A death certificate is the critical document in all probate matters. Whether it is to open a probate, close out bank accounts or change the ownership of a home from the deceased to a beneficiary, a death certificate is always the first piece of information an authority or institution will want to see. This government-issued piece of paper holds a lot of power, but how do you get one?
At the time of death, requests for copies of the death certificate are made to the funeral home. Due to the extensive and necessary information about the deceased, signature from a physician or coroner, and reason for death, this process can be delayed. Since the death certificate is the key to retrieving life insurance policies, social security and the like, I suggest ordering as many as 10 copies since so many third parties will want to keep the death certificate for their own records.
If time has passed since the death, but the need is urgent, you can order a death certificate through the Department of Health and Bureau of Vital Statistics of the state of where the death occurred. For Nevada residents, mail in the form found at the link below with a check or money order for the $10 fee for a search and verification of the certificate, and $20 per copy. http://health.nv.gov/PDFs/FP_Forms/2010-12/deathcertapp.pdf.
The form asks for information that is found on the death certificate, like a social security number, name of descendants, father and mother’s maiden name, to make sure that the request matches the document. The more information you provide on the request form, the faster the processing will be.
According to Nevada Revised Statute 440.650:
- Upon request, the State Registrar shall furnish any applicant a certified copy of the record of any birth or death registered under the provisions of this chapter.
- The State Registrar shall not issue a certified copy of a certificate or parts thereof unless the State Registrar is satisfied that the applicant therefore has a direct and tangible interest in the matter recorded, subject, however, to review by the Board or a court of competent jurisdiction under the limitations of NRS 440.170.
What this statute tells us is that unless you are next of kin, a legal guardian, or a legal representative of the descendent a death certificate cannot be obtained. With the request form it is critical that the requester includes a copy of a valid identification so as to not delay or terminate the process. Turnaround time from sending in the request to receiving the death certificate is typically between two and four weeks. Lack of information provided by the requester can delay the process further.
With the convenience of the Internet, acquiring a death certificate can be easier, but will cost more. There are many portals on the internet that can obtain the certificate, but VitalChek is the one that the Department of Health and Human Services in Nevada recommends. This service also provides the added convenience of UPS Air delivery. This will decrease shipping time and offers the benefit of increased security for the important document for an extra $20.00. Certificate processing time averages three to five business days.
T T Young says
the distasteful aspects of the banking-government-insurance complex is displayed by my recent experience: wife’s longtime and only friend and business partner died; she was POA; the bank was somehow notified of his death and froze the account; but yet demanded his Death Certificate from my wife for any further discussions. Very Cutely Kafkaesque.
Michael R. Cahill says
I’ve been there. From the bank’s perspective it’s easier to shoot and ask questions later. If there is some legitimate indication of the death of a customer, then they will freeze that account to protect those assets. But they won’t operate the other way to unfreeze it. Instead, as you’ve experienced, they want that objective verifiable proof the death certificate offers. In the end, their primary concern is to avoid being sued so it’s a measure of self-preservation which, unfortunately, conflicts with customer satisfaction in these cases.