When and Why Are Death Certificates Necessary?

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When and Why Are Death Certificates Necessary?

If someone in your family has died, the last thing you want to do is think about legal responsibilities. Unfortunately, the close relatives and spouses of decadents often have a great deal of legal responsibility to register the deceased’s death, close their estate and affairs, and update their status with the government and financial institutions. Also, their certified death certificate is used to prove death and to act as legal permission to close or cease accounts. Health officials use the Death Certificates to create health and death indexes for public records.

If you’ve been issued a death certificate or someone has died in your family, even some time ago, you may need to order a replacement death certificate to finalize their affairs. You can do so at VitalRecordsOnline. The following includes a list of when and why death certificates are necessary.

Registering Death

As most states mandate, you should issue a death certificate within 72 hours of the death. You then have to register the death with local health officials within 5 days of the death. This may change depending on extreme circumstances, such as if there is no physician or coroner on hand to complete an autopsy and sign the certificate of death, or if the cause of death is unclear and ongoing investigations slow the progress. In most cases, you will receive a death certificate within a maximum of about 12 days, after which you must immediately register the death.

Burial and Cremation

It is illegal to bury, cremate, or transport a body in the United States without a death certificate and burial permit. In most cases, you will be issued a burial, cremation, or transport permit at the time of the death certificate, based on the deceased or your own wishes which you must communicate to the funeral home or mortuary. A burial permit is known as a Certificate of Disposition of Remains in most states and should be signed by your coroner.

You will also need a certified copy of the death certificate if you are traveling overseas, as most embassies and consulates will wish to retain a copy for records.

Claiming Benefits for Living Relatives

Whether insurance, pension, or Medicaid, you will need a certified death certificate to prove death and claim benefits for relatives. In most cases, you will also need certified vital records proving your relationship to the deceased, such as a marriage certificate, birth certificate, or court order. You can obtain these documents on VitalRecordsOnline.

You will need certified copies of the death certificate for:

  • Each insurance policy or plan (Home, mortgage, life, auto, auto payment, etc.)
  • Workplace and state pensions
  • Medicaid

Setting Affairs

Most people die leaving financial and legal responsibilities which will continue to mount up if not closed. However, the death certificate can be used to prove their death and legally close accounts including bank accounts, to close 401k and other investments, closing utility and service accounts (energy, water, phone, internet), close rentals, credit cards, and to file wills or absolve debt.

Other Reasons You Might Need a Death Certificate

Many people eventually need a death certificate to prove absence, especially in the case of a minor child or a surviving spouse.

For Minor Children

  • Proving parental absence
  • Acquiring passport
  • Attending University
  • Attending High School
  • Acquiring a Driver’s License
  • Acquiring some state ID
  • Applying for tuition grants


  • Receiving benefits
  • Claiming insurance
  • Moving shared property solely into his or her name
  • Remarrying

How to Order Death Certificates Online

While you can always return to the issuing funeral home or mortuary to request a copy of the death certificate, that isn’t always convenient or possible. However, you can order copies of death certificates online at VitalRecordsOnline. This is especially important if it has been some time since the deceased passed away and you are living in another area or state.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of Death Certificates Online? – Some states hold death certificates as public records. Others do not. However, if you want a certified death certificate listing the full cause of death, you will have to prove your relationship to the deceased with either a birth certificate, marriage license, or court order. You will also have to provide your full photo ID.

If you want to obtain a death certificate online, visit VitalRecordsOnline.com.

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