Why Do I Need a Death Certificate?

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Why Do I Need a Death Certificate?

If someone in your family has died, you will be issued a death certificate by the funeral home. These vital records, which typically a physician or coroner sign, are proof of a death. They confirm the cause of death and the identity of the deceased. Health officials use this document to compile death indexes on the cause of death, age of death, and other data. Public health officials rely on these certificates for health records and legal closure. Therefore, the documents must be signed and approved by the residing coroner or physician.

How long does it take to get a death certificate after someone dies? It can take anywhere from one day to several weeks depending on the state, organization, and cause of death. Many states require that you have a certified copy of the death certificate within 72 hours, unless an ongoing investigation impedes it.

Death certificates are necessary to close out a person’s affairs and to claim benefits and insurance for relatives and spouses. You can also use them to complete legal procedures to ensure that the person’s death is registered.

Burial or Cremation

Most local authorities, cemeteries, and crematories require a death record before they will carry through a burial or cremation. The document should be signed by a local physician or coroner or attached to a transport permit. This certification works to ascertain that the disposition of remains is correct. It also proves that the person buried or cremated is the one who died. In most cases, your coroner will issue a Certificate of Disposition of Remains at the same time as the death certificate.

This is especially important when forwarding remains to another country, such as a country of birth for burial. Many consulates will require an original copy of the death certificate.

Claiming Life Insurance

If you or a member of your family is a beneficiary of a life insurance policy, you need a certified copy of the death record. You may need other certified vital records such as your birth certificate or marriage license proving your relationship to the deceased. But, as a named beneficiary, you may not have to. You can speed up the process of claiming life insurance by getting several copies of the death certificate up front.

Claiming Pension

If your spouse passes away, you will likely be entitled to his or her pension. You will need at least one copy of the death record to claim a pension. Also, you may need your marriage license and birth certificate to prove your relationship to the deceased and your own identity. You need a certified copy of the death certificate for the state Retirement Pension and the Retirement Company Pension Plan.

Medicaid – In some cases, you may be able to claim Medicaid benefits. You will provide a death record and certified vital records such as a birth certificate or marriage license to prove your relationship with the deceased. You can order these documents at VitalRecordsOnline if you no longer have them in your possession.

Settling and Closing Estates

Settling an estate is a long and difficult process. You will often need more than one copy of a death record to do so. The larger the estate, the more complex the process.

You will need a death certificate for each of the following processes:

  • 401K (The stockbroker should be able to use one death certificate to handle multiple sales)
  • Stock certificates held in note form
  • Life insured mortgages
  • Life insured vehicle payments
  • Out of state property transfers (one each)
  • Closing corporations, trusts or foundations

You will have to photocopy or fax a copy of the death certificate for the following organizations:

  • Social Security (call l-800-772-1213 to report death and begin the process)
  • Closing State Identity (Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles in your area)
  • To close state bank accounts
  • Closing some rentals (apartments, storage space, etc.)
  • To close credit cards
  • Closing accounts with utilities (Energy, water, etc.)
  • To close contracts such as cellphone and subscriptions
  • Filing a will at the local courthouse

Proving Parental Absence

If you and the deceased person have a child together, you may need a death certificate when getting documents for children. For example, some states will ask for a proof of absence when getting a driver’s license for a minor. You may also have to provide a death record when applying for a passport for a minor under the age of 16.

University and Education

Many educational institutions will ask for parental identity, including copies of a death certificate. Especially when qualifying children for tuition grants or scholarships. For this reason, you should order at least one copy of the death record for each child under 18. If you do not have the document when it is needed, you can order a death certificate replacement at VitalRecordsOnline.


You may need to provide a certified copy of a death certificate to get a marriage license in the future.

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Do I Need?

You will probably need between 10 and 20 copies to handle all of the deceased person’s affairs and close out their finances. In some cases, you will need additional copies of a death certificate to handle all affairs.

How Do I Order a Death Certificate?

The funeral home or coroner will issue a certified death certificate at the time of death. However, if you need more copies at the time, you can easily order online death certificates at Vital Records Online.

You can also order copies through the funeral home and the state where the person died. However, you must visit the funeral home or the local Health Records Office in person to begin the application.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of Death Certificates Online?

If you’re wondering who can get a copy of a death record after someone dies, the answer depends. In some states, death certificates are public domain documents, and anyone can ask for a copy. In other states, you must prove your legal relationship. That means you must submit birth records, marriage licenses, or documentation of legal representation during life. If you’re unsure how to get a death certificate online, visit VitalRecordsOnline.com and fill out our easy form to determine eligibility in your state. Here, you can begin a death record search by name and order relevant death certificates for your deceased loved one.

Having a valid death certificate is required in order to obtain many crucial documents and services including (but not limited to):

  • Amendment to Vital Record
  • Estate/ Probate
  • Social Security
  • Discharge Loan
  • Medical
  • Insurance
  • Veteran’s Benefits
  • Tax Purposes
  • Legal Purposes
  • Genealogy.

To start your application now, click here: Death Certificate Application – Vital Records Online