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Death Certificates



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Death Certificates

Death Certificates are generally needed to settle the affairs of a loved one after their passing. They are typically necessary for everything from closing bank accounts to authorization for cremation.

Where can I get a copy of a death certificate?

It is a common misconception that death certificates can only be requested by a funeral professional at the local funeral home. Since this takes additional manpower on their part there is generally a higher price and sometimes there is a waiting period.  However, states allow requests for vital statistics be sent directly to family members by mail or requested in person at their offices.

You can find out where to order in your state by checking the state vital records directory:

Who fills out a death certificate?

A variety of medical professionals are qualified to sign a death certificate.  Generally a physician, medical examiner, forensic pathologist, coroner or in some states a nurse practitioner can pronounce someone legally dead.  From there a death certificate is issued and will be filed with local and state level vital statistics before being passed on to the National Center for Health Statistics, a division of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC).

What data is on a death certificate?

Most states follow the format laid out by the CDC for data collection.  Information includes gender, race, age, place and method of final disposition, family members, and death information.  Death information is one of the crucial data pieces being collected and can include information about tobacco use, the education of the deceased, national origin, and their occupation.  Classification of disease in the United States conforms with the World Health Organization’s International Classification of Diseases which helps track disease on a global scale.

Why does the CDC collect mortality data?

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention uses the data for a variety of public record publications. This data can be found in an endless variety of products and studies ranging from auto insurance premiums to the time of day to run a suicide prevention commercial on TV.  As an example, according to the CDC Children Mortality Rates ages 15-17 are 4.5 times as likely to commit suicide as children 10-14 allowing policy makers to put data to what time of day a commercial would be most effective.  There are virtually unlimited applications to this indispensible data.


Mortality by underlying cause among children: US/State, 1990-2011(Source: NVSS)