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Death Certificates – Why They Matter and How To Get One

Death certificates are very important pieces of paperwork that most people are eager to get after a death has occurred. Most people do not know who is involved in finalizing them and what kind of information may be needed to complete the process.


Why is a death certificate necessary?

A death certificate is the legal proof of death and there are a few reasons why having one is necessary. Most institutions will require a certified copy of the death certificate to close out a person’s estate or accounts for the next of kin. In most states the reporting of the death and filling of the certificate must occur prior to the final disposition being carried out by the funeral home. Public Health officials also use data included on death certificates to compile death indexes and influence public health policy.


How do I get a death certificate?

Once you have selected your funeral home, your funeral director will create a death certificate and send it to the medical provider for the cause of death to be completed. As a full-service funeral home, Return Home will handle all state-required paperwork and assist you throughout your time with us and beyond. While waiting for the physician’s signature, your funeral director will meet with your family to gather the information about your loved one that is needed to complete the vital statistics portion of the death certificate. This information varies by state but will usually include the following:

  • Full name
  • Date of birth
  • Social Security number
  • City and state of birth 
  • Residence address
  • Marital Status
  • Parents names (including mother’s maiden name)

Once both the physician’s portion and the funeral home portion have been completed, the funeral director can electronically sign the death certificate and it is sent to the registrar in the county where the death occurred. All of the information is reviewed, then a permit is issued, and the funeral home is then able to order certified copies for the family. Generally, the process from starting to receiving certified death certificates is about two weeks.

This may seem like a long, exhausting process, but Return Home is dedicated to making the process of completing and receiving certified copies of the death certificate as simple and fast as possible. We understand that for many it can be an anxious wait and getting certified copies of the death certificates to our families as fast as possible is always our goal.


What do I need a death certificate for?

It can seem overwhelming to make sure that the correct parties have been notified of a death. Return Home will help you with notifying as many people as you need. We have collected an exhaustive list to help guide you through the process of notifying people that includes the following:

  • Veterans Administration
  • Life insurance companies 
  • Auto and property titles
  • Social Security Administration 


How many death certificates do I need?

A common misconception is that every entity will need to keep a physical certified copy of the certificate. In general, and much more commonly since the pandemic, companies will either accept a copy or will use your copy and return it. As with anything, there are exceptions to this rule, and as part of the arrangement process your funeral director at Return Home will help you narrow down exactly how many copies are needed for your family. In general, we recommend 3-5 certified copies.

If you have any questions about death certificates and how to obtain one, please feel free to call the Return Home services team at 206-888-HOME (4663). Click here if you are interested in learning more about pre-need (funeral pre-planning) options.

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