Estate Planning

Why Do You Need A Death Certificate For Estate & Probate Process?

Nash Riggins

November 6, 2023

|

death certificate for estate & probate process

The intelligent digital vault for families

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

When someone dies, their estate gets distributed to loved ones through the probate process. Unfortunately, it can be long and drawn out, particularly if you don’t have the right documentation.

One way to simplify the probate process is to ensure you submit a valid death certificate. In some cases, it’s even required to commence the probate process. 

To help you understand why, we’ve assembled this guide outlining how the probate process works, why a death certificate is essential, and how you can access (or make changes to) it.

Key Takeaways

  • In some states, the executor of a will must submit a valid death certificate to apply for probate.

  • Death certificates simplify the probate process by ensuring the court has essential details about a person’s death and any surviving heirs.

  • You can get access to a death certificate or make corrections to an existing certificate by contacting the Registrar of Vital Statistics in your state.

How Does the Estate and Probate Process Work?

how does the estate and probate process work

Probate is the process in which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries, creditors and tax authorities. 

It starts with an analysis of the estate assets someone has left behind, which is conducted by a probate court in the state the decedent lived in. 

The probate court will appoint an executor to manage the analysis and distribution of the decedent's estate. The first step an executor will typically take is determining whether the deceased person left behind a valid will.

If you leave behind a will, you can name your own executor. This is usually a family member or close friend. After you die, it’s your executor’s responsibility to get the estate process moving by filing your will with a probate court.

There are different rules in each state around how long you have to wait until you file for probate after the decedent has passed. But after it begins, the court will determine the will’s authenticity and choose a legal representative (or allow the executor) to start cataloging the estate.

The executor will also need to pay off liabilities and taxes owned by the decedent before the remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in their will.

Attorney at Michael & Associates, Ben Michael, explains:

“A well-written will that effectively accounts for all possible contingencies should get out of probate fairly quickly.

The probate process is essentially how courts decide how to distribute a person's estate. If the will does this job, probate court won't have to. If there are disputes or discrepancies in the will, then probate will resolve them — eventually.”

If you die without a valid will, you die “intestate.” 

Under the intestacy process, your estate will enter probate, and a court-appointed executor will try to find heirs to pass on transferrable assets. This process tends to take a lot longer than probate with a will, but in both circumstances, a valid death certificate will expedite the process.

Why is a Death Certificate Important to the Estate and Probate Process?

death certificate important to the estate and probate process

A death certificate is essential to the probate process because it’s typically required to initiate probate.

A death certificate is a legal document issued by a medical practitioner, coroner, or other officials (depending on the state you live in) that verifies someone’s death. 

It includes basic identifying information like your name, age, date of birth, gender and home address. A death certificate will also often include a cause of death (depending on who issues the certificate), and information about close relatives like a surviving spouse.

Travis Christiansen of Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions explains:

“Usually, a death certificate is filed when someone wants to move forward with starting to distribute belongings under a will or without a will for a deceased person.

There have been instances where someone was not dead, and people tried to get their belongings as if they were, so most states require that someone has died before most courts will move forward with probate on their estate.”

It’s worth pointing out a death certificate isn’t a universal requirement to kick-start the probate process. Probate varies state by state, but giving the court access to a valid death certificate certainly helps.

For example, a death certificate isn’t necessary to file for probate in Colorado.

But probate in Colorado can only be opened three days after someone has died (which means the court will need to know the time and date when somebody died). The court will also need to know the decedent’s age at the time of death, state of residence, and information about any heirs to complete the probate process.

A death certificate generally includes all of this information. 

Without a death certificate, the court’s executor (or the executor of a will prior to probate) will need to do a lot of legwork to provide this information in separate documentation to satisfy the court.

How Can You Get Access to a Death Certificate?

If you want to get access to a death certificate for estate or probate, you’ll typically get provided with copies by a funeral director or coroner. You can also write a request to the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred to get an official copy.

This process varies by state. 

