How to Get a Death Certificate

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 or how to get 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.


WHAT INFORMATION IS INCLUDED IN THE DEATH CERTIFICATE?

A death certificate contains essential information about the deceased. Details vary from state to state, but if often include the following:

  • Full name
  • Birthday and birthplace
  • Complete address
  • Father’s name and birthplace
  • Mother’s maiden name and birthplace
  • Marital status
  • Name of surviving spouse
  • Education
  • Social Security Number
  • Veteran’s discharge or claim number
  • Date, time, and place of death
  • Cause of death


WHO PREPARES THE DEATH CERTIFICATE?

The funeral home, crematory, police, or other people in charge of the deceased remains will prepare and file the death certificate. Preparing the death certificate involves gathering information from the family members and obtaining the signature of a doctor, paramedic, medical examiner, or coroner. The process should be completed immediately – within three to ten days, depending on the law of the state, where the death occurred.


WHO CAN REQUEST A DEATH CERTIFICATE?

In many states, you can get certified copies of the death certificate. Certified copies of death certificate bear an official stamp that can be used to carry out many tasks after a death. It can be used to obtain a permit for burial or cremation and for transferring the deceased person’s property to inheritors.

Informational copies of death certificates for personal records are usually available to anyone who requests them. However, in many states, certified copies are only available to members of the deceased person’s immediate family, the estate executor, or someone who can prove that they have a financial interest in the estate.

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
  • Grandchildren
  • A legal representative of the family
  • Estate executor
  • The informant who provided information on the death certificate


HOW TO GET A DEATH CERTIFICATE

There are different ways you can get certified copies of the death certificate:

  1. You can request the copies yourself from the state where the person died.
  2. Request a copy from the funeral home; most of them include this service in their funeral package.
  3. You can request certified copies of the death certificate from a third-party agency.

The easiest way to get a certified copy of the death certificate is to order them through the funeral home or crematory at the time of death. You should order at least ten copies if you are in-charge of winding up the deceased legal affairs.

You will need a copy each time you claim property or benefits such as life or burial insurance proceeds, veteran’s benefit, Social Security benefits, payable on death accounts, and many others.

If you need death certificates after the burial or cremation, you may need to order death certificates 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 death certificate after a month when the death occurred, you could request a copy from the local health department county office because they are more likely to have the certificate on file. After a few months, the state office will probably have it too.

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 each certified copy of the death certificate. The cost varies by state, but you might expect to pay $10-25 for the first copy. Additional copies are less expensive. If you are serving as the state executor and you pay for the death certificates, you can reimburse yourself later from the estate.


SUBMITTING YOUR REQUEST FOR DEATH CERTIFICATE

  1. 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 Bureau of Vital Statistic on the state where the death occurred
  • 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 find the Vital Statistics office in your state, visit the website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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
  • Sex
  • 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:

  1. Make your letter concise and to the point.
  2. Make one request at a time.
  3. Avoid writing confusing details of your family relationship.
  4. Type or print all names addresses in your letter.
  5. Provide complete information, including all names that may have been used, including alternate spellings.
  6. 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.
  7. Provide a Self-Addressed Stamped Envelope
  8. 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
  • Grandchildren
  • 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.

Note:

  • 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.


HOW CAN FUNERAL FUNDS HELP ME?

Trying to find a policy if you want burial insurance needn’t be a frustrating process; working with an independent agency like Funeral Funds will make the process easier and quicker.

If you have a health history or pre-existing medical condition, let us help you; we will work with you side by side to find a plan that fits your needs.

We will work with you every step of the way to find the plan that fits your financial requirements and budget. You don’t have to waste your precious time anymore searching for multiple insurance companies because we will do the dirty work for you.

We will shop your case to different insurance carriers and get you the best price.

We work with many A+ rated insurance carriers that specialized in covering high-risk clients like you.  We will search all those companies to get the best rate. We will match you up with the best burial insurance company that gives the best rate.

We will assist you in securing the coverage you need at a rate you can afford. So, if you are looking for funeral insurance, or burial insurance, or life insurance.

Fill out our quote form on this page or call us at 888) 862-9456 and we can give you an accurate quote.