What Are Death Certificates and How Do I Obtain Them?

A death certificate is an official document issued by Florida which serves as official proof of death for legal purposes.

A death certificate sets forth the official date, location, cause of death, and other personal information.

The Two Types of Death Certificates

There are two types of death certificates, i.e., (i) without the cause of death and (ii) with the cause of death.

Death certificates without the cause of death are public documents that anyone can obtain from the state.  This type of death certificate is also referred to as the “short form” death certificate and is printed on letter-size paper.

Death certificates with the cause of death are confidential documents that only select close relatives and specific individuals with an official role in estate administration.

Medical and other privacy laws apply to death certificates that include the cause of death because this form of death certificate includes the decedent’s private medical information (the cause of death) and his/her’s social security number.

Death certificates that include the cause of death are also called the “long-form” death certificate and are printed on legal size paper (a longer sheet of paper than letter size paper).

Typically the only uses for death certificates with the cause of death are to access and/or claim death benefits where the financial benefit paid depends on how and why the individual died.

The cost of death certificates is the same regardless of whether such death certificates include the cause of death or not.

What are death certificates used for?

Since death certificates are legal documents, they are used for legal reasons, including accessing pension benefits (may be either with or without the cause of death depending upon the pension claim), claiming life insurance (always with the cause of death), settling estates (without cause of death), or getting remarried (proving that the prior spouse is not alive).

The most common use of death certificates is to transfer the decedent’s assets, such as a bank account or automobile.  For these common reasons, death certificates without cause of death are the appropriate form of the death certificate.

When are death certificates not used for?

Many families believe that death certificates are needed to pay off, or settle with, a decedent’s creditors.  That is not the case regardless of what creditor claim.  Since death certificates without cause of death can be ordered by anyone (at least in Florida), if a creditor wants an official death certificate for their files, you should tell them to use the below link and order one (and pay the applicable fee).

When are death certificates ordered?  Can death certificates be ordered as needed?

Death certificates are available starting approximately 1 to 2 weeks after death.  They can be ordered after that and in amounts as small as one death certificate.  And, once available, death certificates will always be available forever.

As a result, there is no need to feel pressured to order death certificates quickly, nor should you feel pressure to make “death certificate decisions” until you know how many and what type of death certificate you will need.  That process typically takes from one to six weeks.

How much do death certificates cost?

If you order death certificates through our firm, they cost $15 each.

You can also order death certificates directly from the state by clicking this link.