For example, in Kansas, you must submit a handwritten signature with the request, include a copy of your photo ID, and pay $20 for each copy. By contrast, in Texas, you have to pay $20 for the first copy and then $3 for any extra copy.

Once you’ve gained access to a death certificate or someone’s will, it’s important to ensure these documents are stored securely and accessible by all relevant parties. That’s where a Family Operating System® like Trustworthy can offer much-needed peace of mind.

Trustworthy enables you to upload and store digital copies of essential family paperwork like wills, identification, death certificates and asset documentation. You can then collaborate with other family members, your attorney, or your financial planner and grant them access to expedite the probate and estate processes.

Want to learn more? Check out Trustyworthy’s range of features to discover how it can help you prepare for everything life has to throw at you.

What Happens if a Death Certificate is Incorrect or Missing?

what happens if a death certificate is incorrect or missing

Death certificates give probate courts a lot of the basic information they need to carry out the distribution of an estate. A missing or incorrect death certificate can slow things down substantially.

Christiansen notes:

“Sometimes when someone dies, you can’t get a death certificate immediately — such as if there is a criminal investigation, autopsy, death overseas, or other issue.”

Fortunately, there are other ways the executor of a will can satisfy this requirement. This varies by state, but in some cases, something as simple as a published obituary will work.

Chistiansen explains:

“If the executor of the estate is able to produce evidence of death by some other way, there may be no impact in terms of the beneficiaries receiving assets from an estate.”

Yet Maria Zalessky of Zalessky Law Group advises the presence of an incorrect death certificate can cause just as many problems as a lack of documentation. She explains:

“Missing and incorrect death certificates wreak havoc on beneficiaries or heirs receiving assets. Beneficiaries are the people who take from the estate due to a will, heirs are people who take from the estate due to intestate succession, or no will.

If a death certificate mistakenly names a spouse, the real heirs might not even catch the estate in time to keep it from going completely to the alleged spouse.”

It is possible to make corrections to a death certificate. 

If you’re the executor or surviving beneficiary of a decedent and notice a mistake, you can apply for a correction to be made. This process works differently in every state, but it normally involves getting in touch with your local Registrar of Vital Statistics.

If possible, you should get these corrections made before commencing the probate process. This will simplify proceedings and make it easier for the court to determine what’s happened and who the estate should pass on to.

You can apply for a copy or request an amendment through the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to send a death certificate for probate?

The probate process varies by state, but you’ll typically be required to submit a death certificate to apply for probate. 

When should you apply for probate after death?

Some states have a cutoff date when it comes to applying for probate, and so it’s generally recommended to start the process sooner rather than later.

How do you get a death certificate to apply for probate?

Most funeral homes provide a death certificate after a person has died, but you can also apply for copies from your local Vital Records Office.

Estate Planning

Why Do You Need A Death Certificate For Estate & Probate Process?

Nash Riggins

November 6, 2023

|

death certificate for estate & probate process

When someone dies, their estate gets distributed to loved ones through the probate process. Unfortunately, it can be long and drawn out, particularly if you don’t have the right documentation.

One way to simplify the probate process is to ensure you submit a valid death certificate. In some cases, it’s even required to commence the probate process. 

To help you understand why, we’ve assembled this guide outlining how the probate process works, why a death certificate is essential, and how you can access (or make changes to) it.

Key Takeaways

  • In some states, the executor of a will must submit a valid death certificate to apply for probate.

  • Death certificates simplify the probate process by ensuring the court has essential details about a person’s death and any surviving heirs.

  • You can get access to a death certificate or make corrections to an existing certificate by contacting the Registrar of Vital Statistics in your state.

How Does the Estate and Probate Process Work?

how does the estate and probate process work

Probate is the process in which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries, creditors and tax authorities. 

It starts with an analysis of the estate assets someone has left behind, which is conducted by a probate court in the state the decedent lived in. 

The probate court will appoint an executor to manage the analysis and distribution of the decedent's estate. The first step an executor will typically take is determining whether the deceased person left behind a valid will.

