Death certificate definition

A death certificate can refer to the document that is issued by a person, usually a registrar of vital records, that declares the date, location, and cause of a person’s death.

There are different reasons why you might need to obtain a death certificate. Usually they are needed to serve as proof for legal purposes, for instance, accessing pension benefits, claiming life insurance or settling estates. Death certificates are required to arrange a deceased's burial service, and to execute a will.

What is on a death certificate

Death records, (death certificates, obituaries or funeral home records) can include different data about the deceased, including:

  • Names of their parents
  • Names of their siblings, children, and spouse
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Date of marriage
  • Place of marriage
  • Occupation
  • Military service
  • Cause of death

How to Get a Death Certificate

If you plan to get a death certificate at the time of death, you can do so by ordering them through the funeral home or mortuary. If some time has passed since the death, the fastest and easiest way to obtain certified death records is by going directly to your closest vital records agency.

State regulations and processing fees will vary depending on the state in which the death took place, so it’s recommendable to consult your vital records office for more information.

It’s also possible to get a certified death certificate online, but only by using a paid service. However, there are other non-certified death records available on the web, as well as free databases which you can use.