Estate Planning

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

Joel Lim

|

November 24, 2023

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

death certificate copies

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

If you’re wondering how many copies of a death certificate you should get after a loved one’s passing, a few decision-making factors come into play.

You might struggle with exactly how many copies will fit your needs. This guide covers how to decide on the appropriate number of death certificate copies. We’ll also provide tips and insights to help you be well-prepared to obtain them.

Key Takeaways

  • Death certificates are needed to validate and confirm the person’s death in a legal matter. 

  • The number of copies greatly depends on the number of accounts and government services the deceased person had prior to death. 

  • Getting a death certificate can be stressful and time-consuming. Some easy tips can help reduce the time it takes to acquire one.

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

death certificate copies

The number of copies of a death certificate varies depending on your specific needs. The most common number experts recommend is anywhere between 8 to 12. This is a safe buffer in case any get lost or damaged.

That might sound like a lot, but you need to consider all the places that will ask for it. Death certificates are typically needed for canceling accounts or for administrative purposes required by law.

Funeral Director, Abby Schilling, explains:

“The average is 8-12 originals. However, it is very different for every person and dependent on how many assets the deceased had in their name. Assets to consider include insurance policies, credit life insurance, employer benefits, vehicle titles, real estate titles, stocks & bonds, income tax returns, social security, utilities, financial institutions and attorneys.”

It’s important to know in most cases, you won’t get the death certificate back from the business that asked you for it. They usually need to keep it for record purposes.

Also, consider other family members. They may request a copy for their records in case they ever have to prove their loved one’s death.

Unfortunately, copies aren't cheap, either. In most places, they cost $5-25 for each certificate and have a base fee. For example, it would cost $423.50 in Washington State for 15 death certificates because it’s $25 per certificate and $48.50 as a base fee.

However, they’re worth the investment, as they are required to close accounts and address other legal purposes.

Why Do You Need a Death Certificate?

why do you need a death certificate

Getting a death certificate is an important document to have for a variety of legal reasons. Here are examples of why you should consider getting a death certificate for a loved one.

Legal Evidence of Proof of Death

The most common reason for getting a death certificate is for proof of death. The government issues a death certificate. It officially recognizes the person named on the certificate is longer present.

Having an official document proving one’s death helps prevent people from giving misinformation and using it for malicious purposes, such as insurance fraud. By having proof, you can provide institutions with proof of death.

Insurance Claims

Speaking of insurance claims, you can only collect funds from a paid life insurance policy by providing an official death certificate.

Other types of insurance, such as Accidental and Dismemberment (AD&D) and mortgage Protection Insurance, also require a death certificate if you make a claim. Without the certificate as proof, you will have no legal leg to stand on to make any sort of claim.

Social Security and Pensions

When a family member dies, you can try to transfer the deceased person’s retirement pension ownership to another beneficiary.

Doing so will require a death certificate of the deceased person, along with other legal documentation as proof of having a known relationship with the person.

Providing a certificate of death to the Social Security Administration will also allow the possibility of survivor benefit payments to be distributed to the deceased person’s family if eligible.

Personal and Family-Related Matters

A death certificate is often used to help settle family conflicts and other personal matters left behind.

Not having a death certificate will impose challenges pertaining to collecting any inheritances. Estate settlements will require a death certificate for asset collection and distribution to be allowed legally. 

Funeral and Burial Requirements

If you plan on giving a loved one a funeral, count on getting a death certificate. Most funeral homes and cemeteries need proof of death before proceeding in any kind of service.

Even if they have possession of the remains, they still need to have the document to prevent complications that could delay the service in handling the remains.

Fraud and Identity Theft Prevention

Another big reason to get a death certificate is to reduce the chances of identity theft of the chosen person.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cyber thieves to steal a deceased person’s identity. Some thieves strategically monitor obituaries posted and target those containing enough information to forge an identity and use it for fraudulent charges.

By getting a death certificate, banks and insurance organizations will immediately send out notifications of the person’s death to other credit unions to ensure no one opens accounts with that person’s information.

A general tip to prevent identity theft of a deceased person is not to not share too much personal information that could lead to a breach of identity. An example of sharing too much personal information would be putting their address and Mother Maiden’s name in a public obituary.

Factors That Influence How Many Death Certificates to Get

factors that influence how many death certificates to get

Many factors could entice you to get multiple copies of a death certificate. Here are some of the most common.

Legal and Administrative Purposes

A major reason for having copies of a death certificate is to fulfill the legal and administrative purposes required to close accounts, stop government benefits, and make claims on insurance policies.

Anything pertaining to government services will ask for a death certificate as legal proof of death. Doing a probate for the will, stopping social security benefits, transferring retirement pensions, and making changes to the deceased person’s tax filing status won’t be possible without the death certificate.