If you leave behind a will, you can name your own executor. This is usually a family member or close friend. After you die, it’s your executor’s responsibility to get the estate process moving by filing your will with a probate court.

There are different rules in each state around how long you have to wait until you file for probate after the decedent has passed. But after it begins, the court will determine the will’s authenticity and choose a legal representative (or allow the executor) to start cataloging the estate.

The executor will also need to pay off liabilities and taxes owned by the decedent before the remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in their will.

Attorney at Michael & Associates, Ben Michael, explains:

“A well-written will that effectively accounts for all possible contingencies should get out of probate fairly quickly.

The probate process is essentially how courts decide how to distribute a person's estate. If the will does this job, probate court won't have to. If there are disputes or discrepancies in the will, then probate will resolve them — eventually.”

If you die without a valid will, you die “intestate.” 

Under the intestacy process, your estate will enter probate, and a court-appointed executor will try to find heirs to pass on transferrable assets. This process tends to take a lot longer than probate with a will, but in both circumstances, a valid death certificate will expedite the process.

Why is a Death Certificate Important to the Estate and Probate Process?

death certificate important to the estate and probate process

A death certificate is essential to the probate process because it’s typically required to initiate probate.

A death certificate is a legal document issued by a medical practitioner, coroner, or other officials (depending on the state you live in) that verifies someone’s death. 

It includes basic identifying information like your name, age, date of birth, gender and home address. A death certificate will also often include a cause of death (depending on who issues the certificate), and information about close relatives like a surviving spouse.

Travis Christiansen of Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions explains:

“Usually, a death certificate is filed when someone wants to move forward with starting to distribute belongings under a will or without a will for a deceased person.

There have been instances where someone was not dead, and people tried to get their belongings as if they were, so most states require that someone has died before most courts will move forward with probate on their estate.”

It’s worth pointing out a death certificate isn’t a universal requirement to kick-start the probate process. Probate varies state by state, but giving the court access to a valid death certificate certainly helps.

For example, a death certificate isn’t necessary to file for probate in Colorado.

But probate in Colorado can only be opened three days after someone has died (which means the court will need to know the time and date when somebody died). The court will also need to know the decedent’s age at the time of death, state of residence, and information about any heirs to complete the probate process.

A death certificate generally includes all of this information. 

Without a death certificate, the court’s executor (or the executor of a will prior to probate) will need to do a lot of legwork to provide this information in separate documentation to satisfy the court.

How Can You Get Access to a Death Certificate?

If you want to get access to a death certificate for estate or probate, you’ll typically get provided with copies by a funeral director or coroner. You can also write a request to the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred to get an official copy.

This process varies by state. 

For example, in Kansas, you must submit a handwritten signature with the request, include a copy of your photo ID, and pay $20 for each copy. By contrast, in Texas, you have to pay $20 for the first copy and then $3 for any extra copy.

Once you’ve gained access to a death certificate or someone’s will, it’s important to ensure these documents are stored securely and accessible by all relevant parties. That’s where a Family Operating System® like Trustworthy can offer much-needed peace of mind.

Trustworthy enables you to upload and store digital copies of essential family paperwork like wills, identification, death certificates and asset documentation. You can then collaborate with other family members, your attorney, or your financial planner and grant them access to expedite the probate and estate processes.

Want to learn more? Check out Trustyworthy’s range of features to discover how it can help you prepare for everything life has to throw at you.

What Happens if a Death Certificate is Incorrect or Missing?

what happens if a death certificate is incorrect or missing

Death certificates give probate courts a lot of the basic information they need to carry out the distribution of an estate. A missing or incorrect death certificate can slow things down substantially.

Christiansen notes:

“Sometimes when someone dies, you can’t get a death certificate immediately — such as if there is a criminal investigation, autopsy, death overseas, or other issue.”

Fortunately, there are other ways the executor of a will can satisfy this requirement. This varies by state, but in some cases, something as simple as a published obituary will work.

