What is a Death Certificate and why do you need one?
A death certificate is an official document issued by the government, which declares cause of death, location of death, time of death and some other personal information about the deceased.
There are several reasons why you may need to obtain a death certificate. Most often it’s to serve as proof for legal purposes. These reasons may include accessing pension benefits, claiming life insurance, settling estates, getting married (if a widow or widower needs to prove that their previous partner has passed), or arranging for a funeral. Government officials may need the death certificate to review the cause of death during investigations to determine if foul-play occurred. Public health officials use death certificates to compile data on various statistics, including leading causes of death. Public health policies depend heavily on the mortality data from death certificates because they are the only source of information about the causes of death and illnesses preceding death.
Prior to issuing a certified death certificate, authorities usually require a signature from a physician or coroner to validate the cause of death and the identity of the deceased. Upon the signing of the death certificate, local authorities will typically issue a certificate of disposition of remains, also known as a burial or cremation permit. Crematories and cemeteries require this form before they will cremate or bury a body. In some jurisdictions, the form is combined with a transportation permit that allows the movement or shipment of a body.
Who can obtain a death certificate?
In some states, death certificates are considered public domain documents and they can be obtained by any individual regardless of the requester’s relationship to the deceased. In other states, only a legal representative, a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of the deceased may obtain a certified copy of the death certificate. In these instances, proof of relation to the decedent is required when submitting the application. Siblings typically need to provide a copy of their birth certificate showing parental relationship to the decedent. Legal representatives need to provide documentation proving the death certificate is needed for the determination of property rights. Legal representatives are typically required to include a letter stating whom they represent and how they are related to the person named on the record when requesting copies.
How to get copies of death certificates
There are basically three ways to get certified copies of a death certificate:
- They can be ordered through the funeral home
- They can be order through a third-party company that specializes in this field, such as VitalChek
- They can be ordered through the state or county in which the person died
Many people find that ten copies of the death certificate are sufficient for completing necessary paperwork and other tasks. Costs vary by state and county. Fees will generally run around $20 per copy.
To order death certificates through VitalChek, visit www.vitalchek.com/death-certificates