Why And When Are Death Certificates Necessary?

In September 9, 2014

A death certificate may not be the document anyone wants to think about, but it does have an important purpose. There are several reasons why you may need to obtain a death certificate, typically to serve as proof for legal purposes. Fortunately, it can be fairly easy for an immediate family member to get a copy of this particular document, especially for the reasons  listed below.

Claiming Life Insurance – If you are the named beneficiary of a life insurance policy, no matter what your relationship to the deceased person was, you will need to produce a government issued copy of the death certificate in order to claim those benefits. The process for claiming life insurance can be slow and painful—getting a copy of the death certificate as quickly as possible can help to speed things along.

Pensions – If your spouse passes away, you may be entitled to benefits from his or her pension. However, you will have to provide various items to the company that issues it as proof of the death and of your relationship to the deceased person. One of the most important documents you will need is the death certificate.

Settling Estates – When a loved one dies, settling their estate can be a very long and difficult process. You may need multiple copies of the death certificate in order to claim investments, access bank accounts and real estate holdings. The more complicated the estate, the more copies of the death certificate you may need.

Medicaid Benefits – In some cases, a spouse or child of an individual who has passed away will be able to claim Medicaid benefits that the deceased was eligible to receive. However, the US Government is very particular about who they will pass these benefits on to—and with good reason. A death certificate and proof of your relationship to the deceased person may be necessary to claim these helpful benefits.

Future Marriages – Some states may require that a widow or widower who wants to remarry prove that his or her former partner has passed away. A death certificate is necessary in this matter and it can help resolve any doubt that the potential bride or groom is unable to remarry.

As you can see, a death certificate comes in handy more often than you may first think. Ordering an initial set of death certificate copies is usually handled by the Funeral Home as part of the services they provide. However, you may find that additional copies are needed for reasons noted above. Be sure to order these additional copies from the right source, either directly from the government agency or from an approved ordering service authorized by the agency.

Do you need to order a death certificate? Order official, certified death certificates here – quickly and securely.



  1. require a death certificate for beverly w. rizek */**/****

    1. If you require a death certificate, you can order the certificate you need online at https://www.vitalchek.com/death-certificates where you will provide the appropriate information onto a secure website for processing. Thank you.

  2. Well i ordered a death certificate that I need for Surrogates Court in April 14, 2015 abd it was approved and mailed out on April 16, 2015. I still don’t have the certificate as of May 22, 2015. All i get is the run around. No one helps. Its call this one and contact that one which i did. Instead of mailing me out another certificate thst i paid $23 for, they brush me off telling me to check my post office. Now i have no certificate for court and can not get my Dads estate finalized

    1. Thank you for your comment. Please contact us at Vitals.Research@vitalchek.com with your order number, and we’ll be glad to research the situation and assist you. Thank you.

  3. My son’s father died. I was never married to his father. My son is his only child and is 11 years old. I am filing for social security benefits for my son. Do I need his dad’s death certificate to receive benefits? His dad’s name is listed on my son’s birth certificate as the father. If I do need a copy of his death certificate, how do I get a copy? Am I able to receive a copy because my son is under 18 and I am his legal guardian?

    1. Good morning Tanya and thank you for your question.
      The social security office should tell you exactly what you need to start benefits. Depending on the state he passed away in if you need a death certificate you should be able to receive it. Some states will require more paperwork than others. Once you find out if a death certificate is required you can contact our office at 1-800-255-2414 or and we should be able to assist you in the ordering process. We work directly with hundreds of government agencies nationwide to provide consumers with the ability to securely order their vital records online. When ordering through VitalChek only authorized government agencies will be handling your certificate and processing your request.
      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  4. My partner of 19 years just reacitly passed away.I am sole beneficiary on his life insurance polices.But I am having a hard time obtaining the death certificate Manley because the family does not like me so all roads r block in getting copy of certificate.would u know of a way for me to get a copy because insurance wants one with claim. I appreciate any information u can forward me th.

    1. Thank you for your question, and we are very sorry for your loss. Most vital record agencies generally restrict ordering of death certificates to legal family members. If you and your partner were not legally united, it may be more difficult for you to obtain that record. We suggest contacting either the Funeral Home handling the arrangements, or the Vital Record Office that will be issuing the certificate directly. You should then explain your situation to see if someone can assist you from either of those locations. Our Sympathies.

