Navigating Vital Records: The Purpose of Death Certificates

Death Certificates Navigating Vital Records: The Purpose of Death Certificates

What Is the Purpose of a Death Certificate?

When a loved one passes away, there are a number of preparations that must be handled to settle their estate, including managing financial and legal affairs on behalf of the deceased. In order to complete these tasks, many organizations will require a copy of your loved one's death certificate

Unfortunately, handling these affairs is often time-sensitive, and it can be difficult to know how to navigate the process while you are in mourning. At DoNotPay, we have simplified the steps necessary to request copies of this official document. But first and foremost, you'll need to know what the purpose of a death certificate is and why you will need to obtain a number of copies.

What Are Death Certificates Used For?

Death certificates serve a number of purposes. On a larger scale, death certificates are considered vital records that help the government keep track of important citizen records and statistics about the population, such as national and state-by-state mortality rates.

For the executor of a deceased individual's estate, their spouse, or an immediate relative, a death certificate is required to arrange funeral services and for many of the tasks involved in settling their loved one's estate. This process may include:

  • Filing notices of death to all relevant organizations
  • Managing bank accounts and financial assets
  • Notifying creditors or lenders of the person's death
  • Paying off any remaining debts
  • Filing final tax returns
  • Securing life insurance benefits
  • Transferring ownership of property

It's important to know that there are two types of copies that can be obtained for death certificates: an authorized copy or an informational copy. Different organizations or entities will typically require one of these types of documents in order to handle the affairs on behalf of the deceased.

The Difference Between an Authorized and Informational Death Certificate Copy

Depending on the specific task you are trying to accomplish on behalf of the individual who has passed, you will likely need to present either an authorized copy or an informational copy of the death certificate. It's important to know the differences between these two formats and under what circumstances you might need to use each type.

Authorized Death Certificate CopiesAuthorized copies of a death certificate are certified copies that have an official stamp and a signature from a medical examiner or coroner. Depending upon your state and county requirements, these may need to be notarized. An authorized copy will typically be required in the case of legal matters, such as securing death benefits, filing a life insurance claim, transferring ownership of property, or managing financial assets on behalf of the deceased.
Informational Death Certificate CopiesInformational copies of a death certificate serve to verify the death of the individual, but cannot be used as a legal form of documentation. These types of copies are typically meant for personal records, however, when you are settling your loved one's affairs, it's worthwhile to check with each company or organization you need to contact to determine whether they need a certified copy or if an informational copy will suffice.

Who Can Get a Copy of a Death Certificate?

The eligibility criteria that determine who may request copies of a death certificate will vary depending on your state, county, and city. In many cases, an authorized or certified copy can only be requested by the individual's executor of the estate, their spouse, or an immediate relative, while informational copies may be available to non-relatives as well.

Since these criteria may be different in your locality, you should check with your local vital records office to find out if you are able to get copies of a death certificate for someone.

How to Get Copies of a Death Certificate on Your Own

Requesting copies of a death certificate on your own can be a lengthy and tedious process that will require many phone calls and visits to various locations in order to obtain and notarize any necessary copies. If you would like to carry this out yourself, you must:

  1. Contact each organization or company where the individual held accounts or membership, as well as all government agencies that you will need to notify of their death. Determine what type of copy each entity requires to settle their affairs on their behalf.
  2. Locate the vital records office in the county or state where the individual passed away or is currently buried.
  3. Fill out a request form with the required information.
  4. Provide the vital records office with the name of the deceased and their parent's names, the date and location of their death, their last known address, and your relationship to the deceased.
  5. Provide proof of your relationship to the deceased, if the state requires it.
  6. Pay the required fees for each copy of the death certificate, which may be around $20-$25 per copy.
  7. Wait to receive your requested copies for the specified amount of processing time. This could take up to two to four weeks.
  8. Arrange to get the copies notarized if necessary.

The Simplified Way to Get Death Certificate Copies with DoNotPay

Fortunately, this process doesn't need to be overcomplicated, and you can even request the copies you need quickly from your laptop or home computer. 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) the registrant passed away in, 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 Copies of a Death Certificate

The days and weeks after the loss of a loved one are not easy to endure. While you need time and space to grieve your loss, there are also a number of tasks to be completed in order to settle your loved one's estate. Unfortunately, many of these tasks are tedious, time-consuming, and difficult to complete while you are in the grieving process.

DoNotPay seeks to make this process a bit easier, so that you can obtain copies of the death certificate quickly and get your affairs in order as soon as possible. DoNotPay is:

  • Fast — you can submit all of the necessary information through our web app in a matter of minutes
  • Easy — we simplify the process for you so that you don't need to struggle with finding the right forms to fill out or accidentally miss a vital step
  • Reliable — you can count on us to deliver the copies you request fast

Learn More About Death Certificates with DoNotPay

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