If someone in your family has died, you will be issued a death certificate by the funeral home. These vital records are proof of a death, which are typically signed by a physician or coroner, validating the cause of death and the identity of the deceased. This document is used by health officials to compile death indexes on cause of death, age of death, and other data. Because public health officials rely on death certificates for health records and legal closure, they must be singed 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 1 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, to claim benefits and insurance for relatives and spouses, and to complete legal procedure to ensure that the person’s death is registered.
Burial or Cremation
Most local authorities, cemeteries, and crematories require a death record signed by a local physician or coroner or attached to a transport permit before they will carry through a burial or cremation. This certification works to ascertain that the disposition of remains is correct and is of 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 certificate. In most cases, you will 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. Getting several copies of the death certificate up front is the easiest way to speed up the process of claiming life insurance.
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 certificate to claim a pension. You will also need other vital records such as your marriage license and birth certificate proving your relationship to the deceased and your own identity. You will need a certified copy of the death certificate for each the state Retirement Pension and the Retirement Company Pension Plan.
Medicaid – In some cases, you may be able to claim Medicaid benefits. You will have to provide a death certificate and Certified Vital Records such as a birth certificate or marriage license proving 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
Setting an estate is a long and difficult process and you will often need more than one copy of a death certificate 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)
- Closing state bank accounts
- Closing some rentals (apartments, storage space, etc.)
- Closing credit cards
- Closing accounts with utilities (Energy, water, etc.)
- Closing 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 obtaining documents for children. For example, some states will require a proof of absence when acquiring a driver’s license for a minor. In some cases, you may also have to provide a death certificate when applying for passport for a minor under the age of 16.
University and Education
Many educational institutions will request parental identity, including copies of a death certificate, especially when qualifying children for tuition grants or scholarships. For this reason, it is recommended to order at least one copy of the death certificate 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.
In some cases, you may be required to provide a certified copy of a death certificate in order to acquire a marriage license in the future.
How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Do I Need?
In most cases you will need between 10 and 20 copies of a death certificate in order 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 did not order enough copies at the time, you can easily order online death certificates at Vital Records Online.
It is also possible to order certified copies of the death certificate through the original funeral home and through the state where the person died. However, you will have to 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 certificate after someone dies, the answer depends. In some states, death certificates are public domain documents and anyone can request a copy. In other states, you must prove your legal relationship which means that you must submit birth records, marriage licenses, or documentation of legal representation during life. If you’re unsure how to obtain 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.