Life in the wake of someone's passing can be incredibly overwhelming thanks to the number of arrangements that have to be made and documents that have to be filed. If you're settling someone's estate or planning their funeral, you'll likely need a few copies of their official death certificate. While most people don't know how to get a death certificate until they're faced with the process themselves, you can lessen your future load by familiarizing yourself with the three major ways to obtain one.
Submit a Personal Request for a Death Certificate
Many states allow you to request copies of a death certificate in person or by mail. Your state may have an application form you need to fill out and mail in or bring with you to the vital records office, as you'll almost always be submitting a request for documents that they store. To find out how you can request death certificate copies, check out the comprehensive list of procedures in each state provided by Everplans. In general, the process includes:
- Contacting the county or state health department where the person died.
- Proving that you're a relative or legal representative of the deceased's estate.
- Paying the certificate and copy fees by check or money order.
Required Information to Get Ahead of Time
When you request a death certificate from a vital records office, you'll need to provide personal information about yourself, including:
- Your name and signature
- Your relationship to the person whose certificate you're requesting
- The address where the certificate needs to be mailed
- Your daytime phone number
You'll also be asked to provide basic information about the deceased, including:
- Full legal name of deceased
- Date of death
- County (or city) of death
- Social security number
- Date of birth or age at death
- Name of spouse
- Names of parents
These state agencies require this information to affirm your direct connection to the deceased and to procure the proper death certificate for you, so it's good to make sure you compile all of this information in one easy-to-access location.
When a Certificate Can't Be Found
If your state is unable to find the death certificate you're requesting, they'll send you a Certificate of Failure to Find, also called a Certificate of No Public Record or a No Record Statement to prove you've attempted to locate the document.
Have the Funeral Director Make a Request
If you're working with a funeral home to plan current burial or cremation arrangements, they can request copies of the death certificate for you. Funeral directors are usually the ones to file the death certificate anyway (typically, within 72 hours of the death), so they're accustomed to handling them. This service is often included in the fees that you pay to the funeral home, but in some cases, the home might require an additional fee per copy. Simply tell the funeral director you'd like them to order the copies, and tell them how many you need, and they'll be able to make the arrangements for you.
If you're looking for copies of a death certificate from the past, funeral directors may be able to provide information on how you can obtain the documents, but probably won't be able to request them for you. That being said, going through a funeral director can be a great way for someone dealing with a recent loss to get the necessary documentation without adding more to their plate.
Order a Death Certificate Through a Third Party Company
Companies like VitalChek, which are also used by the government, can get you copies of someone's death certificate in most states. The only states that they don't service are Vermont and Wyoming. In addition to death certificates, VitalChek can also help you retrieve other certified government documents like birth certificates and marriage records. If you need copies of a few different official documents, using a company like this can help you get them all at once.
How to Order a Death Certificate
The entire ordering process takes about ten minutes if you've got all your personal and mailing information handy. Follow these seven simple steps:
- Start by clicking on the "Place An Order" tab near the top center of VitalChek's homepage.
- Then select "Death Certificate" from the next screen.
- Choose the state where the deceased died from the map then hit "Continue."
- Next select your city or town from the drop-down menu and hit "Continue."
- You'll then be prompted to enter personal information such as the date of death.
- Make your payment and submit your order.
- Orders are typically received within a week or so.
How Much Do Death Certificate Copies Cost?
You'll pay the actual cost of the copy as set by the issuing government agency, a processing fee up to 16 dollars, and a low shipping cost to receive your documents when you order a death certificate through VitalChek. For specific rates regarding the state that you live in, head over to VitalChek's homepage, click on the "Pricing Info" tab and enter your state to see how much each copy costs.
The Road Doesn't End Here
Death certificates aren't only meant to be used for personal record keeping. You may also need copies of a death certificate to access any benefit claims, finalize funeral planning services, and settle a deceased person's administrative affairs as well. Talk with your funeral director or local health department to find out how you can obtain copies in your state, to make this difficult transition easier for you and your loved ones.