  5. I have and no one will give it to me
    Family won’t give it or funeral director any advice should I contact a lawyer

  6. Is it against the law for the funeral director to give it to me

    1. Hello Noreen – No it’s not illegal. In some instances the funeral director is the 1st person that is able to obtain the death certificate. They typically order as many as needed just so they can supply them to the entitle family members.
      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  7. Hello,

    What are the laws for step families vs biological when it comes to the death certificate. I was out of town when my father was making medical and funeral arrangements Im told. But they dont know he called me to say come home he needed me to be there. I did and I was..but the step family had already signed papers they kept from me, including the name of stepsister on his death certificate. Is this legal? The funeral parlor had no certificate for me and my brother was in on it too. They obviously received some type of benefit they did not want me to know about. The funeral parlor also knowingly put the steps name all without notifying me, as if I didnt exist. After his death they bought fancy cars .. I received his pension of 1,000 thankfully, but. How can I research this or amend this? Is this legal? They say he had no Will or Life Insurance policy….I dont believe this. What can I do as his only living biological daughter. They’ve literally taken my rights away.

    1. Thank you for your question. In regards to obtaining your father’s death certificate, as long as his name is shown on your birth certificate you should have no problem requesting a copy of the official death certificate – since most vital record agencies will issue death certificates to immediate family members. As to the other information, you may be best served by contacting an attorney who can help address any specific family issues arising from your father’s passing. Best of luck to you.

  8. My mom’s friend put my mom as beneficiary and me secondary, my mom passed away. Now my mom’s friend passed away.the insurance company sent me a letter,but I can’t produce a death certificate for the friend or obituary. The insurance company said to write a letter stating that and will review it.Will they still send the proceeds to me?

    1. Thanks for the question, and we’re very sorry for the losses of both your mother and her friend. Since the insurance company is responsible for verifying and disbursing any beneficiary proceeds, then the insurance company would provide you the acceptable methods and documentation they require to do so. In addition to the requested letter stating the situation, you will most likely also need to provide verification of your identity so they may validate you as secondary beneficiary. We hope this is helpful. Thank you.

  9. Are death certificates required by law? My husband is phobic and doesn’t want an autopsy or anyone examining our cutting up his body. This became a heated discussion at a recent family gathering where the majority of his sister’s are nurses. They say its required by law. I say it’s required to change back accounts and probate estates.

    1. Thanks for the question. Actually, a death certificate is typically required for most legal purposes as proof of an individual’s death. It is usually needed for closing financial accounts, bank accounts, credit card accounts, and notifying other entities such as insurance companies, the Social Security Administration, etc. Without an official death certificate, it would be extremely hard for the remaining family to prove the individual’s passing and take care of the estate properly. While each jurisdiction has their specific laws and regulations regarding autopsies, a death certificate would still be issued. We hope this has been helpful. Thank you.

  10. Can I issued 2 death certificate for deceased two sons

    1. Hello Novel,

      If you would like to place an order for 2 death certificates you can visit our site at https://www.vitalchek.com/death-certificates or contact our office at 1-800-255-1414.
      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  11. If a grandmother passes away and she has one biological child and multiple grandchildren and there is one grandchild she left in charge of her Affairs, is there any way that that one biological Child Left can take over as far as her benefits, proceeds, and Insurance?
    Does that biological child have to be listed as a beneficiary on her insurance or not?
    The reason I’m asking is because the one grandchild that has been there for her and has taken care of all of her affairs, to my understanding will be left everything but I’m just wondering if that one biological child can jump forward get a death certificate and then go claim everything that belongs to the grandmother before the grandchild does that took care all of her affairs.

    1. Hello- this question would be best directed to someone familiar with estate settlement and beneficiary knowledge, possibly someone with legal experience in this field. VitalChek can assist with the ordering of vital records should you need them to prove relationship in these cases.
      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  12. I understand it is usually necessary to furnish a death certificate with the cause of death to an insurance company. Do you need to furnish a death certificate with the cause of death to a bank in order to transfer an IRA, or other security accounts to a beneficiary or will one without the cause sufficient?

    Thank you.

