We Know: How to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate

What is a death certificate?

A death certificate is an official certified record that is filed when a person dies. It lists the date, place and cause of death. Also included are the deceased person's age, sex, race, marital status, former residence, and place and date of burial.

When might I need a death certificate?

You may need an official death certificate for settling an estate, for insurance purposes, or for access to or termination of government services. Death certificates are also very useful when doing genealogical research.

How long will it take to get a death certificate?

This will depend on the location. Contact the appropriate office (see below) to find out.

How do I get a copy of a death certificate?

The federal government does not maintain files of death certificates. They are filed permanently in state, city, county, or other local records offices. You may contact the National Center for Health Statistics for the address of the office in the state or area in which the death occurred, then write or go to the appropriate vital statistics office.

What information should I include in my request?

  • full name of the person whose record is requested
  • sex of the person
  • parents' names, including maiden name of mother
  • month, day, and year of death
  • place of birth or death (city or town, county, and state; include name of hospital, if known)
  • purpose for which the copy is needed
  • your relationship to the person whose record is requested
  • daytime telephone number with area code

Type or print all names and addresses in your letter. Include a check or money order in the correct amount for the number of copies requested, payable to the office holding the certificate.

How much will it cost?

This varies from location to location and is subject to change, but currently averages $10 to $20 for an initial copy; additional copies in the same order sometimes cost less. Contact the appropriate vital statistics office to find out their current fees.

What about deaths in other countries?

Contact the embassy or the nearest consulate of the country in which the death occurred. Ask your local librarian to help you find addresses and telephone numbers for these offices.

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