Additionally, banks and insurance companies must have a death certificate to make changes or to stop services to the deceased person’s account.

If you’re responsible for closing accounts and managing services for the deceased person, you will need to have quite a few copies to give to each service provider.

Family Size

A big family can complicate things, especially if inheritance is involved.

Inheritances spread out to many family members and beneficiaries will result in the need for more than one copy of the death certificate. In most cases, family members only get access to the inherence if they have legal proof to show it.

Managing the deceased person’s account is also sometimes distributed between family members. Even if you are not responsible for the process, having copies for other family members can make it more convenient for them.

Lastly, it never hurts to have a copy of a death certificate stored with other family documents in case a situation arises requiring it.

Funeral Services

As previously mentioned, funeral services need a death certificate to provide services, and it’s often required by law. If they provide a funeral service and do not get a certificate proving the person is deceased, they risk getting in legal trouble for not following the regulations in place.

Another factor is they cannot get authorization from other services within to follow through, such as the plans for burial and cremation services. Those services have other authoritative figures in place who are also required to ask for death certificates to follow government regulations.

There are also financial aspects. If a life insurance claim is paying for the service, the funeral home will contact the insurance company. They need to ensure the documents and information they have are aligned with what’s provided to them.

Unforeseen Circumstances

There is always the possibility a situation could arise requiring you or another beneficiary to have a death certificate handy.

Unclaimed assets or debts that get discovered later are some of the most common situations that occur. For example, you may find the person had another bank account in another place.

Or, if you’re interested in doing genealogical research on the deceased person’s family, there could be an instance prompting the need for a death certificate to confirm certain details.

Tips for Getting Death Certificates

tips for getting death certificates

Below are some pointers you should follow to ensure the process of obtaining a death certificate goes smoothly.

Have Identification & Documents Ready

Getting a death certificate will require you to gather the necessary documents containing information about the deceased person, and some from your part, for verification purposes.

You need to have the deceased person’s identification documents, such as a valid ID and social security number. They will also likely ask for medical records and a document reporting the incident of death.

Keeping track of these required documents can be overwhelming. Luckily, Trustworthy offers a convenient way to store and organize your important family documents all in one place.

Verify Any Fees Before Hand

Death certificate prices can vary depending on the organization you do business with.

Some places may offer you the first copy free but charge for others. Some will make you pay for the first copy regardless. If you plan on making any copies, you should plan accordingly on how much the total will cost. 

Contact the business you wish to get the certificate from to clarify the total cost. Some places have hidden fees, such as processing and third-party services, that they may not mention until it’s time for the initial checkout.

Consider Doing an Online Method Instead

If you want to make getting a death certificate as seamless as possible, consider getting the certificate online rather than in person.

The benefit of online is you do not have to provide physical documentation to the business. Online services are typically more automated, which means avoiding wasting time on things such as waiting on other customers or the potential of making more mistakes.

Some online certificate services charge a little extra for the conveyance factor. However, it’s a consideration if it makes the process faster and less stressful.

Consider Expedited Certificate Services

Another way to save even more time is to opt-in for any expected death certificate options available.

Expedited services are excellent if you need the certificate promptly. The service providers typically view these services as a higher priority. They’ll put additional effort into delivering the final product with high-quality standards.

Like most premium services, you’ll pay extra for it, and prices vary. For some, it might not be practical to do an opted-certified plan, but it’s there for those who need it.

Check for Errors

The first thing you should always do when you receive your death certificate is to check for errors.

Errors can come in the form of grammatical or misinformation mistakes. Unfortunately, even when using an automated system, there is always a small chance it could happen.

If you notice any mistakes, you should contact the death certificate providers. They should understand and issue you another certificate (or more if paid for copies) if they believe the mistake was made by the service provider.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who needs death certificates when someone dies?

Outside of funeral services, many other business and service providers require a deceased person’s death certificate when managing their accounts. Places like banks, insurance firms, government services, and even subscriptions and utility bills need proof of death to close all accounts and recurring payments to the deceased person.

Are death records public?

Death records are protected under privacy laws in most states. However, some basic information, such as the name of the person, and date and place of death, is considered public information. More sensitive information in death records is limited to family or specific instances where the law allows it, such as open court cases.

How do I get a copy of a death certificate?

You can acquire a death certificate from vital record offices and funeral service providers in most cities or online. To get a death certificate on behalf of someone, you will need to provide documentation of the deceased person containing information regarding their identity, such as name, address, date of birth and social security number.

How long does it take to issue a death certificate?

The time to get a death certificate varies depending on the service and where you get it. Typically, standard processing and mailing can take between a few days to several weeks, depending on how busy the service provider is. Vitacheck online can range from a few days to one week, maximum.

