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Certificate of Death

How to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate

If you’re handling the affairs of a recently deceased loved one, obtaining a death certificate is a crucial step. This document, which is filed with the local or state vital records office, contains important information about the deceased person, such as their full name, address, birth date, and cause of death.

In this article, we’ll explain how to get a death certificate, who prepares them, what information it contains, and who can order copies.

Who Issues Death Certificates?

The death certificate is usually prepared and filed by the funeral home, cremation organization, or person in charge of the deceased’s remains. The process involves gathering personal information from family members and obtaining a doctor’s, medical examiner’s, or coroner’s signature. This must be completed within three to ten days, depending on state law.

What Information is Contained?

A death certificate typically includes the deceased person’s:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Birth date
  • Father and mother’s name and birthplace
  • Social Security number
  • Veteran’s discharge or claim number
  • Education
  • Marital status
  • Surviving spouse’s name (if applicable)
  • Date, place, time, and cause of death

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate?

In most states, you can order either informational or certified copies of a death certificate. Informational copies are for personal use and are often available to anyone who requests them. On the other hand, tasks such as obtaining a permit for burial or cremation, transferring property to inheritors, and more require stamped certified copies. In some states, only immediate family members, the executor of the estate, or people with a direct financial interest in the estate can order certified copies.

How to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate

The easiest way to obtain certified copies of a death certificate is through the funeral home or mortuary at the time of death. We recommend that you order at least 10 copies if you are handling the closing of an estate.  Consequently, each time you claim property or benefits that belonged to the deceased person, another copy will be requested. If it’s been some time since the death, contact the county or state vital records office. For deaths that occurred recently, start with the county office, and after a few months have passed, try the state office.

To Obtain a Certified Copy:

You will need to fill out a request form or provide information such as:

      • the deceased person’s name
      • parents’ names
      • date of death
      • city of death
      • last address
      • your relationship to the deceased person

In some states, you may need to provide proof of your relationship or a sworn statement. The cost of each death certificate varies by state, but it’s usually around $15 to $30 for the first copy and less for additional copies.

Are Death Certificates Public Record?

If you are wondering, are death certificates public records? The answer is more complicated than just a simple yes or no. Of course, it depends on the state as some states like Florida are public record and some states like Illinois are not.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate?

Receiving a death certificate can take hours, days, weeks, or more than a month depending on the state. In certain states, submitting an application for a death certificate in person may result in receiving the document on the same day. However, if you opt to order the certificate online, the processing time may take a few weeks, and in some cases, it may take more than 30 business days for the state to issue the certificate.

Still Need Help?

Contact Vital Records Office

To order copies of a death certificate, find the county or state vital records office in the place where the death occurred. You can do an online search using “vital records office” and your county’s name, or visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Vital Records tool and click on your state.

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