    1. Hello Debra and thank you for your question.

      This would really depend on the company and the nature of the account you are settling. In most situations a certified copy of a death certificate without cause is sufficient. To be safe and to avoid any delays it is best to contact each company to see what it is they require.
      If you need assistance ordering a death certificate you should be able to order on our VitalChek.com website https://www.vitalchek.com/death-certificates.
      For 25 years, VitalChek has been an official, government-authorized service for citizens to securely order certified death certificates and other vital records from official government agencies nationwide. Other online services may not be authorized by the agency issuing death records, and may charge additional fees without providing approved services or guaranteeing confidentiality of your data.

      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  13. I have an imediately important question that is distressing me. My mother passed away suddenly and very sadly of throat cancer (undiagnosed). Now we find ourselves in a conundrum. We are unable to obtain a death certificate to even put in an obit. She has many survivors who justly need to be mentioned and uncountedable friends that need to be informed. This is urgent as I have little time.

  14. Also… Please know that I have exhausted the above resources. I live in Tx.

    1. Hello Sandra. We’re sorry for the loss of your mother. Since we do not know all the circumstances surrounding your inability to get the death certificate, we can only suggest some different places to contact for guidance: The hospital or doctor who pronounced her death; the coroner; the funeral director who is handling her arrangements; the state and/or city vital records agency. We wish you the best during this difficult time and hope you are able to get the documentation you need.

  15. My Brother passes away July 10, 2016 and Left my mother the beneficiary of his life insurance policy. It has been almost 6 months and my mother has been getting the run around for my brother’s death certificate. My mother has contacted the funeral home,the corner and even vital records Austin TX. They keep telling it is in mail every time she contacts them. She had contacted each office multiple times. Why is it taking so long and what should she do? She should contact a lawyer?

    1. Hello Ron. We’re sorry to hear of your loss. It sounds as if your mother is contacting all the right agencies but not getting any useful information. It may be possible for her to order it online through the state or through VitalChek.com. She can contact us at vitals.research@vitalchek.com and we will try to assist her.

  16. I have been legally seperated for 6 yrs but we never filed for a divorce. What do I need to do about getting 2 copies of his death certificate?

    1. Good morning, Annette. States may have different guidelines regarding who is entitled to receive a vital record such as a death certificate. We suggest that you contact the vital records agency in the city/state where your husband passed away for more information as to whether you are entitled to copies of his death certificate since you were separated but not divorced.

  17. I have a copy of my brothers death certificate with his ex-with
    Signature but they’re divorced, but she as his wife. Will I have
    a problem with insurance company?

    1. Hello Janet. We’re sorry for your loss. States may have different entitlements so unfortunately, this is not a question we can answer for you. You may want to consider contacting the insurance company for further information or seeking legal counsel if necessary.

  18. My state doesn’t recognize common law marriage but I have documentation that we were getting married in 6 months after being together almost 10 years. Will those documents be recognized so that i can use that to get his life insurance policy? We have a child together and he has other children but his other children live in a300,000 home and don’t really struggle. Or daughter and I almost homeless and broke we need help.

    1. Hello Christine. We’re sorry to hear about your situation. We wish we could offer you more insight but all we can do is suggest you contact the insurance company to find out if they will recognize your long-standing relationship and the documentation you have regarding your plans to marry. We wish you the best.

  19. My father remarry without an original copy of my mom french death certificate . Is the marriage balid?

    1. Hello Barbara. We appreciate your question. Different states may have different requirements for getting a marriage license so it is possible he may not have needed your mother’s death certificate.

  20. My husband was Italian and died in Italy. In 2008. We were married in Arizona in 1995. I am an American with dual American/Italian citizenship.

    Do I need his death certificate to remarry in the US?

    1. Hello Gail. Thanks for reaching out with your question. Documentation requirements for receiving a marriage license may vary from state to state. If you are planning on remarrying, you may want to contact the agency responsible for issuing the marriage license to determine what documentation will be necessary or order a copy of the death certificate to have on hand.

  21. How do I get a copy of a death certificate with a raised seal.
    I was married for 28 yrs, I have been divorced for 10 yrs, now. I am having a problem getting a death certficate. I need this for social security. I have been getting getting the run around.