Estate Planning

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

Joel Lim

|

November 24, 2023

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

If you’re wondering how many copies of a death certificate you should get after a loved one’s passing, a few decision-making factors come into play.

You might struggle with exactly how many copies will fit your needs. This guide covers how to decide on the appropriate number of death certificate copies. We’ll also provide tips and insights to help you be well-prepared to obtain them.

Key Takeaways

  • Death certificates are needed to validate and confirm the person’s death in a legal matter. 

  • The number of copies greatly depends on the number of accounts and government services the deceased person had prior to death. 

  • Getting a death certificate can be stressful and time-consuming. Some easy tips can help reduce the time it takes to acquire one.

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

death certificate copies

The number of copies of a death certificate varies depending on your specific needs. The most common number experts recommend is anywhere between 8 to 12. This is a safe buffer in case any get lost or damaged.

That might sound like a lot, but you need to consider all the places that will ask for it. Death certificates are typically needed for canceling accounts or for administrative purposes required by law.

Funeral Director, Abby Schilling, explains:

“The average is 8-12 originals. However, it is very different for every person and dependent on how many assets the deceased had in their name. Assets to consider include insurance policies, credit life insurance, employer benefits, vehicle titles, real estate titles, stocks & bonds, income tax returns, social security, utilities, financial institutions and attorneys.”

It’s important to know in most cases, you won’t get the death certificate back from the business that asked you for it. They usually need to keep it for record purposes.

Also, consider other family members. They may request a copy for their records in case they ever have to prove their loved one’s death.

Unfortunately, copies aren't cheap, either. In most places, they cost $5-25 for each certificate and have a base fee. For example, it would cost $423.50 in Washington State for 15 death certificates because it’s $25 per certificate and $48.50 as a base fee.

However, they’re worth the investment, as they are required to close accounts and address other legal purposes.

Why Do You Need a Death Certificate?

why do you need a death certificate

Getting a death certificate is an important document to have for a variety of legal reasons. Here are examples of why you should consider getting a death certificate for a loved one.

Legal Evidence of Proof of Death

The most common reason for getting a death certificate is for proof of death. The government issues a death certificate. It officially recognizes the person named on the certificate is longer present.

Having an official document proving one’s death helps prevent people from giving misinformation and using it for malicious purposes, such as insurance fraud. By having proof, you can provide institutions with proof of death.

Insurance Claims

Speaking of insurance claims, you can only collect funds from a paid life insurance policy by providing an official death certificate.

Other types of insurance, such as Accidental and Dismemberment (AD&D) and mortgage Protection Insurance, also require a death certificate if you make a claim. Without the certificate as proof, you will have no legal leg to stand on to make any sort of claim.

Social Security and Pensions

When a family member dies, you can try to transfer the deceased person’s retirement pension ownership to another beneficiary.

Doing so will require a death certificate of the deceased person, along with other legal documentation as proof of having a known relationship with the person.

Providing a certificate of death to the Social Security Administration will also allow the possibility of survivor benefit payments to be distributed to the deceased person’s family if eligible.

Personal and Family-Related Matters

A death certificate is often used to help settle family conflicts and other personal matters left behind.

Not having a death certificate will impose challenges pertaining to collecting any inheritances. Estate settlements will require a death certificate for asset collection and distribution to be allowed legally. 

Funeral and Burial Requirements

If you plan on giving a loved one a funeral, count on getting a death certificate. Most funeral homes and cemeteries need proof of death before proceeding in any kind of service.

Even if they have possession of the remains, they still need to have the document to prevent complications that could delay the service in handling the remains.

Fraud and Identity Theft Prevention

Another big reason to get a death certificate is to reduce the chances of identity theft of the chosen person.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cyber thieves to steal a deceased person’s identity. Some thieves strategically monitor obituaries posted and target those containing enough information to forge an identity and use it for fraudulent charges.

By getting a death certificate, banks and insurance organizations will immediately send out notifications of the person’s death to other credit unions to ensure no one opens accounts with that person’s information.

A general tip to prevent identity theft of a deceased person is not to not share too much personal information that could lead to a breach of identity. An example of sharing too much personal information would be putting their address and Mother Maiden’s name in a public obituary.

Factors That Influence How Many Death Certificates to Get

factors that influence how many death certificates to get

Many factors could entice you to get multiple copies of a death certificate. Here are some of the most common.

Legal and Administrative Purposes

A major reason for having copies of a death certificate is to fulfill the legal and administrative purposes required to close accounts, stop government benefits, and make claims on insurance policies.

Anything pertaining to government services will ask for a death certificate as legal proof of death. Doing a probate for the will, stopping social security benefits, transferring retirement pensions, and making changes to the deceased person’s tax filing status won’t be possible without the death certificate.

Additionally, banks and insurance companies must have a death certificate to make changes or to stop services to the deceased person’s account.

