How to Obtain a Death Certificate

In September 19, 2013

A death certificate is a legal record of proof that someone has died and is one of life’s most important documents. A death certificate contains sensitive information about the deceased person, which in some cases can include the cause of death and whether or not an autopsy was performed.

There are many legal uses for a certified death certificate including to stop, or transfer, social security and other benefits. Families typically need copies of the death certificate in order to settle affairs of a deceased loved one, which is required for probate. The DMV generally requires a death certificate to transfer ownership of a vehicle from the deceased to a rightful heir.

When a relative passes away it is often sudden and it may occur a great distance away. It is also possible for pertinent vital records to become lost, damaged or filed away in an unknown location. Rather than traveling to personally to obtain these records, choose VitalChek to obtain official, certified copies of the death certificate.

Requesting a certificate through VitalChek is fast, safe, and secure. By simply filling out an online form on, VitalChek will submit your request to the appropriate government agency to process. In most cases, you can receive your requested certificate within about a week.

VitalChek has worked directly with hundreds of official government agencies across the nation providing secure ordering services for over 25 years. If you are in need of a death certificate, or any other government-issued vital record such as a birth certificate or marriage record, be sure to use VitalChek’s online service today.


  1. I ordered Death Certificates on 2/5/15 and paid extra for the expedited shipping and I still have NOT received them. I have tried calling and leaving messages with NO response. Please contact me ASAP

    1. Thank you for your comment to one of our recent blog posts. For information about the status of your order, please email us at with your order number and we’ll be glad to assist you. Thank you.

  2. My Daughter’s she 26. Her Dad passed away unexpectedly & I was with him 28 yrs. & have a lot of his affairs that have to be taken care of, outside of all that. Don’t I have a right to his death certificate,since his name is on her birth certificate. I’m also beneficiary on his life insurance polices also. Some one told me I wasn’t entitled it. I tried to order it on line but don’t see an answer for what kind of relationship I would be listed under. Can someone please help me out. Thanks

    1. We are sorry to hear about your loss. Typically, any immediate family member (an adult child or spouse) is eligible or entitled to request and receive the death certificate. Some agencies may require proof of the relationship – which would be a certified copy of the marriage certificate (for a spouse ordering the death certificate) or the birth certificate showing the parent’s names (for an adult child ordering the death certificate). If you have further questions or would like assistance, please contact our Customer Support Team at 800-255-2414. Thank you.

    2. You are not Entitled you have to be Next Family of Kin ! No One who is Not Family of the Deceased Is allowed to Obtain these Records Except Family of a Relative. You Can Speak to a Family Member about Obtaining a Death Certificate but it Is Very Unlikely they will Give Permission . Good Luck !

      1. Hello Rachel thank you for your comment. Each state has a different list of entitled people who can obtain a death certificate. There are even some states that are “open’ meaning that anyone can obtain anyone’s record if they have the information for the search to be performed. If you have a specific state that you would like entitlement information for please feel free to contact our office at 1-800-255-2414.
        Nichole H.

  3. I placed an order for a death certificate February 22,2015. Still have not received any information. Had I had know that it would have taken so long I could have went to my local state. It is 05/06/15 customer service alerted me they are only working on Feb. 20th submissions. could be another week or 2 to even start processing.

    1. Thank you for your comment. If you’d like, you can email us at and we’ll be glad to research the status of your order for you. Thank you.

  4. My order was placed last month during which I provided a photo copy of my state issued drivers license. A couple days later I received an email stating that my identification did not meet Vitacheck guidlines for identification & that I should attach a copy of my state issued drivers license for verificaiton. I did. A few days later I recieved an email that stated I failed to supply a copy of my government state issued driver’s license & that my order was being cancelled. Who reivews the government issued ID’s & what is their problem? I need to bury my brother & the cemetery & I would like to bring closure to the pending internment.

    1. We apologize for any confusion our communications may have caused. Please email us at with your order number and we’ll be glad to research the situation for you so it can be completed as quickly as possible. Thank you.

  5. I want to order a death certificate from 1939. I have the records number but is cause of death printed on the certificate.? FYI: certificate MANHATTAN-******. If this helps.

    1. Thank you for the question. Whether or not the death certificate contains cause of death information is regulated by the Vital Record Agency issuing the certificate. For security purposes, they may restrict who can receive a death certificate with cause of death to immediate family members and those with a legal reason (i.e. insurance, etc.). Feel free to email us at with your specific information, and our Customer Support Team will be glad to assist you. Thank you.

