How to Obtain a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate

Death Certificates How to Obtain a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate

How to Obtain a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate

When it comes to taking care of the legal affairs of the deceased, a death certificate is the one document you need. There are very few things you can accomplish without one.

It is never easy when a loved one passes away. You need to address so many legal issues, not to mention the logistics of planning a funeral. There are bank accounts to be closed, bills to be paid, and notifications to be made. If there is a will, there are a number of legal issues that you need to handle in a timely manner. If there is no will, the complications involved with the paperwork can be nothing short of a nightmare. Many of the simplest tasks cannot be performed without a certified copy of a death certificate in hand.

The mortuary or funeral director will offer the initial declaration of death certificates to the surviving spouse. At that time, there should be a minimum of five certificates ordered to meet the needs of the various government entities requiring the notification of death.

The Purpose of a Death Certificate

The purpose of a death certificate is to provide both the personal information as well as the circumstances and the official cause of their death.

It is considered to be the sole legal proof that someone has died. The government uses death certificates to stop social security benefits and pensions. Executors and other family members use the death certificate to close bank accounts, file the will with the probate court, and gain a perspective and acceptance of their loved one's passing.

What Is the Difference Between a Certified Copy and an Informational Copy of a Death Certificate?

A certified copy serves as the official proof of death for interacting with various government and financial entities.

A certified copy of a death certificate includes:

  • Address at the time of death
  • Social security number
  • Names of the decedent's parents, including the mother's maiden name
  • Place of birth
  • Place of death, including hospital (if applicable), city, and state
  • Time of death, or estimated time of death
  • Cause of death and any conditions that contributed to the cause of death
  • Name of surviving spouse
  • Name of individual providing the information, usually the spouse

An informational copy will state on the document that it is informational only, and no allowed person can use it in an official capacity. The informational copies are usually used to trace the genealogy of a person and their family.

Who Is Authorized to Obtain a Copy of a Death Certificate?

To obtain a certified death certificate, you have to be able to prove that you are qualified to obtain one.

There are four categories of people who are entitled to a certified death certificate:

Blood relativesRelatives by marriageLegal relationshipsFacilitating any legal process
GrandparentsWhoever is listed as the surviving spouse on the record.AttorneysLaw enforcement personel
ParentsGuardiansProbate officialsInsurance companies
SIblingsEstate executorsTitle companies
Adult childrenDonor networksGovernment agencies
Adult grandchildrenPubic administratorAttorneys
Adoption agenciesEx-spouse
Those holding power of attorneyLegal beneficiaries
Adoptive parents
Adoptive adult children

How Long Does It Take To Get a Copy of a Death Certificate?

The length of time it takes to get a copy of a death certificate depends on several different factors.

  • State processing times of vital records can differ from state to state.
  • If the cause of death has been determined or if the coroner's office has received any toxicology reports necessary to prove cause. Toxicology reports can often take as long as six weeks.
  • Whether the coroner has signed off on the cause of death.
  • Verification that the person ordering the death certificate is qualified to order a certified copy.

In the case of a fetal death as the result of stillbirth, the doctors and nurses at the hospital where the stillbirth took place will issue the documentation to the parents of a fetus older than 20-weeks.

What Documents Do I Need to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate?

In order to get a certified copy of a death certificate, you will need to prove your relationship with the decedent.

To prove the relationship needed to qualify you to receive a certified copy, you will need to provide a copy of the following documentation to the Department of Vital Statistics:

  • The surviving spouse will need to show their official marriage certificate and their identification. They will also need to swear that there has been no divorce.
  • A sibling will need to show a birth certificate showing at least one shared parent and identification.
  • The child of the decedent will need to show a copy of their birth certificate and identification.
  • A trustee for the estate will need to show a copy of the will naming them as trustees, as well as their identification.
  • A beneficiary of the estate will need to show proof of their status. This can include a copy of the will, and paperwork filed with the bank if there is a payable on death (POD) designation on the accounts that show the decedent's signature and their own.

How to Obtain a Copy of a Death Certificate on Your Own

In order to obtain a copy of a death certificate on your own, you will need to do the following.

  1. Gather certified copies of documentation verifying your relationship to the decedent. This can include:1.1        Order a certified copy of your birth certificate or marriage license. 1.2        If you are a beneficiary looking for a certified copy to collect on your inheritance, you might need a copy of the will.
  2. Banking documents proving that the money has been left to you, such as a payable upon death authorization notarized and signed by the banking representative who processed the paperwork.
  3. If you are a grandchild, order a copy of your parent's birth certificate and marriage license.
  4. If you are an adopted child, you will need your adoption documentation.
  5. If you hold a power of attorney from the decedent, you will need a notarized copy of the original power of attorney.
  6. If you have been named executor of the estate, you will need a certified copy of the court order declaring you executor.
  7. Get copies of your identification made. Some states might require these copies to be notarized.
  8. Complete the application form.
  9. Purchase a money order for the required filing amount.
  10. Send the completed form and money order to the Department of vital statistics for the applicable state.

When the government receives the form, they will verify your identity. If the government verifies you as qualified, you will receive your document in a few weeks, but you will be notified if the government rejects you.

Next Steps for Obtaining a Death Certificate if You Can’t Do It Yourself

If you are unable to obtain a death certificate by yourself, you will need to contact a family member who has been able to procure one and have them help you with whatever your need for the certificate is for. If that is not possible, you may need to retain the services of an attorney to help you. This can be an expensive and time-consuming option.

Alternatively, you can save a lot of time and frustration with one other fast and effective method. You can contact

Getting a Death Certificate With the Help of DoNotPay

If you want to get a copy of a death certificate but don't know where to start, DoNotPay has you covered in 7 easy steps.

  1. Go to the Death Certificates product on DoNotPay. 
  2. Enter the details of the person who is on the death certificate, and select/upload evidence that proves your relationship with them. 
  3. Enter the city, state, and hospital (if applicable) in the registrant passed away, so we can complete the correct form. 
  4. Indicate what you will be using this certificate for, and choose whether you need an authorized or certified copy. 
  5. Enter your contact information and shipping address. Upload copies of your government-issued identification, such as a driver's license. 
  6. Choose whether you would like to electronically sign this form or not. Once we generate the form, verify that all of the information is correct. 
  7. If you need the document to be notarized, schedule a notarization appointment using our Notary product. Otherwise, proceed to our Mail Checks product and let DoNotPay mail-in your request form with a check on your behalf. 

Why You Should Use DoNotPay to Get a Death Certificate

The process of obtaining a certified copy of a death certificate can be long and frustrating at a time when things need to be much simpler.

It is hard enough losing someone without having to go through the tedious and time-consuming task of ordering the documents on your own.

When you use DoNotPay, you save precious time. This task, which can seemingly take forever, can take just a few minutes, beginning with a simple touch of a button.

DoNotPay is the quickest way to get your forms completed. Once they are ready, they will submit the application on your behalf, saving you the trip to the post office.

The DoNotPay process is:

FastWith just a few minutes of your time, you can complete the application with supporting documents in the most stress-free way possible.
EasyLet us take on the burden of those time-consuming and tedious application forms and supporting documentation.
SuccessfulWe will ensure that every application is completed in one simple session.

DoNotPay will file your application on your behalf. Our virtual notary services allow you to complete the application in one sitting. Once completed, we will file the application on your behalf using our virtual check mailing services. Allowing us to take the painful details of this process allows you more time to spend with your family at this emotional time.

Aside from death certificates, DoNotPay also offers online help dealing with birth certificates such as:

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