If you’re responsible for closing accounts and managing services for the deceased person, you will need to have quite a few copies to give to each service provider.

Family Size

A big family can complicate things, especially if inheritance is involved.

Inheritances spread out to many family members and beneficiaries will result in the need for more than one copy of the death certificate. In most cases, family members only get access to the inherence if they have legal proof to show it.

Managing the deceased person’s account is also sometimes distributed between family members. Even if you are not responsible for the process, having copies for other family members can make it more convenient for them.

Lastly, it never hurts to have a copy of a death certificate stored with other family documents in case a situation arises requiring it.

Funeral Services

As previously mentioned, funeral services need a death certificate to provide services, and it’s often required by law. If they provide a funeral service and do not get a certificate proving the person is deceased, they risk getting in legal trouble for not following the regulations in place.

Another factor is they cannot get authorization from other services within to follow through, such as the plans for burial and cremation services. Those services have other authoritative figures in place who are also required to ask for death certificates to follow government regulations.

There are also financial aspects. If a life insurance claim is paying for the service, the funeral home will contact the insurance company. They need to ensure the documents and information they have are aligned with what’s provided to them.

Unforeseen Circumstances

There is always the possibility a situation could arise requiring you or another beneficiary to have a death certificate handy.

Unclaimed assets or debts that get discovered later are some of the most common situations that occur. For example, you may find the person had another bank account in another place.

Or, if you’re interested in doing genealogical research on the deceased person’s family, there could be an instance prompting the need for a death certificate to confirm certain details.

Tips for Getting Death Certificates

tips for getting death certificates

Below are some pointers you should follow to ensure the process of obtaining a death certificate goes smoothly.

Have Identification & Documents Ready

Getting a death certificate will require you to gather the necessary documents containing information about the deceased person, and some from your part, for verification purposes.

You need to have the deceased person’s identification documents, such as a valid ID and social security number. They will also likely ask for medical records and a document reporting the incident of death.

Keeping track of these required documents can be overwhelming. Luckily, Trustworthy offers a convenient way to store and organize your important family documents all in one place.

Verify Any Fees Before Hand

Death certificate prices can vary depending on the organization you do business with.

Some places may offer you the first copy free but charge for others. Some will make you pay for the first copy regardless. If you plan on making any copies, you should plan accordingly on how much the total will cost. 

Contact the business you wish to get the certificate from to clarify the total cost. Some places have hidden fees, such as processing and third-party services, that they may not mention until it’s time for the initial checkout.

Consider Doing an Online Method Instead

If you want to make getting a death certificate as seamless as possible, consider getting the certificate online rather than in person.

The benefit of online is you do not have to provide physical documentation to the business. Online services are typically more automated, which means avoiding wasting time on things such as waiting on other customers or the potential of making more mistakes.

Some online certificate services charge a little extra for the conveyance factor. However, it’s a consideration if it makes the process faster and less stressful.

Consider Expedited Certificate Services

Another way to save even more time is to opt-in for any expected death certificate options available.

Expedited services are excellent if you need the certificate promptly. The service providers typically view these services as a higher priority. They’ll put additional effort into delivering the final product with high-quality standards.

Like most premium services, you’ll pay extra for it, and prices vary. For some, it might not be practical to do an opted-certified plan, but it’s there for those who need it.

Check for Errors

The first thing you should always do when you receive your death certificate is to check for errors.

Errors can come in the form of grammatical or misinformation mistakes. Unfortunately, even when using an automated system, there is always a small chance it could happen.

If you notice any mistakes, you should contact the death certificate providers. They should understand and issue you another certificate (or more if paid for copies) if they believe the mistake was made by the service provider.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who needs death certificates when someone dies?

Outside of funeral services, many other business and service providers require a deceased person’s death certificate when managing their accounts. Places like banks, insurance firms, government services, and even subscriptions and utility bills need proof of death to close all accounts and recurring payments to the deceased person.

Are death records public?

Death records are protected under privacy laws in most states. However, some basic information, such as the name of the person, and date and place of death, is considered public information. More sensitive information in death records is limited to family or specific instances where the law allows it, such as open court cases.

How do I get a copy of a death certificate?

You can acquire a death certificate from vital record offices and funeral service providers in most cities or online. To get a death certificate on behalf of someone, you will need to provide documentation of the deceased person containing information regarding their identity, such as name, address, date of birth and social security number.

How long does it take to issue a death certificate?

The time to get a death certificate varies depending on the service and where you get it. Typically, standard processing and mailing can take between a few days to several weeks, depending on how busy the service provider is. Vitacheck online can range from a few days to one week, maximum.