  6. I was wondering if a half brother could obtain a Death Certificate! Thanks!

    1. Hello Veronica and thank you for your question!- The list of entitled people vary from state to state. Quite a few states allow half siblings to order. Some locations will ask for proof of relationship such as a birth certificate listing the mutual parent. To find out if a sibling or half sibling is entitle to order in the state you’re referencing you can contact that state’s vital records office.
      Thank you.

  7. I have a question my daughters father passed away a month in a half before she was born and he didn’t sign the birth certificate when she was born but she carries his last name. is there anyway that I am entitled to receive the death certificate?

    1. Hello Angel and thank you for your question.
      Each state has there own set of rules for entitlement. Depending on the state he passed away in will determine if you are entitle to his death certificate. Please contact the state vital records office where he passed away and they will be able to give you more information.
      If you need assistance locating that state vital records office contact information please provide us with the state and we will be more than happy to assist you.
      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  8. I need someone’s death certificate but I am not a relative. Will I be able to get it?

    1. Thanks for your question. In most cases, only immediate family members or those legally entitled (such as a Funeral Home representative or family attorney) are typically the only people able to request and receive an individual’s death certificate. However, since each location has different regulations, it would be best to check with the vital record agency responsible for issuing the individual’s death certificate for specifics on who can receive that record. Thank you.

  9. My brother passed away last year. As a brother, can I order a death certificate on him? I started to do the on-line application and the drop down does not show “brother” in the relationship to the deceased.


    1. Our condolences on your loss. In most cases, any immediate family member can order an individual’s death certificate; however, each agency has their own rules and regulations which may be different. If “brother” is not listed in the relationship field, perhaps “sibling” is and that would be the choice to use. If neither of those are available, you may need to have another family member who is listed in the relationship field place the order, or contact the vital record agency directly to see if an exception can be made in your situation. Thank you.

  10. I have almost a 13 year daugther and her father passed away 2 years ago he lived in New York. We was never married and i live in Mexico for 10 years now and married and have a other child now. When he was alive he use to help take her passports out. Now I have no way of getting his death certificate and i need it to renew her passport. I have pictures of his tomb stone and his funeral and a court order when i had custody can i use just that.? What do I need to do?

    1. Hello Sofia and thank you for your question.
      To find out what you will need to obtain your daughters passport please contact the closest passport agency. If you are in need of her fathers death certificate you will need to know where he passed away; state? city? county? date? name at the time of death? If you need assistance ordering his death certificate you can contact our office at 1-800-255-2414 and we’ll be happy to assist or at least point you in the right direction.
      Nichole H.

      1. Hola Nichole I’m trying to call the number you wrote but it’s not working do you have another number I can contact please.

        1. Hello Sofia, You can contact us by phone at 1-800-255-2414 or email us at We’ll be happy to assist you.

  11. Can I get my oldest brothers death certificate for genealogy purposes? He died several years ago. His widow will not let me see his, all I need to see how many children my mother had and how many were living at the time of his birth.

    1. Hello Maria and thank you for your question.

      Each state has a list of people that are considered to be “entitle” to a death certificate, this list varies from each location. You can contact our office at 1-800-255-2414 and we’ll be happy to look at the specific state your brother passed away in to see if a sibling can order.

      Thank you,
      Nichole H.

  12. My Dad died in 2007 and he was in good health.. He was admitted to the hospital, because he fell and broke 2 ribs… 4 days later he died…I have a Certificate of Death, but I don’t know the cause…it’s not on the certificate, and no one is talking.. All I want to know is the cause, so I can put it down for family records. Any suggestions?

    1. Hello Marcelle. Thank you for your question. We recommend you contact the vital records office in the county where you father died to see if they can provide more information as to his cause of death. You could also visit to see if we offer online order processing of death certificates in that county and whether there is a more comprehensive certificate available.

  13. My Sister pass away l needed her death certificate because I had given her a at six month before her death after her unexpected passing I wanted to transfer the car I gave her to my ill niece that needed a car. l called Vital statistics 3 times and was told I was not the Forman on the dealth certificate ( which was my nephew whom she made him benificary when the was two years old) over 30 years ago.why wasn’t I allowed to get a copy to transfer this car although I was next of kin and the only one taking care of her. I had a copy of title when I signed it over to her, I had the bill that my husband payed $800.00 to fix it so she’d have something safe to drive and I had the the copy of the receipt for the bill of sales. Omaha nebr

    1. Hello Jean. Sorry for your loss. Every state has its own regulations about who is eligible to receive certificates. If you have already contacted the state and they have determined you are not eligible to receive the certificate, you may have to explore other avenues such as getting a copy of the death certificate from a family member who is eligible to receive it if possible.

