Death Certificate Request Form

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A death certificate request is used by an individual to request a copy of a decedent's death certificate.

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What is a Death Certificate Request?

A death certificate request is used by an individual to request a copy of a decedent's death certificate. This certificate may be needed in order for someone to claim death benefits, notify organizations, obtain insurance payments, and other actions. Death certificates are typically only granted to close relatives of the decedent, such as the next of kin or spouse. To request a death certificate, the proper form must be used. This form is usually provided by the county or state.  Death certificate requests are often handled by each state's Department of Health or public records office. People requesting a death records may need to provide verification of their relationship, through forms such as a birth certificate, marriage certificate, or affidavit. Personal information will also need to be furnished, including full name, contact information, and copies of photo identification like a license and a social security card.

Legal Considerations

Many people think that because vital records like death certificates contain public information, they should, therefore, be available for anyone to access. However, since vital records contain very sensitive and personal information about an individual and are therefore issued only by an official state, county, city, or township office that is authorized to issue such documents.

These offices, commonly referred to as vital record agencies, include:

  • Vital Records and Statistics Offices
  • Departments of Health
  • Public Health Departments
  • Clerks/Recorders Offices
  • Probate Offices
  • City Halls

In order to maintain the security of the vital records that they are authorized to issue, vital records agencies have specific regulations and requirements regarding who can actually request an individual's death certificate.

Who can request a death certificate?

There are two types of death certificates available:

  1. Official certified copies
  2. Informational copies

Official certified copies of a death certificate are printed on special security paper and will include some type of raised, embossed, or multicolored seal on the document, general along with a registrar's signature, to indicate that it is an official document.

These certified copies are typically used for a variety of legal purposes as proof of an individual's death and are generally only available to those who are legally authorized to receive an official copy of an individual's death certificate, such as a:

  • A parent or legal guardian;
  • Child;
  • Spouse or domestic partner;
  • Sibling;
  • Grandchild; or
  • Grandparent.

In addition, the following people may also receive an official certified copy of a death certificate:

  • The legal representative of the deceased’s estate
  • The legal representative of the deceased’s family
  • Agents and employees or funeral homes (ex: funeral director)
  • Law enforcement agencies
  • Those entitled by court order

Informational copies of a death certificate may or may not be printed on security paper and will typically not include an official seal or the registrar's signature. In fact, some information copies may simply be a photocopy of the original death certificate that is on file.

These informational death certificate copies are generally not valid for legal purposes, but may be used for genealogy purposes or to document family history. In general, anyone can request and obtain an informational copy of a death certificate.

Requesting a copy online

Requesting a copy of death certificate online can save you a lot of time, especially if you know what to expect and have all of your information ready before making the request. Here are some suggestions to help ensure that the process goes smoothly when requesting a birth certificate through online services:

1. Make sure that you have all of the necessary information about the death certificate you are requesting. Without this basic information, chances are your request will be denied.

Some of the information you will need include:

  • The full name of the individual listed on the death certificate
  • The correct date of the individual's death
  • The state, county, and city where the death occurred

2. As with most online orders, be sure to have your credit card along with the 3 or 4 digit security code handy for payment purposes. Some vital records agencies may also require the name on the credit card to match the name of the person placing the order

3. Once you have gathered the necessary information, you can begin the process by visiting the government agency's website and selecting the type of certificate you want to request copies of, which in this case is a death certificate.

4. You will then be prompted, in a step-by-step manner, to answer a series of specific questions regarding the death certificate you are requesting.

Please note that providing the most accurate answers possible to these questions will help ensure that you will receive the correct certificate.

5. Finally, you will be asked to submit payment information to pay the processing fee along with any identifying information required to complete your request.

The rules and regulations governing the request and issuance of death certificates and other vital records vary from one jurisdiction to another. Be sure to check with the agency responsible for issuing death certificates in your area for any requirements regarding who can be issued a death certificate, what information is needed, how much the certificate costs, and processing times.

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