Many organizations will ask you for a death certificate, and there is a great deal of confusion as to how many a family needs after a passing, so here are some answers to many of the frequent questions that we field. Please note that you will need to evaluate your own needs and consult with your legal counsel on the matter if applicable.

How many do I need?

The answer depends on the estate, or the accounts that a person has at the time of their death. The short answer is that most families only need two or three.

Who will require them?

Financial institutions are the primary organizations that will require one. Banks, investment accounts, life insurance, and pensions are the most common organizations to require a certified copy of a death certificate. Attorney’s managing trusts or estates will need one as well. Note: the only organizations that routinely keep the Certified Copy are life insurance and pensions.

What is the difference between a Certified Copy of the Death Certificate and a Copy of the Death Certificate?

A certified copy is a piece of paper, issued by the county, that has an official seal printed on special paper. These have been certified by a state agency. A “copy” is just that – a photocopy that anyone can make of a certified one. The confusion is that “The Original” is not actually something that the public can access or use. It is an electronic file recorded with the State.

Do all these places need a certified copy?

Most places will not retain a certified copy, but they will require one. This means that you must provide them an original that they can take a copy of, and they will hand you your original back. So, if you have four bank accounts to close, you will only need one certified copy.

Why are they so expensive?

The state sets the price of death certificates. We only charge what the county charges us. We do have a “large order processing fee” of $15 dollars for orders of five or more, much like the county’s credit card processing fee.

Can I get them directly from the county?

Absolutely. All you need to do is google “death certificate order” for the county of death.

How long do they take to get?

The time from ordering to when we have them in the office can range from two to four weeks depending on the county’s workload.