Although every state handles death certificates differently, there are some universal standards that should help you navigate the process of ordering death certificates, making corrections, and process other record-keeping needs.
For questions about your specific state, we encourage you to contact your state’s vital records office or the National Center for Health Statistics.
Death Certificates: Frequently Asked Questions
What do I need a death certificate for?
A death certificate is needed to settle most financial and legal affairs on behalf of the deceased. As the official legal record of death, the death certificate is needed for most insurance companies, the Social Security Administration, and other agencies that must process paperwork related to the deceased’s affairs.
Who can request a certified copy of a death certificate?
If the deceased passed away in the last 25 years, only immediate family members are able to request a copy (or those who are the legal representatives of family members). You will be expected to provide legal documentation regarding your relationship with the deceased.
Can I get a death certificate copy if I am not an immediate family member?
As long as you have a written, notarized statement signed by an immediate family member, you should be able to order certified copies. However, you will have to show identification and make the necessary payments.
How much do death certificates cost?
This varies depending on region. In most cases, you can get certified copies for between $5 to $25 each.
How can I get copies of the death certificate?
The easiest way to get copies is during the funeral planning process. The funeral home or crematorium should be able to get as many copies as you want (although they will likely pass these costs on to you), though you will still be able to order more by contacting your state’s vital statistics department or county registrar office directly.
How long will it take to get the death certificate?
In most cases, the death certificate will be completed and ready to go 72 hours after death. In rarer situations, you may have to wait up to 30 days.
Can I just make copies of one death certificate to avoid additional costs?
For most situations requiring a death certificate, you will need an official certified copy. Photocopies will not be considered valid.
What if there are errors on my loved one’s death certificate?
If you find that a mistake has been made on a death certificate, contact your state’s vital records office. They should have a process for correcting a record and will be able to point you to the right resources.