Estate Planning

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

Joel Lim

|

November 24, 2023

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

death certificate copies

The intelligent digital vault for families

Trustworthy protects and optimizes important family information so you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind

If you’re wondering how many copies of a death certificate you should get after a loved one’s passing, a few decision-making factors come into play.

You might struggle with exactly how many copies will fit your needs. This guide covers how to decide on the appropriate number of death certificate copies. We’ll also provide tips and insights to help you be well-prepared to obtain them.

Key Takeaways

  • Death certificates are needed to validate and confirm the person’s death in a legal matter. 

  • The number of copies greatly depends on the number of accounts and government services the deceased person had prior to death. 

  • Getting a death certificate can be stressful and time-consuming. Some easy tips can help reduce the time it takes to acquire one.

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

death certificate copies

The number of copies of a death certificate varies depending on your specific needs. The most common number experts recommend is anywhere between 8 to 12. This is a safe buffer in case any get lost or damaged.

That might sound like a lot, but you need to consider all the places that will ask for it. Death certificates are typically needed for canceling accounts or for administrative purposes required by law.

Funeral Director, Abby Schilling, explains:

“The average is 8-12 originals. However, it is very different for every person and dependent on how many assets the deceased had in their name. Assets to consider include insurance policies, credit life insurance, employer benefits, vehicle titles, real estate titles, stocks & bonds, income tax returns, social security, utilities, financial institutions and attorneys.”

It’s important to know in most cases, you won’t get the death certificate back from the business that asked you for it. They usually need to keep it for record purposes.

Also, consider other family members. They may request a copy for their records in case they ever have to prove their loved one’s death.

Unfortunately, copies aren't cheap, either. In most places, they cost $5-25 for each certificate and have a base fee. For example, it would cost $423.50 in Washington State for 15 death certificates because it’s $25 per certificate and $48.50 as a base fee.

However, they’re worth the investment, as they are required to close accounts and address other legal purposes.

Why Do You Need a Death Certificate?

why do you need a death certificate

Getting a death certificate is an important document to have for a variety of legal reasons. Here are examples of why you should consider getting a death certificate for a loved one.

Legal Evidence of Proof of Death

The most common reason for getting a death certificate is for proof of death. The government issues a death certificate. It officially recognizes the person named on the certificate is longer present.

Having an official document proving one’s death helps prevent people from giving misinformation and using it for malicious purposes, such as insurance fraud. By having proof, you can provide institutions with proof of death.

Insurance Claims

Speaking of insurance claims, you can only collect funds from a paid life insurance policy by providing an official death certificate.

Other types of insurance, such as Accidental and Dismemberment (AD&D) and mortgage Protection Insurance, also require a death certificate if you make a claim. Without the certificate as proof, you will have no legal leg to stand on to make any sort of claim.

Social Security and Pensions

When a family member dies, you can try to transfer the deceased person’s retirement pension ownership to another beneficiary.

Doing so will require a death certificate of the deceased person, along with other legal documentation as proof of having a known relationship with the person.

Providing a certificate of death to the Social Security Administration will also allow the possibility of survivor benefit payments to be distributed to the deceased person’s family if eligible.

Personal and Family-Related Matters

A death certificate is often used to help settle family conflicts and other personal matters left behind.

Not having a death certificate will impose challenges pertaining to collecting any inheritances. Estate settlements will require a death certificate for asset collection and distribution to be allowed legally. 

Funeral and Burial Requirements

If you plan on giving a loved one a funeral, count on getting a death certificate. Most funeral homes and cemeteries need proof of death before proceeding in any kind of service.

Even if they have possession of the remains, they still need to have the document to prevent complications that could delay the service in handling the remains.

Fraud and Identity Theft Prevention

Another big reason to get a death certificate is to reduce the chances of identity theft of the chosen person.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cyber thieves to steal a deceased person’s identity. Some thieves strategically monitor obituaries posted and target those containing enough information to forge an identity and use it for fraudulent charges.

By getting a death certificate, banks and insurance organizations will immediately send out notifications of the person’s death to other credit unions to ensure no one opens accounts with that person’s information.

A general tip to prevent identity theft of a deceased person is not to not share too much personal information that could lead to a breach of identity. An example of sharing too much personal information would be putting their address and Mother Maiden’s name in a public obituary.

Factors That Influence How Many Death Certificates to Get

factors that influence how many death certificates to get

Many factors could entice you to get multiple copies of a death certificate. Here are some of the most common.

Legal and Administrative Purposes

A major reason for having copies of a death certificate is to fulfill the legal and administrative purposes required to close accounts, stop government benefits, and make claims on insurance policies.

Anything pertaining to government services will ask for a death certificate as legal proof of death. Doing a probate for the will, stopping social security benefits, transferring retirement pensions, and making changes to the deceased person’s tax filing status won’t be possible without the death certificate.

Additionally, banks and insurance companies must have a death certificate to make changes or to stop services to the deceased person’s account.