Chistiansen explains:

“If the executor of the estate is able to produce evidence of death by some other way, there may be no impact in terms of the beneficiaries receiving assets from an estate.”

Yet Maria Zalessky of Zalessky Law Group advises the presence of an incorrect death certificate can cause just as many problems as a lack of documentation. She explains:

“Missing and incorrect death certificates wreak havoc on beneficiaries or heirs receiving assets. Beneficiaries are the people who take from the estate due to a will, heirs are people who take from the estate due to intestate succession, or no will.

If a death certificate mistakenly names a spouse, the real heirs might not even catch the estate in time to keep it from going completely to the alleged spouse.”

It is possible to make corrections to a death certificate. 

If you’re the executor or surviving beneficiary of a decedent and notice a mistake, you can apply for a correction to be made. This process works differently in every state, but it normally involves getting in touch with your local Registrar of Vital Statistics.

If possible, you should get these corrections made before commencing the probate process. This will simplify proceedings and make it easier for the court to determine what’s happened and who the estate should pass on to.

You can apply for a copy or request an amendment through the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to send a death certificate for probate?

The probate process varies by state, but you’ll typically be required to submit a death certificate to apply for probate. 

When should you apply for probate after death?

Some states have a cutoff date when it comes to applying for probate, and so it’s generally recommended to start the process sooner rather than later.

How do you get a death certificate to apply for probate?

Most funeral homes provide a death certificate after a person has died, but you can also apply for copies from your local Vital Records Office.

Estate Planning

Why Do You Need A Death Certificate For Estate & Probate Process?

Nash Riggins

November 6, 2023

|

death certificate for estate & probate process

The intelligent digital vault for families

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

When someone dies, their estate gets distributed to loved ones through the probate process. Unfortunately, it can be long and drawn out, particularly if you don’t have the right documentation.

One way to simplify the probate process is to ensure you submit a valid death certificate. In some cases, it’s even required to commence the probate process. 

To help you understand why, we’ve assembled this guide outlining how the probate process works, why a death certificate is essential, and how you can access (or make changes to) it.

Key Takeaways

  • In some states, the executor of a will must submit a valid death certificate to apply for probate.

  • Death certificates simplify the probate process by ensuring the court has essential details about a person’s death and any surviving heirs.

  • You can get access to a death certificate or make corrections to an existing certificate by contacting the Registrar of Vital Statistics in your state.

How Does the Estate and Probate Process Work?

how does the estate and probate process work

Probate is the process in which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries, creditors and tax authorities. 

It starts with an analysis of the estate assets someone has left behind, which is conducted by a probate court in the state the decedent lived in. 

The probate court will appoint an executor to manage the analysis and distribution of the decedent's estate. The first step an executor will typically take is determining whether the deceased person left behind a valid will.

If you leave behind a will, you can name your own executor. This is usually a family member or close friend. After you die, it’s your executor’s responsibility to get the estate process moving by filing your will with a probate court.

There are different rules in each state around how long you have to wait until you file for probate after the decedent has passed. But after it begins, the court will determine the will’s authenticity and choose a legal representative (or allow the executor) to start cataloging the estate.

The executor will also need to pay off liabilities and taxes owned by the decedent before the remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in their will.

Attorney at Michael & Associates, Ben Michael, explains:

“A well-written will that effectively accounts for all possible contingencies should get out of probate fairly quickly.

The probate process is essentially how courts decide how to distribute a person's estate. If the will does this job, probate court won't have to. If there are disputes or discrepancies in the will, then probate will resolve them — eventually.”

If you die without a valid will, you die “intestate.” 

Under the intestacy process, your estate will enter probate, and a court-appointed executor will try to find heirs to pass on transferrable assets. This process tends to take a lot longer than probate with a will, but in both circumstances, a valid death certificate will expedite the process.

Why is a Death Certificate Important to the Estate and Probate Process?

death certificate important to the estate and probate process

A death certificate is essential to the probate process because it’s typically required to initiate probate.

A death certificate is a legal document issued by a medical practitioner, coroner, or other officials (depending on the state you live in) that verifies someone’s death. 

