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    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.