    1. Hello Carol. We suggest you contact the vital records agency in the city where the death took place for more information on how to go about obtaining the death certificate you need.

  22. My estranged husband died in Alabama in Feb 2017, After a run around I was able to get a copy of his Death Certificate because I am wanting to get remarried. His family put on his death Certificate “Never Married” I ordered a copy of our Marriage Certificate will having this plus his death certificate be enough to get remarried or do I need to try and amend his death certificate first?

    1. Hello April. We’re sorry to hear about your situation. The documentation necessary to receive a marriage license may vary from state to state. Therefore, we suggest you contact the agency that would be responsible for issuing you a marriage license for more information on the documentation you will need to provide.

  23. My husband just died a few days ago but his children are handling everything concerning his funeral. They don’t like me and have since failed to recognise our marriage. They also don’t wanna discuss anything concerning their father’s funeral arrangement with me. I have a copy of our marriage license . What should I do to get the copy of a death certificate?.

    1. Hello Cindy. We’re sorry for your loss. The simplest way to get certified copies of a death certificate may be to order them through the funeral home or mortuary handling the arrangements. You can also go to the local vital records office (usually a county clerk’s office) and order copies. Please be aware that you will need a separate certified copy for any claims you need to make including life insurance proceeds, Social Security benefits, payable on death accounts, veterans benefits, etc. We hope this information is helpful. Again, sorry for your loss.

  24. My Aunt is having problems trying to get her
    husband death certificate. She sent all the
    necessary documents and contacted the Funeral
    Home. But he
    Said he needed his daughters signature for
    whatever. Because she put him down as singled,
    but he is married. Now Vital Statictis says she
    Need to contact the state.

    1. Hello Fay. Sorry to hear about the issue your aunt is having trying to get her husband’s death certificate. Each state may have different entitlement rules for who is allowed to order and receive a death certificate. If your aunt listed him as having been single in the application, she will probably need to provide documentation proving they were still married in order to receive the death certificate.

  25. If the deceased is a beneficiary to someone’s life insurance do you need a death certificate to remove them.

    1. Hello Lashawna. The best course of action would be to reach out to the insurance company to determine what documentation they may need to remove a beneficiary.

  26. Is a death certificate sufficient enough to remove the deceased’s name from a vehicle they were a co-signer on?
    Or do you need family signatures as well?

    1. Hello Tammy. The answer to your question may vary depending on a number of factors including your location, etc. Therefore, your best course of action will probably be to contact the DMV to find out exactly what you need to provide in order to remove the name from the title.

  27. I am getting increasingly frustrated over the death certificate of my grandmother. I have the funeral book (the one that guests sign) with the date of her death, and I also have the cemetery burial record stating the day she was buried, but the state of New York or SSDi has no record of her death. Under what circumstance would someone die and not leave any record of it behind?

    1. Hello Susan. Sorry to hear you have been unable to obtain a death certificate for your grandmother. I don’t know how long ago your grandmother died, but is it possible to contact some of the different parties involved such as the Funeral Director, the Medical Examiner, etc. to see if they can assist you in determining why there is no record of death on file with the state?

  28. Hi,

    How can I order a death certificate of my husband’s ex wife? My husband is now dead too. I need the ex-wife death certificate to prove that I was legally married, this is for VA benefit purposes.

    1. Hello Carmen. Thanks for your question. Since you are not immediately entitled by relation to receive your husband’s ex-wife’s death certificate, you will need to show proof of legal need for it. You will probably want to contact the vital records office in the area where the ex-wife’s death occurred to find out what type of documentation you will required to provide in order to receive the death certificate.

  29. Please reply asap, if I am off by a couple of days on a DOD, but have SS # and all other information, will my application fail due to being of by 2 or 3 days?

    1. Hello April. It is more than like that the application will be denied if you do not provide the exact date of the event.

  30. My grandmother passed and I need to miss court will they require a death certificate ?

    1. Hello Chaz. You will need to contact the court to determine what type of documentation they will require for you to miss your court date.