It includes basic identifying information like your name, age, date of birth, gender and home address. A death certificate will also often include a cause of death (depending on who issues the certificate), and information about close relatives like a surviving spouse.

Travis Christiansen of Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions explains:

“Usually, a death certificate is filed when someone wants to move forward with starting to distribute belongings under a will or without a will for a deceased person.

There have been instances where someone was not dead, and people tried to get their belongings as if they were, so most states require that someone has died before most courts will move forward with probate on their estate.”

It’s worth pointing out a death certificate isn’t a universal requirement to kick-start the probate process. Probate varies state by state, but giving the court access to a valid death certificate certainly helps.

For example, a death certificate isn’t necessary to file for probate in Colorado.

But probate in Colorado can only be opened three days after someone has died (which means the court will need to know the time and date when somebody died). The court will also need to know the decedent’s age at the time of death, state of residence, and information about any heirs to complete the probate process.

A death certificate generally includes all of this information. 

Without a death certificate, the court’s executor (or the executor of a will prior to probate) will need to do a lot of legwork to provide this information in separate documentation to satisfy the court.

How Can You Get Access to a Death Certificate?

If you want to get access to a death certificate for estate or probate, you’ll typically get provided with copies by a funeral director or coroner. You can also write a request to the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred to get an official copy.

This process varies by state. 

For example, in Kansas, you must submit a handwritten signature with the request, include a copy of your photo ID, and pay $20 for each copy. By contrast, in Texas, you have to pay $20 for the first copy and then $3 for any extra copy.

Once you’ve gained access to a death certificate or someone’s will, it’s important to ensure these documents are stored securely and accessible by all relevant parties. That’s where a Family Operating System® like Trustworthy can offer much-needed peace of mind.

Trustworthy enables you to upload and store digital copies of essential family paperwork like wills, identification, death certificates and asset documentation. You can then collaborate with other family members, your attorney, or your financial planner and grant them access to expedite the probate and estate processes.

Want to learn more? Check out Trustyworthy’s range of features to discover how it can help you prepare for everything life has to throw at you.

What Happens if a Death Certificate is Incorrect or Missing?

what happens if a death certificate is incorrect or missing

Death certificates give probate courts a lot of the basic information they need to carry out the distribution of an estate. A missing or incorrect death certificate can slow things down substantially.

Christiansen notes:

“Sometimes when someone dies, you can’t get a death certificate immediately — such as if there is a criminal investigation, autopsy, death overseas, or other issue.”

Fortunately, there are other ways the executor of a will can satisfy this requirement. This varies by state, but in some cases, something as simple as a published obituary will work.

Chistiansen explains:

“If the executor of the estate is able to produce evidence of death by some other way, there may be no impact in terms of the beneficiaries receiving assets from an estate.”

Yet Maria Zalessky of Zalessky Law Group advises the presence of an incorrect death certificate can cause just as many problems as a lack of documentation. She explains:

“Missing and incorrect death certificates wreak havoc on beneficiaries or heirs receiving assets. Beneficiaries are the people who take from the estate due to a will, heirs are people who take from the estate due to intestate succession, or no will.

If a death certificate mistakenly names a spouse, the real heirs might not even catch the estate in time to keep it from going completely to the alleged spouse.”

It is possible to make corrections to a death certificate. 

If you’re the executor or surviving beneficiary of a decedent and notice a mistake, you can apply for a correction to be made. This process works differently in every state, but it normally involves getting in touch with your local Registrar of Vital Statistics.

If possible, you should get these corrections made before commencing the probate process. This will simplify proceedings and make it easier for the court to determine what’s happened and who the estate should pass on to.

You can apply for a copy or request an amendment through the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to send a death certificate for probate?

The probate process varies by state, but you’ll typically be required to submit a death certificate to apply for probate. 

When should you apply for probate after death?

Some states have a cutoff date when it comes to applying for probate, and so it’s generally recommended to start the process sooner rather than later.

