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How To Obtain Vital Records: Death Certificates

Jun 24, 2008
Death certificates are official records of death and include basic information including the full name of the deceased, the date, month, and year of death, place of death, and age of deceased at the time of death, sex and race of the deceased and other vital statistics.

There are two different types of this certificate, a certified copy, and an informational copy. Certified copies can be used for official purposes, like identification, but only authorized persons may obtain them. These documents bear the raised seal of the issuing state, the signature of the State Registrar, and are usually printed on security paper. These are official records of death, and are commonly needed to settle property disputes, insurance claims, and estate claims.

While regulations and rules vary by state, generally the only persons authorized to obtain certified death certificate copies are spouses, parents, siblings, children, or grandparents of the person on record. In some states, like Wisconsin, for example, a person who has been authorized in writing by one of these parties can also obtain a certified copy, as can a person who can prove that this record is needed to protect personal or property rights. Many states require a copy of the applicants photo ID before they will issue a certified copy, and some states, like Pennsylvania, require additional information, including the security code found on the back of the applicants credit or bank issued debit card.

Non certified or informational copies of death certificates are easier to obtain, and contain most if not all of the information found in certified death certificate copies. In most states, anyone who requests these documents is entitled to receive them. The difference is that that informational copies cannot be used for legal purposes, including identification, insurance or estate claims, or other related matters, and are not considered legal documents.

When considering which type of certificate you should obtain, take into account your reasons for obtaining it. If you simply want to have a record of the death of an individual, then an informational, or non certified copy may be your best option, particularly if you are not directly related to the deceased. If, on the other hand, you need a copy for identification purposes or to help settle legal issues, you should procure a certified copy. Either way, there are many sites online that can do your research for you, and send your certificate directly to your door, provided that you meet the requirements for eligibility and send in all of the required information.
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