Overview: Death Certificates
A death certificate is an official, government-issued document that declares the date and time, location, and cause of death, as well as other personal information about the deceased. Legally, a death certificate must be issued when a death occurs, and will be necessary as you make funeral arrangements and take care of personal business on behalf of the deceased.
You will likely want to request multiple copies of the death certificate, as you’ll need it for making arrangements for the disposition of remains (burial or cremation) and for managing post-funeral estate and administrative affairs (including insurance, Social Security, and filing any benefit claims). Many people find that ten copies of the death certificate are sufficient for completing necessary paperwork and other tasks.
What You Need to Know
The funeral home you are working with will file the death certificate with the local (city or county) Health Department, usually within 72 hours of the death. The charge for this filing will be included in the funeral home’s (non-declinable) Basic Services Fee. The funeral home can request multiple copies of the death certificate for you, though you may be charged a fee for this service by the funeral home.
If you want to request copies of the death certificate yourself, you can do so by contacting the state or local health department in the state or county where the person died and requesting certified copies directly. In addition, there are companies that, for a fee, will do the work of requesting the death certificates on your behalf.
VitalChek will request certified or informational copies of the death certificate on your behalf. Identify the state and city in which the death occurred, the date of the death, the reason for requesting copies of the death certificate, your name and relationship to the deceased, and the name and gender of the deceased, and VitalChek will send you the requested copies. VitalChek charges a processing fee on all purchases, ranging from $5.00 to $15.00 per order. Shipping is available either via UPS (for a fee) or via USPS (free). All purchases are payable with a credit card. In some cases you may be required to provide notarized proof of identity.
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Guide: Ordering a Death Certificate Online