Death certificates are legal vital records that are needed when handling a decedent's estate matters and tax matters. California law states only certain people are authorized to receive a certified copy of a death certificate. They include but are not limited to the next of kin, those representing the estate of the decedent and funeral directors. There are three main ways to obtain California death certificates: contacting the County Recorder's Office, the California Department of Public Health and use of VitalChek, a nationwide vital record ordering service.
County recorder's office
Order a death certificate from the county recorder's office in the county in which the person died. California suggests this as the first place to look for a death certificate within the first six months after a death. Records are made available at the California Department of Health after six months. Locate the appropriate county by conducting an online search for the city in which the decedent died plus the word 'county.'
Obtain a copy of the application for certified copy of death records included in the Certified Copies Birth and Death Pamphlet. Complete this form as thoroughly as possible. Detailed instructions are included. Complete the sworn statement after the application and have it notarized.
Mail the completed application and sworn statement with fee payable by check or money order to the appropriate county recorder listed in the birth and death pamphlet. Death certificates are usually received within six weeks.
California Department of Public Health
Order a death certificate from the California Department of Public Health. Download the application for certified copies of death records. Complete death certificate order form as thoroughly as possible. Detailed instructions are included. Complete the sworn statement after the application and have it notarized.
Mail the completed application and sworn statement with fee payable by check or money order to:
California Office of Vital Records
P.O. Box 997410
Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
Death certificates are usually received within four weeks.
Order a death certificate from VitalChek
Order a death record from California through VitalChek. Place an order on VitalChek's website by first selecting death certificate as the type of record. Select the city in which the individual was born. Enter the date of birth.
Provide the reason for requesting the certificate. Select the type of certificate requested. Certificate options will list the fee plus a VitalChek fee. Read the authorizing agency information. Indicate if you would like to order additional copies. Include your mailing and payment information to complete the transaction.
VitalChek does not guarantee a turnaround time for death records ordered. Their website explains that locating, printing, and preparing the records for mailing are factors in the speed by which a record is sent and received.