Death certificates are prepared by the funeral home or cremation service in consultation with the doctor and family members of the deceased. These documents contain a wealth of information about the deceased, including location and date of birth, parents' names and birthplaces, marital status and date, and cause and place of death. Copies of the record are available from the health department in the state where the death occurred, usually in the office of vital records or vital statistics.
Certified and Informational Certificates Available
Two types of death certificates are available in many jurisdictions: certified and informational certificates. Both contain the same information but only certified copies, marked with a raised seal, can be used for legal purposes like proving a death in probate or claiming life insurance. Generally, only relatives of a deceased person or those handling his estate can obtain certified copies of the death certificate. Some states provide informational death certificates to persons not eligible to obtain certified death certificates of the deceased. These documents do not contain an official seal or stamp and are for personal use only.
Application Requires Information About You and Deceased
You order a death certificate by visiting the vital records section of the health department in person or by mailing in an application. Many states provide the request forms online and some accept requests by phone. The applications ask for identifying information about you, as the person making the application, as well as the deceased and his relationship to you. Expect to pay a fee and provide proof of your identity and address.
- DC Department of Health: Death Certificates
- Maryland Department of Mental Health and Hygiene: Death and Fetal Death Certificates
- Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services: Obtaining Certified Copies of Vital Records
- Nolo: How to Get a Death Certificate
- California Department of Public Health: Authorized Copy vs. Informational Copy
- City of Berkeley Office of Vital Statistics: FAQ - Certified vs Informational Copies
- Green Lake County Government: What Is the Difference Between a "Certified" and an "Uncertified" Copy of a Death Certificate
- Brown Funeral Home: Death Certificates
- Copeland Funeral Home and Cremation Services: What to Do at the Time of Death
- KatarzynaBialasiewicz/iStock/Getty Images