How do you get a death certificate to apply for probate?

Most funeral homes provide a death certificate after a person has died, but you can also apply for copies from your local Vital Records Office.

Estate Planning

Why Do You Need A Death Certificate For Estate & Probate Process?

Nash Riggins

November 6, 2023

|

death certificate for estate & probate process

The intelligent digital vault for families

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

When someone dies, their estate gets distributed to loved ones through the probate process. Unfortunately, it can be long and drawn out, particularly if you don’t have the right documentation.

One way to simplify the probate process is to ensure you submit a valid death certificate. In some cases, it’s even required to commence the probate process. 

To help you understand why, we’ve assembled this guide outlining how the probate process works, why a death certificate is essential, and how you can access (or make changes to) it.

Key Takeaways

  • In some states, the executor of a will must submit a valid death certificate to apply for probate.

  • Death certificates simplify the probate process by ensuring the court has essential details about a person’s death and any surviving heirs.

  • You can get access to a death certificate or make corrections to an existing certificate by contacting the Registrar of Vital Statistics in your state.

How Does the Estate and Probate Process Work?

how does the estate and probate process work

Probate is the process in which a deceased person’s assets are distributed to beneficiaries, creditors and tax authorities. 

It starts with an analysis of the estate assets someone has left behind, which is conducted by a probate court in the state the decedent lived in. 

The probate court will appoint an executor to manage the analysis and distribution of the decedent's estate. The first step an executor will typically take is determining whether the deceased person left behind a valid will.

If you leave behind a will, you can name your own executor. This is usually a family member or close friend. After you die, it’s your executor’s responsibility to get the estate process moving by filing your will with a probate court.

There are different rules in each state around how long you have to wait until you file for probate after the decedent has passed. But after it begins, the court will determine the will’s authenticity and choose a legal representative (or allow the executor) to start cataloging the estate.

The executor will also need to pay off liabilities and taxes owned by the decedent before the remaining assets can be distributed to the beneficiaries listed in their will.

Attorney at Michael & Associates, Ben Michael, explains:

“A well-written will that effectively accounts for all possible contingencies should get out of probate fairly quickly.

The probate process is essentially how courts decide how to distribute a person's estate. If the will does this job, probate court won't have to. If there are disputes or discrepancies in the will, then probate will resolve them — eventually.”

If you die without a valid will, you die “intestate.” 

Under the intestacy process, your estate will enter probate, and a court-appointed executor will try to find heirs to pass on transferrable assets. This process tends to take a lot longer than probate with a will, but in both circumstances, a valid death certificate will expedite the process.

Why is a Death Certificate Important to the Estate and Probate Process?

death certificate important to the estate and probate process

A death certificate is essential to the probate process because it’s typically required to initiate probate.

A death certificate is a legal document issued by a medical practitioner, coroner, or other officials (depending on the state you live in) that verifies someone’s death. 

It includes basic identifying information like your name, age, date of birth, gender and home address. A death certificate will also often include a cause of death (depending on who issues the certificate), and information about close relatives like a surviving spouse.

Travis Christiansen of Boyack Christiansen Legal Solutions explains:

“Usually, a death certificate is filed when someone wants to move forward with starting to distribute belongings under a will or without a will for a deceased person.

There have been instances where someone was not dead, and people tried to get their belongings as if they were, so most states require that someone has died before most courts will move forward with probate on their estate.”

It’s worth pointing out a death certificate isn’t a universal requirement to kick-start the probate process. Probate varies state by state, but giving the court access to a valid death certificate certainly helps.

For example, a death certificate isn’t necessary to file for probate in Colorado.

But probate in Colorado can only be opened three days after someone has died (which means the court will need to know the time and date when somebody died). The court will also need to know the decedent’s age at the time of death, state of residence, and information about any heirs to complete the probate process.

A death certificate generally includes all of this information. 

Without a death certificate, the court’s executor (or the executor of a will prior to probate) will need to do a lot of legwork to provide this information in separate documentation to satisfy the court.

