certificate will be mailed (for mail request)
TIPS ON GETTING DEATH CERTIFICATES THROUGH MAIL
You can write the Vital Statistics Office in the state where the death occurred to get a copy of the death certificate. Here are some tips to ensure that you will receive an accurate copy and your request will be filled with due speed:
- Make your letter concise and to the point.
- Make one request at a time.
- Avoid writing confusing details of your family relationship.
- Type or print all names addresses in your letter.
- Provide complete information, including all names that may have been used, including alternate spellings.
- List accurate dates. If you don’t know the exact dates, specify the span of years you wanted to search and be prepared to pay this type of search.
- Provide a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope
- Exercise patience and courtesy because most county offices have limited personnel.
REQUESTING DEATH CERTIFICATE FOR DEATH THAT OCCURRED IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY
If the death of a U.S. citizen is reported to the U.S. consular officer, the consul prepares the official death report, and the copy of the death certificate can be acquired through the U.S. Department of State.
To request a copy of the death certificate, you can submit a notarized request with a picture ID of the person requesting a copy to:
Department of State
Passport Vital Records Section
44132 Mercure Cir.
PO Box 1213
Sterling, VA 20166-1213
The fee for a copy of the death certificate is $50.00 per document. Please note that the fee may be subject to change.
Reports of Death filed before 1975 can be obtained through the National Archives and Records Service, Diplomatic Records Branch in Washington DC 20408. You can make your request directly to their office.
The U.S. Department of State does not have reports of the death of people serving in the Armed Forces of the United States, including Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, Marines, and Navy or the civilian employees of the Department of Defense. In these cases, you can address your request to the National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records located in 9700 Page Ave., St. Louis, Missouri 63132-5100.
Who may request a copy of a Consular Report of Death Abroad (CRDA)?
- Father or mother
- Sister or brother
- Husband or wife
- Son or daughter
- Legal representative for estate purposes
HOW TO REQUEST DEATH CERTIFICATE FOR DEATH THAT OCCURRED ABROAD
To request a copy of the death certificate, you can contact the Embassy of the nearest Consulate office in the U.S. of the country where the death occurred. You can get the addresses and telephone numbers for these offices in the U.S. Department of State Publication 7846, Foreign Consular Offices. The contact information is also available in many local libraries.
If the foreign Embassy or Consulate is unable to provide assistance, you can write to the Office of Overseas Citizens Services, U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC 20520-4818.
1. Submit a written notarized request that shows the following information:
- Full name of the deceased
- Month, day, year of death
- Place of death
- Return address and telephone number of the requester
- Signature of the requester
2. Submit a copy of the requester’s valid ID with photo and signature.
3. Send a $50.00 check or money order for one copy of the death certificate. Additional copies cost $50.00 each. The check or money order must be payable to the U.S. Department of State. Include your complete mailing address on the back of the check. Do not send cash because the Department is not responsible for any money lost in the mail.
4. Mail the notarized written request, copy of photo ID, and payment to:
U.S. Department of State
Passport Vital Records Section
44132 Mercure Cir.
PO Box 1213
Sterling, VA 20166-1213
Call 202-485-8300 to check the status of your request.
- To avoid delay, do not send an unnotarized copy of the request. Make sure to include a copy of the requester’s valid ID.
- If you want, the death certificate returned to you in 1 to 2 days include an additional $16.48 money order or check to USPS delivery.
CAN YOU GET A DEATH CERTIFICATE ONLINE FOR FREE?
Yes. It is possible to obtain a copy of the death certificate online. There are several providers, such as the SearchQuarry, that provides death records online. However, these copies are not considered official vital records.
If you need a certified copy of the death certificate to get benefits or to settle an estate, you need to get a copy from the State Vital Statistic or Local Health Department office where the death took place. Going directly to the vital statistics office is the most convenient and fastest way to get certified copies of the death certificate.
If for some reason, you’re unable to go to any vital statistics office, VitalCheck is an online authorized third-party provider that can get you the vital records you need in a quick and secure manner.
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