If you’re responsible for closing accounts and managing services for the deceased person, you will need to have quite a few copies to give to each service provider.

Family Size

A big family can complicate things, especially if inheritance is involved.

Inheritances spread out to many family members and beneficiaries will result in the need for more than one copy of the death certificate. In most cases, family members only get access to the inherence if they have legal proof to show it.

Managing the deceased person’s account is also sometimes distributed between family members. Even if you are not responsible for the process, having copies for other family members can make it more convenient for them.

Lastly, it never hurts to have a copy of a death certificate stored with other family documents in case a situation arises requiring it.

Funeral Services

As previously mentioned, funeral services need a death certificate to provide services, and it’s often required by law. If they provide a funeral service and do not get a certificate proving the person is deceased, they risk getting in legal trouble for not following the regulations in place.

Another factor is they cannot get authorization from other services within to follow through, such as the plans for burial and cremation services. Those services have other authoritative figures in place who are also required to ask for death certificates to follow government regulations.

There are also financial aspects. If a life insurance claim is paying for the service, the funeral home will contact the insurance company. They need to ensure the documents and information they have are aligned with what’s provided to them.

Unforeseen Circumstances

There is always the possibility a situation could arise requiring you or another beneficiary to have a death certificate handy.

Unclaimed assets or debts that get discovered later are some of the most common situations that occur. For example, you may find the person had another bank account in another place.

Or, if you’re interested in doing genealogical research on the deceased person’s family, there could be an instance prompting the need for a death certificate to confirm certain details.

Tips for Getting Death Certificates

tips for getting death certificates

Below are some pointers you should follow to ensure the process of obtaining a death certificate goes smoothly.

Have Identification & Documents Ready

Getting a death certificate will require you to gather the necessary documents containing information about the deceased person, and some from your part, for verification purposes.

You need to have the deceased person’s identification documents, such as a valid ID and social security number. They will also likely ask for medical records and a document reporting the incident of death.

Keeping track of these required documents can be overwhelming. Luckily, Trustworthy offers a convenient way to store and organize your important family documents all in one place.

Verify Any Fees Before Hand

Death certificate prices can vary depending on the organization you do business with.

Some places may offer you the first copy free but charge for others. Some will make you pay for the first copy regardless. If you plan on making any copies, you should plan accordingly on how much the total will cost. 

Contact the business you wish to get the certificate from to clarify the total cost. Some places have hidden fees, such as processing and third-party services, that they may not mention until it’s time for the initial checkout.

Consider Doing an Online Method Instead

If you want to make getting a death certificate as seamless as possible, consider getting the certificate online rather than in person.

The benefit of online is you do not have to provide physical documentation to the business. Online services are typically more automated, which means avoiding wasting time on things such as waiting on other customers or the potential of making more mistakes.

Some online certificate services charge a little extra for the conveyance factor. However, it’s a consideration if it makes the process faster and less stressful.

Consider Expedited Certificate Services

Another way to save even more time is to opt-in for any expected death certificate options available.

Expedited services are excellent if you need the certificate promptly. The service providers typically view these services as a higher priority. They’ll put additional effort into delivering the final product with high-quality standards.

Like most premium services, you’ll pay extra for it, and prices vary. For some, it might not be practical to do an opted-certified plan, but it’s there for those who need it.

Check for Errors

The first thing you should always do when you receive your death certificate is to check for errors.

Errors can come in the form of grammatical or misinformation mistakes. Unfortunately, even when using an automated system, there is always a small chance it could happen.

If you notice any mistakes, you should contact the death certificate providers. They should understand and issue you another certificate (or more if paid for copies) if they believe the mistake was made by the service provider.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who needs death certificates when someone dies?

Outside of funeral services, many other business and service providers require a deceased person’s death certificate when managing their accounts. Places like banks, insurance firms, government services, and even subscriptions and utility bills need proof of death to close all accounts and recurring payments to the deceased person.

Are death records public?

Death records are protected under privacy laws in most states. However, some basic information, such as the name of the person, and date and place of death, is considered public information. More sensitive information in death records is limited to family or specific instances where the law allows it, such as open court cases.

How do I get a copy of a death certificate?

You can acquire a death certificate from vital record offices and funeral service providers in most cities or online. To get a death certificate on behalf of someone, you will need to provide documentation of the deceased person containing information regarding their identity, such as name, address, date of birth and social security number.

How long does it take to issue a death certificate?

The time to get a death certificate varies depending on the service and where you get it. Typically, standard processing and mailing can take between a few days to several weeks, depending on how busy the service provider is. Vitacheck online can range from a few days to one week, maximum.

