How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate?

older couple holding hands in grief

Death certificates are legal documents used to verify the time, date, and cause of a person’s death. Filing a death certificate is a legal requirement, and a nation’s census bureau uses information from death certificates to track mortality rates, causes of death, and population changes. 

When a person dies, the executor of their estate or a loved one may need a copy of their death certificate. The time it takes to receive a death certificate depends on the state where the death occurred, the method you use to apply for the death certificate, and whether there are factors that can cause delays. Since several factors determine how long it takes to get a death certificate, it’s crucial that those who need a death certificate apply immediately. 

Do you have questions about how to proceed after the death of a loved one?

How long does it take to get a death certificate?

Receiving a death certificate can take hours, days, weeks, or more than a month. For example, you may receive a death certificate the same day you request it if you file your application in person in Texas. However, it could take several weeks to receive a death certificate if you order online, and it could take more than 30 business days for the state to issue the death certificate. 

Reasons for Delays

You can expedite your death certificate application by ensuring you have all the required documentation when you apply for the death certificate. Incomplete applications can’t be processed and can result in delays.

Sometimes, a doctor or medical examiner hasn’t signed the death certificate. A medical examiner or coroner may need a toxicology report to verify the cause of death, delaying the process. Consequently, death certificates for murders and suspicious deaths may take longer to issue. 

It may also take longer to receive a death certificate if the decedent passed away in another country. Global pandemics may also contribute to delays.

How do I get a death certificate?

You may realize you need a death certificate but are unsure about how to get a death certificate. Fortunately, each state provides detailed information about the application process. It’s crucial to note that, regardless of your or the decedent’s home address, the state where the death occurred issues the death certificate. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) maintains a directory listing the departments that issue vital records in each state. 

Who can get a copy of a death certificate?

There are two types of death certificates, and who’s eligible to receive each type differs. In Florida, any adult can request a death certificate that doesn’t state the cause of death. However, only authorized persons can request death certificates stating the cause of death. The parties authorized to receive these death certificates include the following:

  • Decedent’s family members, including their spouse, parents, children, grandchildren, or siblings
  • Individuals with an established interest in the decedent’s estate
  • Individuals authorized to act on behalf of eligible parties
  • Anyone with an affidavit signed by a qualifying individual

Qualifying individuals must be 18 or older, regardless of their relationship to the decedent. 

What will you need when applying for a death certificate?

Applicants must complete an application form and have valid identification, such as a driver’s license. You must also pay all applicable fees, including death certificate search fees and fees for confirming your identity. 

Where to Get a Death Certificate

Every death certificate Florida issues comes via one of three venues. You can apply online via VitalChek. You can also apply through the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics or your county health department. Florida’s Bureau of Vital Statistics automatically charges a non-refundable death certificate lookup fee, but if you use your county health department, you can file your application in person. 

Reasons You Need a Death Certificate

When a person passes away, their family members or the estate executor must handle several legal and financial matters. Death certificates are necessary to complete tasks such as the following:

  • Filing life insurance claims
  • Closing financial accounts
  • Terminating utility services
  • Transferring property per the decedent’s will
  • Pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit

How can a personal injury attorney help you after a loved one’s passing?

You may have legal reasons to pursue a lawsuit after your loved one’s passing. Wrongful death attorneys fight for loved ones to receive compensation for expenses, such as medical bills, funeral costs, and pain and suffering. You may also need a medical malpractice lawyer if medical malpractice caused your loved one’s death. 

Our personal injury attorneys will provide a free consultation. We’ll answer your questions, and when we take your case, we’ll investigate your loved one’s death, gather relevant evidence, prepare legal paperwork, and handle settlement negotiations. We’ll handle the legal matters and strive to secure the compensation you deserve. 

Sources

Death Record FAQs. (2022). 

How to order a Florida death certificate. (2022). 

Jackson, C.A. (2021). Multiple factors could be contributing to delayed death certificates

Processing Times. (2022). 

Where to Write for Vital Records. (2022).