How To Get A Death Certificate

If you recently lost a loved one, you may be wondering how you can obtain a death certificate for them. In this emotionally difficult time, the last thing you want is to worry about the logistics of dealing with how to attain a death certificate, and what it needs to include. 

So, we put together this helpful guide offering all the information you need to know, regarding obtaining a death certificate for your loved one. 

After someone dies, you are legally required to register their death with the local or state office of vital statistics within a few days of their passing, as well as issue a death certificate for them. These will be necessary in order to make funeral arrangements for your loved one, as well as handle their personal, financial and legal affairs. 

What is a Death Certificate?

A death certificate actually is composed of two documents. One is a Death Registration Form that includes information about the decedent like their cause of death, and details in regards to their demographics. The second document is called a Certified Death Abstract, which serves as an official document offering proof of the decedent’s death, and should be registered once the Data Registration Form is issued. 

In order to complete a death certificate, certain personal information about the decedent must be provided. Therefore, someone close to the decedent who would be privy to such information should fill it out. 

To complete a Death Certificate, you will need the following information: 

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Sex
  • Race
  • Birthplace
  • Most recent address
  • Marital status at time of death
  • If married, surviving spouse’s maiden name
  • Father’s name
  • Mother’s maiden name
  • Whether the deceased served in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Highest level of education
  • Occupation and type of business/industry in which the deceased worked

Who Is Responsible for Preparing a Death Certificate? 

The Death Certificate will need to be completed by two parties, a medical certifier and a funeral director. As the death certificate is an official document that validates the death of the decedent, it will need to be completed by a medical professional who can certify the death. He or she should provide information identifying the cause of the death, the time of death as well as confirm the identity of the deceased. The medical certifier may be a physician such as a doctor at the hospital, or a professional who examines the body after the decedent’s passing such as a coroner or a medical examiner. He or she will confirm that proper care was taken to handle the body after the decedent’s passing. 

After both parties have provided the necessary information, the funeral director will then process the death certificate with the local county health department.

What is the Timeline for Filing a Death Certificate?

You can check with your state to determine the exact timeline required for your state, but typically a decedent’s death certificate must be filed with the county health department within three to ten days of their passing. The vital statistics office will handle processing of the death certificate which usually takes approximately 10 to 12 days. 

Do You Need a Death Certificate for Burial of the Body? 

Yes, you will need to have a burial permit aka disposition permit issued, which is an official document providing legal permission for a body to be buried. This document is usually obtained by the funeral home facility at which you have coordinated funeral arrangements, and then signed by the establishment where the body will be buried. This signature will validate that the disposition of the body of burial has been completed and then will transfer the document to local authorities such as a bureau or government agency for processing. 

What is a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate? 

A certified copy of a death certificate is another official document that validates the death of the deceased. It is registered at the county or state’s vital records office, and includes a raised seal with a signature of the Local Registrar. This document is crucial for handling the settling of a decedent’s estate or claiming insurance benefits. 

Who Can Obtain a Certified Copy and How Do You Order One? 

Typically, certified copies of a death certificate are only accessible to the decedent’s immediate family members, an executor of the estate, or another party who can provide proof of their responsibility for settling the estate. You will need certified copies to transfer proprietary rights of the decedent’s estate on to an executor as well as motor vehicles.

You can either order a certified copy of  the death certificate at the time of the decedent’s death directly from the funeral director or mortuary. Or, if you are ordering it later on, after the document has already been registered with the vital records office, you can contact the office to request one.  

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