What Do I Need a Death Certificate For?


A death certificate is a legal document issued by the state in which the death occurs.  The funeral home will work with a loved one’s doctor or the facility in which the death occurred to complete the medical information. Vital statistic information from the family is then added to complete the funeral director’s portion of the certificate.


Vital statistic information that is generally included on the death certificate is;

·         Full legal name

·         Date of birth

·         Place of birth

·         Home address

·         Social security number

·         Marital Status and name of surviving spouse

·         Father's name

·         Mother's maiden name

·         Highest education

·         Occupation

·         Race

·         Veteran status

·         Final disposition information (date and location of cremation or burial)


It can be difficult to know who might ask for this document after a loved one’s death, but your licensed funeral director can help navigate this with you.


Items that may require a copy of the death certificate include;

·         Opening an estate/obtaining Letters of Administration

·         Veteran’s Administration benefits

·         Settling life insurance claims

·         Obtaining union benefits

·         Retirement benefits

·         Transfer of real property (houses, lots, etc.) for each county of ownership

·         Transfer of mortgage/mortgage insurance

·         Transfer of person insurance (homeowner’s, auto, rental, medical, etc.)

·         Transfer of titles on automobile, trailer, boat, camper, etc.

·         Transfer of stocks or bonds

·         Transfer of bank or credit union accounts

·         Entry into safe deposit box

·         Transfer of utility companies

·         Filing for Federal or State income tax refunds

·         Social Security Benefits for surviving spouse of dependent children

·         Insured loans and insured credit cards

·         To qualify for bereavement time with some employers


It is important to note that not all items will require a certified/original death certificate. Some places will accept a photocopy, or a copy sent by email or fax.


Certified/original death certificates are issued by the Health Department or Department of Vital Records and can be obtained by the funeral home or by the next of kin.  Every state has different rules on obtaining a death certificates so it is best to ask your funeral director the most efficient way to receive them.


Written by Kathleen Morton-Jones, CFSP

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