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How to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate

Whether you need a death certificate to trace your family history or to make a legal claim, follow these steps to get the record you need.


  • Step 1: Identify the state where the person died Identify the state in which the person died, and contact the vital records or vital statistics department for that state.
  • TIP: Find contact information for the state's vital records department through an internet search or at your local library.
  • Step 2: Gather identifying information Find out the person's full name, sex, and date and place of death.
  • Step 3: Determine whether you need a certified copy Determine whether you need a certified copy of the certificate. Most states allow access to uncertified records, but restrict who can get certified copies.
  • TIP: Get a certified copy if you need the death certificate for legal purposes or insurance claims.
  • Step 4: Learn about fees and state requirements Contact the state vital records department to learn about any fees or additional requirements for getting a copy of the death certificate.
  • Step 5: Send the necessary information Send the necessary information along with any fees to the state vital records department. Include your full name, address, phone number, and any other information they require.
  • Step 6: Receive a copy of the death certificate by mail Receive a copy of the death certificate by mail. Delivery time will vary by state.
  • FACT: In 2007, a Chicago man created a fake death certificate and faxed it to his cell phone provider to try to avoid paying a fee for ending his contract.

You Will Need

  • Information about the deceased
  • Internet or library access (optional)

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