Death Certificates

A death certificate is considered one of four Vital Records. A death certificate, or a death record, officially records the time and cause of a person's passing.

Why a Death Certificate is Needed

A death certificate is the recognized legal record of death. It allows you to settle the final affairs of a loved one.

Situations that may call for a death certificate include:

  • Settling an estate.
  • Settling life insurance policies.
  • Settling insured loans.
  • Settling union benefits.
  • Settling stocks and bonds.
  • Settling credit card debts.
  • Transferring ownership of property.
  • Transferring the title of a vehicle.
  • Obtaining Social Security payments earned by the deceased family member.
  • Gaining access to bank accounts – checking, savings and savings bonds.

How to Obtain a Death Record

In most situations, the funeral home can order death records for you. Depending on your state and/or county, you may have the option to order certified death certificate copies on your own via your state's Vital Records office and/or a third-party office. The actual process will vary by state.

Generally, only immediate family members – spouse, sibling, child – may apply. But in some situations, the death certificate may also be available to other persons who hold a:

  • Court order from the state.
  • Document proving its needed for medical purposes.
  • Document supporting their right to a claim.

When applying, be prepared to present identification. Improper identification will cause your application to be rejected. Fees vary by state. \

Processing, depending on state and ordering method – mail, online, in person – can take from days to weeks.

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