Estate Planning

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

Joel Lim

|

November 24, 2023

Trustworthy is an intelligent digital vault that protects and optimizes your family's information so that you can save time, money, and enjoy peace of mind.

death certificate copies

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If you’re wondering how many copies of a death certificate you should get after a loved one’s passing, a few decision-making factors come into play.

You might struggle with exactly how many copies will fit your needs. This guide covers how to decide on the appropriate number of death certificate copies. We’ll also provide tips and insights to help you be well-prepared to obtain them.

Key Takeaways

  • Death certificates are needed to validate and confirm the person’s death in a legal matter. 

  • The number of copies greatly depends on the number of accounts and government services the deceased person had prior to death. 

  • Getting a death certificate can be stressful and time-consuming. Some easy tips can help reduce the time it takes to acquire one.

How Many Copies of a Death Certificate Should You Get?

death certificate copies

The number of copies of a death certificate varies depending on your specific needs. The most common number experts recommend is anywhere between 8 to 12. This is a safe buffer in case any get lost or damaged.

That might sound like a lot, but you need to consider all the places that will ask for it. Death certificates are typically needed for canceling accounts or for administrative purposes required by law.

Funeral Director, Abby Schilling, explains:

“The average is 8-12 originals. However, it is very different for every person and dependent on how many assets the deceased had in their name. Assets to consider include insurance policies, credit life insurance, employer benefits, vehicle titles, real estate titles, stocks & bonds, income tax returns, social security, utilities, financial institutions and attorneys.”

It’s important to know in most cases, you won’t get the death certificate back from the business that asked you for it. They usually need to keep it for record purposes.

Also, consider other family members. They may request a copy for their records in case they ever have to prove their loved one’s death.

Unfortunately, copies aren't cheap, either. In most places, they cost $5-25 for each certificate and have a base fee. For example, it would cost $423.50 in Washington State for 15 death certificates because it’s $25 per certificate and $48.50 as a base fee.

However, they’re worth the investment, as they are required to close accounts and address other legal purposes.

Why Do You Need a Death Certificate?

why do you need a death certificate

Getting a death certificate is an important document to have for a variety of legal reasons. Here are examples of why you should consider getting a death certificate for a loved one.

Legal Evidence of Proof of Death

The most common reason for getting a death certificate is for proof of death. The government issues a death certificate. It officially recognizes the person named on the certificate is longer present.

Having an official document proving one’s death helps prevent people from giving misinformation and using it for malicious purposes, such as insurance fraud. By having proof, you can provide institutions with proof of death.

Insurance Claims

Speaking of insurance claims, you can only collect funds from a paid life insurance policy by providing an official death certificate.

Other types of insurance, such as Accidental and Dismemberment (AD&D) and mortgage Protection Insurance, also require a death certificate if you make a claim. Without the certificate as proof, you will have no legal leg to stand on to make any sort of claim.

Social Security and Pensions

When a family member dies, you can try to transfer the deceased person’s retirement pension ownership to another beneficiary.

Doing so will require a death certificate of the deceased person, along with other legal documentation as proof of having a known relationship with the person.

Providing a certificate of death to the Social Security Administration will also allow the possibility of survivor benefit payments to be distributed to the deceased person’s family if eligible.

Personal and Family-Related Matters

A death certificate is often used to help settle family conflicts and other personal matters left behind.

Not having a death certificate will impose challenges pertaining to collecting any inheritances. Estate settlements will require a death certificate for asset collection and distribution to be allowed legally. 

Funeral and Burial Requirements

If you plan on giving a loved one a funeral, count on getting a death certificate. Most funeral homes and cemeteries need proof of death before proceeding in any kind of service.

Even if they have possession of the remains, they still need to have the document to prevent complications that could delay the service in handling the remains.

Fraud and Identity Theft Prevention

Another big reason to get a death certificate is to reduce the chances of identity theft of the chosen person.

Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for cyber thieves to steal a deceased person’s identity. Some thieves strategically monitor obituaries posted and target those containing enough information to forge an identity and use it for fraudulent charges.

By getting a death certificate, banks and insurance organizations will immediately send out notifications of the person’s death to other credit unions to ensure no one opens accounts with that person’s information.

A general tip to prevent identity theft of a deceased person is not to not share too much personal information that could lead to a breach of identity. An example of sharing too much personal information would be putting their address and Mother Maiden’s name in a public obituary.

Factors That Influence How Many Death Certificates to Get

factors that influence how many death certificates to get

Many factors could entice you to get multiple copies of a death certificate. Here are some of the most common.

Legal and Administrative Purposes

A major reason for having copies of a death certificate is to fulfill the legal and administrative purposes required to close accounts, stop government benefits, and make claims on insurance policies.

Anything pertaining to government services will ask for a death certificate as legal proof of death. Doing a probate for the will, stopping social security benefits, transferring retirement pensions, and making changes to the deceased person’s tax filing status won’t be possible without the death certificate.

