Cremating Someone without a Death Certificate
One of the greatest frustrations for families dealing with the death of a loved one is all the paperwork and bureaucracy that goes into the process. You are already grieving your loss and dealing with your pain; to wade through stacks of papers and sit on hold with county officials might seem more than you can handle.
In order to streamline the process of saying goodbye, you might opt to cremate instead of bury the deceased. After all, that is what cremation offers: a lower-cost, more efficient method of disposition of a loved one’s remains.
However, although cremation does tend to come with fewer decisions overall, there are still papers that have to be filled out and filed – including the death certificate. If you do not have a copy of the death certificate, you cannot have a loved one cremated. Before any final arrangements can be carried out, both the death certificate and a cremation permit need to be issued and filed in your county.
Why is the Death Certificate Important?
The death certificate contains all the relevant information about the deceased (name, address, date of birth, place of birth, parent information, Social Security number, date of death, and cause of death). It is signed by a doctor or coroner and authorized by the state where the death took place. Informational copies of the death certificate provide the basic statistics, while certified copies are notarized to allow for most of the tasks associated with burial and/or cremation. These certified copies are only given to those who have the power to make decisions about the deceased’s estate, and are necessary so that there is no confusion about who has the right to bury, cremate, or otherwise care for the deceased’s body.
Without a certified copy of the death certificate, you cannot make any major decisions about the deceased. In most cases, the next of kin and/or executor of the estate will receive several of these copies to carry out all the necessary tasks.
What to Do if You Don’t Have a Death Certificate
In most cases, death certificates are handled by the funeral home and/or your funeral director. Part of the services (and their fees) include filing all the paperwork and ensuring you have all the materials you need. However, using a funeral home can delay the process and end up costing you more. You might also prefer to deal directly with the crematorium, which may not have the same streamlined death certificate process.
In these cases, you can go through your local vital records office to get a copy. Access to vital records varies depending on where you live, so you may want to check the CDC website, which provides information by state.
Until you have the certified death certificate and can give it to the crematorium or funeral home, you will be unable to make any major decisions related to the body’s care. Although they will hold onto the body until arrangements can be made (or transport the body someplace where it can be stored), you may be required to pay the fees associated with this before they will release the ashes to you.