  31. My grandmother passed away in April 2018 and my Mother is the person that signed my Grandmothers death certificate.
    My mothers sister is asking that my mom remove her name from the my Grandmothers death certificate, but has not provided a reason to why she wants my mom’s name removed, and replaced by my Aunt.
    What could be some of the reasons why my Aunt is asking my Mom to remove her name from the Death certificate?
    Any info is appreciated

    1. Hello Afriye. We are sorry for your loss. Unfortunately we cannot provide answers because we have no way of knowing why your aunt is requesting your Mom’s signature be removed from your grandmother’s death certificate. If you are in communication with her, you may want to just ask her.

  32. Why would grown daughters need a death certificate of their father when they had not been to see him in over 14 years? His second wife took care of him and provided for his needs. She is the beneficiary on the life insurance policy. He left the daughters a farm in trust that they have had for several years. Is a death certificate needed for a trust?

    1. Hello Barb. Thanks for reaching out with your question. It could be possible that presenting a death certificate may be required with regards to a trust and its functions.

  33. What do I do if a death certificate is lost and we still need to claim Father’s money.

    1. Hello Lydia.Since the death certificate in question is that of your father, you are more than likely legally entitled to request and receive a certified copy of it. If it is convenient, you may want to order it through the vital records agency in the area where your father passed. You can also use an online service such as VitalChek to place your order.

  34. Me and my wife were separated,for 11 years, unfortunately she died. Now I would like to get remarried but can’t get death certificate from funeral home or angry daughter. What can I do to move forward ?

    1. Thank you for your question Joseph. We’re sorry to hear about the loss of your wife. If you were still legally married at the time of her passing, you should typically be able to request a copy of her death certificate. In this case, you may be required to provide a copy of your marriage certificate to prove your relationship (based on the issuing agency’s regulations). If you were not legally married at the time of her passing, you will likely need to have one of her immediate family members request the certificate instead. For more information, you can visit the website of the vital record agency in the state and/or county where your wife passed away. Best Regards.

  35. I am trying to obtain a death certificate for a relative that passed away 15 years ago and am running into road blocks with my state, The deceased has no living immediate family and was never married or had any children. I am his Grand-Niece (his brothers granddaughter) So I do not qualify within the immediate family parameters to obtain the certificate. How do I go about doing this?

    1. Hello Jennifer. We are sorry to hear about the difficulties you are encountering trying to obtain your great uncles death certificate. Unfortunately, there are not uniform standards for entitlement to vital records. The requirements can vary from vital record agency to vital record agency. If you have not done so already, you may want to contact the vital records agency in the city/state where your great uncle passed away. Hopefully they can offer you some suggestions on how to proceed. Sorry we could not be of more assistance.

  36. Thank you so much for your response! I have checked with our vital records office and they told me that I had to prove “legal need” but I’m not exactly sure what that entails or how to go about doing that.. Do I need a lawyer? Would there maybe be a form that I could fill out that needs approval? No one at the offices could give me a real answer on that.

    1. Hello Jennifer. A couple of reasons that would represent legal need would be for the purposes of settling a will or collecting on an insurance policy. When ordering the certificate, you would indicate that you need it for legal purposes and will more than likely be required to provide documentation to prove the legal need.

  37. My Fiance’s wife passed away after they were separated. He never obtained a Death Certificate. Now we want to marry but he doesn’t know the exact date that she died or any burial details as her family is all in the Philippines and they were no longer together. Do we absolutely NEED a death certificate, are there any states that do not require one??

    1. Hello Joann. If your fiance knows the city where she passed and a general time frame of the passing, he may be able to apply for a death certificate. He may also want to conduct an internet search to see if her can determine the date of her death (perhaps there was an obituary posted). Regarding the need for a death certificate in order to get the marriage license, each state may have different requirements.

  38. How can I obtain a death certificate if I don’t the date the person died?
    I am living in Jamaica and my husband left for New York and didn’t return or try to make contact.
    He died some time in 2010 and was buried by the government because he was living on the streets. Now I need to remarry only to hear that I need to have the death certificate as proof of death. What can I do?

    1. Hello Antoinette. There are a couple of things you may want to do. First, you may want to check public records to see if you can find more information about when and where he died. Second, you can contact the vital records agency in NY to find out if they need an exact date of death or a date range. If he died in NYC (the boroughs of Manhattan, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Bronx, and Richmond (Staten Island)), you would contact NYC Health. If he died anywhere else in the state, you would contact NY State Department of Health.

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