How Can You Get Access to a Death Certificate?

If you want to get access to a death certificate for estate or probate, you’ll typically get provided with copies by a funeral director or coroner. You can also write a request to the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred to get an official copy.

This process varies by state. 

For example, in Kansas, you must submit a handwritten signature with the request, include a copy of your photo ID, and pay $20 for each copy. By contrast, in Texas, you have to pay $20 for the first copy and then $3 for any extra copy.

Once you’ve gained access to a death certificate or someone’s will, it’s important to ensure these documents are stored securely and accessible by all relevant parties. That’s where a Family Operating System® like Trustworthy can offer much-needed peace of mind.

Trustworthy enables you to upload and store digital copies of essential family paperwork like wills, identification, death certificates and asset documentation. You can then collaborate with other family members, your attorney, or your financial planner and grant them access to expedite the probate and estate processes.

Want to learn more? Check out Trustyworthy’s range of features to discover how it can help you prepare for everything life has to throw at you.

What Happens if a Death Certificate is Incorrect or Missing?

what happens if a death certificate is incorrect or missing

Death certificates give probate courts a lot of the basic information they need to carry out the distribution of an estate. A missing or incorrect death certificate can slow things down substantially.

Christiansen notes:

“Sometimes when someone dies, you can’t get a death certificate immediately — such as if there is a criminal investigation, autopsy, death overseas, or other issue.”

Fortunately, there are other ways the executor of a will can satisfy this requirement. This varies by state, but in some cases, something as simple as a published obituary will work.

Chistiansen explains:

“If the executor of the estate is able to produce evidence of death by some other way, there may be no impact in terms of the beneficiaries receiving assets from an estate.”

Yet Maria Zalessky of Zalessky Law Group advises the presence of an incorrect death certificate can cause just as many problems as a lack of documentation. She explains:

“Missing and incorrect death certificates wreak havoc on beneficiaries or heirs receiving assets. Beneficiaries are the people who take from the estate due to a will, heirs are people who take from the estate due to intestate succession, or no will.

If a death certificate mistakenly names a spouse, the real heirs might not even catch the estate in time to keep it from going completely to the alleged spouse.”

It is possible to make corrections to a death certificate. 

If you’re the executor or surviving beneficiary of a decedent and notice a mistake, you can apply for a correction to be made. This process works differently in every state, but it normally involves getting in touch with your local Registrar of Vital Statistics.

If possible, you should get these corrections made before commencing the probate process. This will simplify proceedings and make it easier for the court to determine what’s happened and who the estate should pass on to.

You can apply for a copy or request an amendment through the Vital Records Office in the state where the death occurred.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do I need to send a death certificate for probate?

The probate process varies by state, but you’ll typically be required to submit a death certificate to apply for probate. 

When should you apply for probate after death?

Some states have a cutoff date when it comes to applying for probate, and so it’s generally recommended to start the process sooner rather than later.

How do you get a death certificate to apply for probate?

Most funeral homes provide a death certificate after a person has died, but you can also apply for copies from your local Vital Records Office.

Try Trustworthy today.

Try Trustworthy today.

Try the Family Operating System® for yourself. You (and your family) will love it.

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Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice

Is It Wrong To Move Away From Elderly Parents? My Advice

Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know

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Apr 15, 2023

Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know

Moving An Elderly Parent Into Your Home: What To Know

Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know
Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know

Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know

Moving An Elderly Parent to Another State: What To Know

What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers
What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers
What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers
What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers

Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers

What If Witnesses To A Will Cannot Be Found? A Lawyer Answers

A couple reviewing documents and signing them
A couple reviewing documents and signing them
A couple reviewing documents and signing them
A couple reviewing documents and signing them

Apr 15, 2023

Apr 15, 2023

What To Bring To Estate Planning Meeting (Checklist)

What To Bring To Estate Planning Meeting (Checklist)

A couple in a meeting with a professional
A couple in a meeting with a professional
A couple in a meeting with a professional
A couple in a meeting with a professional