Additionally, banks and insurance companies must have a death certificate to make changes or to stop services to the deceased person’s account.

If you’re responsible for closing accounts and managing services for the deceased person, you will need to have quite a few copies to give to each service provider.

Family Size

A big family can complicate things, especially if inheritance is involved.

Inheritances spread out to many family members and beneficiaries will result in the need for more than one copy of the death certificate. In most cases, family members only get access to the inherence if they have legal proof to show it.

Managing the deceased person’s account is also sometimes distributed between family members. Even if you are not responsible for the process, having copies for other family members can make it more convenient for them.

Lastly, it never hurts to have a copy of a death certificate stored with other family documents in case a situation arises requiring it.

Funeral Services

As previously mentioned, funeral services need a death certificate to provide services, and it’s often required by law. If they provide a funeral service and do not get a certificate proving the person is deceased, they risk getting in legal trouble for not following the regulations in place.

Another factor is they cannot get authorization from other services within to follow through, such as the plans for burial and cremation services. Those services have other authoritative figures in place who are also required to ask for death certificates to follow government regulations.

There are also financial aspects. If a life insurance claim is paying for the service, the funeral home will contact the insurance company. They need to ensure the documents and information they have are aligned with what’s provided to them.

Unforeseen Circumstances

There is always the possibility a situation could arise requiring you or another beneficiary to have a death certificate handy.

Unclaimed assets or debts that get discovered later are some of the most common situations that occur. For example, you may find the person had another bank account in another place.

Or, if you’re interested in doing genealogical research on the deceased person’s family, there could be an instance prompting the need for a death certificate to confirm certain details.

Tips for Getting Death Certificates

tips for getting death certificates

Below are some pointers you should follow to ensure the process of obtaining a death certificate goes smoothly.

Have Identification & Documents Ready

Getting a death certificate will require you to gather the necessary documents containing information about the deceased person, and some from your part, for verification purposes.

You need to have the deceased person’s identification documents, such as a valid ID and social security number. They will also likely ask for medical records and a document reporting the incident of death.

Keeping track of these required documents can be overwhelming. Luckily, Trustworthy offers a convenient way to store and organize your important family documents all in one place.

Verify Any Fees Before Hand

Death certificate prices can vary depending on the organization you do business with.

Some places may offer you the first copy free but charge for others. Some will make you pay for the first copy regardless. If you plan on making any copies, you should plan accordingly on how much the total will cost. 

Contact the business you wish to get the certificate from to clarify the total cost. Some places have hidden fees, such as processing and third-party services, that they may not mention until it’s time for the initial checkout.

Consider Doing an Online Method Instead

If you want to make getting a death certificate as seamless as possible, consider getting the certificate online rather than in person.

The benefit of online is you do not have to provide physical documentation to the business. Online services are typically more automated, which means avoiding wasting time on things such as waiting on other customers or the potential of making more mistakes.

Some online certificate services charge a little extra for the conveyance factor. However, it’s a consideration if it makes the process faster and less stressful.

Consider Expedited Certificate Services

Another way to save even more time is to opt-in for any expected death certificate options available.

Expedited services are excellent if you need the certificate promptly. The service providers typically view these services as a higher priority. They’ll put additional effort into delivering the final product with high-quality standards.

Like most premium services, you’ll pay extra for it, and prices vary. For some, it might not be practical to do an opted-certified plan, but it’s there for those who need it.

Check for Errors

The first thing you should always do when you receive your death certificate is to check for errors.

Errors can come in the form of grammatical or misinformation mistakes. Unfortunately, even when using an automated system, there is always a small chance it could happen.

If you notice any mistakes, you should contact the death certificate providers. They should understand and issue you another certificate (or more if paid for copies) if they believe the mistake was made by the service provider.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Who needs death certificates when someone dies?

Outside of funeral services, many other business and service providers require a deceased person’s death certificate when managing their accounts. Places like banks, insurance firms, government services, and even subscriptions and utility bills need proof of death to close all accounts and recurring payments to the deceased person.

Are death records public?

Death records are protected under privacy laws in most states. However, some basic information, such as the name of the person, and date and place of death, is considered public information. More sensitive information in death records is limited to family or specific instances where the law allows it, such as open court cases.

How do I get a copy of a death certificate?

You can acquire a death certificate from vital record offices and funeral service providers in most cities or online. To get a death certificate on behalf of someone, you will need to provide documentation of the deceased person containing information regarding their identity, such as name, address, date of birth and social security number.

How long does it take to issue a death certificate?

The time to get a death certificate varies depending on the service and where you get it. Typically, standard processing and mailing can take between a few days to several weeks, depending on how busy the service provider is. Vitacheck online can range from a few days to one week, maximum.

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