What to do About Death Certificates
Do you have questions about Death Certificates? Keep reading for answers to the most common questions about death certificates.
What to do About Death Certificates

No matter what type of funeral or memorial service and no matter whether a person is buried or cremated, a death certificate is going to be part of the process. Death certificates are something that we’re all familiar with, but almost no one knows what they are exactly, where they come from or why they’re needed.

What is a Death Certificate?

A death certificate is a formal document that records the details of a person’s death. It specifically states:

  • Name of the deceased
  • Birthdate
  • Date of death
  • Time of death
  • Cause of death
  • Where the death occurred

Do You Need a Death Certificate?

Yes, the law requires it in all 50 states. People have been using death certificates as official records for more than 120 years. Today you are legally required to get a death certificate in order to officially record the death. It’s what changes a person’s records to “deceased”.  

Beyond it being a legal requirement, a death certificate is needed for a number of purposes. You’ll need a certified copy in order to receive life insurance benefits, notify the Social Security Department, access bank accounts, prove your relationship to the deceased and much more. 

How is a Death Certificate Created?

Death certificates are typically created in one of two ways:

Funeral Home or Crematorium – Typically, a funeral home or crematorium director will create a death certificate with the help of the family. They will then get the death certificate signed by a medical examiner, doctor or coroner to become an official record. 

State Agency – Some states have agencies that are in charge of handling and finalizing death certificates from start to finish. They are usually called the Vital Records Office and are a part of the state department of public health. Most of the time they are only tasked with recording death certificates and issuing copies, but in some cases they initiate the process of creating the death certificate. 

All this has to happen in a matter of days. Once the death certificate is received the burial or cremation can occur. The crematorium or funeral home will then submit the death certificate to local county officials at the Vital Records Office.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost?

The cost for a certified death certificate is different from state to state and county to county. Generally, the first copy will be $10-30 and additional copies are around $5 each. 

For example, in California you can get a certified death certificate for $21 each. In Washington state it’s $25 for a certified death certificate. And in Texas you’ll pay $20 for the first death certificate and $4 for each additional document.

How Many Death Certificates Do I Need?

Because death certificates are needed for a number of purposes, you’ll need to get more than one for your records. Our recommendation is for families to get between 5-10 death certificates in order to settle all affairs. 

How Do I Request a Death Certificate?

Once the death certificate is on record you can then order certified copies. The process varies by state, but oftentimes copies of a death certificate are issued by the local Vital Records Office.

If you are working with a funeral home or crematorium they should be able to help you secure the necessary documentations, including death certificates. Often ordering death certificates through the funeral home is the easiest method.

Today in many states, requests for certified death certificates that are used for legal purposes are restricted. Typically a certified copy will only be given to next of kin and surviving spouses. However, non-certified copies for personal uses are much less restricted.

Need help making final arrangements and securing a death certificate? Contact Direct Cremate for assistance anytime of day!

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