Request multiple copies of the Death Certificate

Immediately After a Death

All deaths in the United States must be officially registered and documented in the state where the deceased passed. This document is known as a Death Certificate.

Not only is this process legally required, but you'll need to purchase and save both Certified Copies and Unofficial Copies for future tasks (e.g., claiming benefits, closing accounts, etc.).

10 "certified copies" and 20 "unofficial photocopies" is usually enough for a typical, straightforward Estate.

How you order a death certificate depends on whether you are working with a Funeral Home. Many will offer this service for an additional fee.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant However, you can order these yourself, directly from the state where the deceased passed. See below for a link to your state agency's website for purchase instructions.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about the executor of the estate, see the "Identify the executor" section of the Guide.

Helpful Tips


Certified Copy A "certified copy" of a death certificate is one that is officially produced by state government.

It often has a government seal and additional designs that cannot be faked, forged, or copied, like cash.

Because of this, the state will likely charge you for certified copies. Typically, each copy is about $30, and they will take a few weeks to arrive.

You'll need certified copies for administering tasks with large entities and institutions like:

  • The government (Social Security Administration, credit bureaus, state medical examiner)
  • Life insurance companies (policy holders who will receive benefits)
  • Financial institutions (banks who hold large financial assets)
  • Tech companies (Apple or Google cell phone and cloud storage access)

Unofficial Copy An "unofficial photocopy" of a death certificate is one you can produce yourself using an everyday photocopier or home printer.

Because of this, unofficial photocopies do not have anti-counterfeiting design features, which is acceptable for managing smaller administrative tasks such as:

  • Canceling recurring bills (e.g., cable, cell phone, electricity)
  • Updating memberships (e.g., magazine subscriptions, streaming video services)

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant Any company or institution has the right to request a "certified copy," so make sure to specifically ask what type is required.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information on managing a deceased person's accounts, see the "Manage Accounts" section of the Guide.


10 "certified copies" and 20 "unofficial photocopies" will be enough for a typical, straightforward Estate.

However, more of each may be needed for larger estates with more complex Assets.

Multiple copies of both are needed for many future tasks including, but not limited to:

  • Arranging Funerals and Memorial Services
  • Managing bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial investments (401k, pensions, etc.)
  • Claiming benefits (Social Security, insurance, etc.)
  • Updating home utilities including cable and cell phone companies
  • Paying debt and distributing assets during estate settlement (property, valuables, etc.)
  • Finalizing the deceased's state and federal tax returns

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about a deceased person's assets and estate, see the "Settle the estate" section of the guide.


A certified death certificate is the most widely used and accepted document to officially confirm that a person has passed, because it has been issued by state government.

It includes important details such as the date, time, and location of their passing, and other personal identifying information, like their date of birth.

Many post-death Tasks, like organizing funeral or memorial events, closing accounts, or Settling the Estate, will require a copy of the death certificate.

Examples of these situations include, but are not limited to:

  • Requesting a payout on a life insurance policy
  • Opening a bank account for management of the Estate
  • Receiving assets from a Payable-on-Death bank account or a retirement account, because these pass outside of Probate
  • Receiving property named under a Transfer-on-Death deed
  • Notifying government agencies, banks, and creditors about the passing of the deceased
  • Opening Probate in the county where the deceased lived

Both "certified copies" and "unofficial photocopies" of the death certificate should be given to any close friend or family member who helps with planning the funeral planning or Settling the Estate.

They may include, but are not limited to:

Lightbulb_Icon.svgGood to Know It may be wise to also give copies to any service professional helping with administrative, legal or financial tasks.

They include, but are not limited to:

  • Accountants
  • Attorneys
  • Funeral directors
  • Death doulas

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about a deceased person's assets and estate, see the "Settle the Estate" section of the Guide.


A pronouncement of death form is separate and distinct from a death certificate and should not be conflated or confused.

A Pronouncement of Death form is a legal document that officially states the date and time when a deceased person was found to be legally dead (the time a person may have actually died).

This form is given to the state to create the Death Certificate, which is used to officially record the death in the state.

Lightbulb_Icon.svgGood to Know Typically, the deceased's Surviving Family and Executor of the Estate do not receive a copy of the pronouncement of death form.

However, they need many "certified copies" and "unofficial photocopies" of the official death certificate are needed.

Personal Considerations


Are you working with a funeral home?


They may manage the process for you.

Speak with the Funeral Director, or staff, for more information about how they can help facilitate the request for "certified copies" from the state.

10 "certified copies" and 20 "unofficial photocopies" will be enough for a typical, straightforward Estate.

However, more of each may be needed for larger estates with more complex Assets.

Lightbulb_Icon.svgGood to Know Even if you're working with a funeral home, you can order a death certificate yourself. See below for a link to your state agency's website for purchase instructions.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant States will likely only issue certified copies to the Surviving Family and the Executor of the Estate.


Contact the county or state Vital Records Office where the death occurred. You can find your state's contact information in the module below.

Each state operates differently, but the surviving family or executor will typically need to provide the following information to request a certified copy of the death certificate:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Birthdate and birthplace
  • The deceased's father’s name and birthplace
  • The deceased's mother’s name and birthplace
  • Social Security Number
  • Veteran’s discharge or claim number (if applicable)
  • Marital status and name of surviving spouse (if applicable)
  • Date, place, time and cause of death

10 "certified copies" and 20 "unofficial photocopies" will be enough for a typical, straight-forward Estate.

However, more copies of each type may be needed for larger estates with more complex Assets.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant States will likely only issue certified copies to the surviving family and the Executor of the Estate.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information on the executor of the estate, see the "Identify the Executor" section of the Guide.


If you're working with a funeral home:

They may manage the process for you.

Speak with the Funeral Director, or staff, for more information about how they can help facilitate the request for "certified copies" from the state.

10 "certified copies" and 20 "unofficial photocopies" will be enough for a typical, straightforward Estate.

However, more of each may be needed for larger estates with more complex Assets.

Lightbulb_Icon.svgGood to Know Even if you're working with a funeral home, you can order a death certificate yourself. See below for a link to your state agency's website for purchase instructions.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant States will likely only issue certified copies to the Surviving Family and the Executor of the Estate.

If you're not working with a funeral home:

Contact the county or state Vital Records Office where the death occurred. You can find your state's contact information in the module below.

Each state operates differently, but the surviving family or executor will typically need to provide the following information to request a certified copy of the death certificate:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Birthdate and birthplace
  • The deceased's father’s name and birthplace
  • The deceased's mother’s name and birthplace
  • Social Security Number
  • Veteran’s discharge or claim number (if applicable)
  • Marital status and name of surviving spouse (if applicable)
  • Date, place, time and cause of death

10 "certified copies" and 20 "unofficial photocopies" will be enough for a typical, straight-forward Estate.

However, more copies of each type may be needed for larger estates with more complex Assets.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant States will likely only issue certified copies to the surviving family and the Executor of the Estate.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information on the executor of the estate, see the "Identify the Executor" section of the Guide.

Actions to Take


Request a Death Certificate

Find your state agency to purchase a death certificate


Download an example Death Certificate to familiarize yourself with its contents


Immediately After a Death