  14. An attorney stole all my reserves from his atty client trust and gave me a note and I took over ownership of a life insurance policy as collateral. He was to have paid the premiums of $300 a month and did so for only 3 months and I have paid them for 10 years now. Turns out he passed away Mar 19, 2015 which I have just discovered but insurance company says I must obtain a certified death certificate to which I am not entitled as I am not a relative. I don’t know anyone but his ex-wife an sons who will not cooperate and I am not sure she was entitled either. What can I do??? I have his social security number and so does the insurance company. To much money is at stake and I am still paying the premiums.

    1. Hello Maureen. Sorry to hear about your predicament. Unfortunately, if you cannot get a copy of the death certificate from one of his family members, you will most likely need to seek legal representation to get his resolved. We wish you luck.

  15. My husband passed away in Idaho. We were separated but not divorced at the time of death. His grandma mother stated in the death certificate that we were divorced now I am trying to get a copy with me listed as the widow and for some reason I have to prove that we were still married.. How do I do that when I have no children with him nor did I keep anything from our home. I’m lost and need help. When I ordered from vital check I get charged but I can’t seem to be told what to do to get this fixed… Do I need to file a police report against the grandmother for fraud? Please just want closure it’s been almost 4 yrs

    1. Hello Sandra. We’re sorry to hear about your situation. Idaho lists mother, father, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild, guardian/legal representative as those entitled to receive a death certificate. We suggest that you contact the agency that issued the death certificate to find out what you need to do to correct the death certificate. Be sure to find out if you would be entitled to the certificate if your marriage status is changed from divorced to legally separated. If so, you may want to consider seeking legal representation to correct this error. You mentioned that you tried to order the certificate through VitalChek. If you have questions regarding that order, please contact us at Best wishes in getting this resolved.

  16. We have recently been doing ancestry digging and are trying to get answers on how to obtain a birth and death certificate of my Aunt. My Aunt died at the age of 2 from eating rat poison. She died in St. Francis Arkansas on December 15, 1946, she was born in 1944 (we are not sure of the actual birthdate). She was only 2 thus having no children of her own. Her grandparents and parents are dead. Can my mother, her sister, obtain her records?

    1. Hello Karen. Thanks for reaching out to us with your question. Each state has it’s own set of rules governing entitlement for obtaining vital records. The state of Arkansas states that entitlement is limited to immediate family only. Click here to visit their website. We suggest that your mother contact Arkansas Vital Records at 800-637-9314 for more information on the requirements to obtain her deceased sister’s birth and death records. We hope this information points you in the right direction.

  17. Hi my daughter dad had past away but didnt have other select because wasnt married what to do because selected spouse and send my daughter birth certificate i have never did this before please help.

    1. Hello KeeKee. Thanks for reaching out to us. If you wish to order a certificate through and need assistance, please email us at

  18. As a software engineer it still amazes me that computer systems are linked together to be able to perform country wide searches. I am unaware the exact location of my father’s death but I do know where he is buried and I do know where he lived. Yet VitalChek was unable to provide me a death certificate without know the location of his death. Yet, they still charged me full price. I can understand charging me processing fees, but to charge me for a document that they can’t provide seems shady to me. I have used VitalChek in the past while doing genealogical work, but I will do my best to avoid using them from here on out.

    1. Hello Mr. Kurpiers. We’re sorry to hear about the issues you are experiencing trying to obtain your father’s death certificate. Please private message us through facebook or email us at so we can look into this for you.

  19. Hello my daughter who is 16 her father passed away Before she was born we were never married and now I need a death cert to get her a
    passport am I entitled to it?

    1. Hello Catriona. Each state may have different rules for entitlement with regards to birth and death certificates and other vital records. We suggest you contact the vital records agency in the area where her father’s death occurred to determine what steps you need to take to obtain a copy of his death certificate.

  20. Hello, is it possible to obtain my grandmother’s death certificate? Before my father passed away, he told me that there were savings bonds in his safety deposit box that he wanted me and my co-executor brother to cash. The bonds were gifted to my father throughout his adult life by my grandmother. We were told that we need her death certificate. How do we go about this? Thank you for taking the time to advise!

    1. One more thing, my father intended the savings bonds to be cashed after his passing, as an addition to our inheritance. I didn’t make that part clear.

      1. Hello Carrie. Each state sets their own guidelines for entitlement to vital records. In many instances, adult grandchildren are entitled to receive their grandparents’ vital records. You may want to call the vital records agency that issued your grandmother’s death certificate…this would be the vital records agency in the area where her death took place. They can provide you with their list of entitlement.

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