Death Certificate FAQs

What is a death certificate?

               A death certificate is a document, officially recorded with the Florida State Office of Vital Statistics (in Jacksonville), which registers the death of an individual within the state of Florida.  The death certificate serves many important purposes.  It provides proof of death for life insurance claims, survivor’s Social Security benefits, veteran’s benefits and many other business transactions requiring proof of death.

What information is recorded on a death certificate?
A death certificate is divided into two sections:

1.  The decedent’s personal information, gathered by the funeral director at the initial arrangement conference with the family and

2.  The “medical portion,” completed by the certifying physician (or medical examiner as appropriate), listing the primary cause of death and any contributing causes. 

Some of the information required on the death certificate seems a bit strange.  Why is this information necessary?

Not only does a death certificate serve to officially register the death of someone within the state, but the information is also used by state officials in compiling statistical analysis of death trends and causes and for public health planning.

Who’s responsible for completing the death certificate?

The funeral director who first assumes custody of the decedent must obtain the required personal and statistical information and present the certificate to the attending physician (or medical examiner) for signature and medical certification of the cause of death. 

I was told there are two different types of death certificates available in the state of Florida.  What’s the difference?

Because of our privacy laws, the state of Florida issues two different types of death certificates - one lists cause of death information, the other does not. Since cause of death information is considered confidential and protected by statute, most Florida businesses are not allowed to accept a death certificate with cause of death information for their transactions.  Life insurance companies do, however, require cause of death information on the certificates sent to them.

Who needs death certificates and how many should I request?

The number of death certificates (also referred to as “certified copies”) varies from family to family, depending on the number of business transactions they must attend to requiring a death certificate.  On average, most families initially request five to ten death certificates.  You will need a death certificate for:

                  - Life insurance (with cause of death)

                  - To sell or transfer title of a car, boat or airplane (without cause)

                  - To sell or transfer title of real property (without cause)

                  - Social Security (if there is a surviving spouse or eligible                     

                     minor child) (without cause)

                  - Pensions (without cause)

                  - Banks (for accounts held by the decedent, whether                                     

                     solely or jointly) (without cause)

                  - Stocks, bonds and annuities (without cause)

                  - Veterans Administration (if decedent was receiving retirement

                     or disability compensation) (with cause of death)

How do I obtain a death certificate?

As part of the initial arrangement conference, your funeral director will discuss death certificates with you and offer advise regarding the number and type of certificates needed.  Our funeral home will then order the certificates from the appropriate Health Department.         

Ø What if I run out of death certificates?  How do I obtain additional copies?

1.   Call our funeral home and request additional copies. We will how many certificates you are requesting with cause, how many without cause and whether we should hold them for someone to pick up or simply mail them to an address you provide.  Additionally, we will request your credit card information with which to pay the appropriate Health Department fees.

2.   Visit the appropriate county Health Department in person, complete their application, pay their fee and generally you will be issued the certificates while you wait.

Why can’t I order just one death certificate and make photocopies?

Most business transactions require the use of an original certified copy which, in most cases, will be kept by that business for their records.  Certified copies are produced by the local Health Department on a special watermarked paper.  If a photocopy is made, the word “VOID” appears across the body of the copy. 

Can anyone obtain a death certificate?

Anyone can request and obtain a death certificate without cause of death information as long as the appropriate county fee is paid. Death certificates with cause of death information are considered          confidential and issued only to the following authorized persons:                        

                  - Decedent’s spouse

                  - Decedent’s mother or father

                  - Decedent’s child, grandchild, or sibling, if of legal age

                  - Any person who provides a will, insurance policy or                         

                     other document that demonstrates his or her interest in                    

                      the estate of the decedent

                   - Any person who provides documentation that he or she                            

                      is acting on behalf of any of the above named persons

                    - Court order

After 50 years from the date of death, cause of death information is no longer    

considered confidential and protected by statute.  Anyone may obtain a certified

copy showing cause of death on those records (once the appropriate fee is paid)

How much does a death certificate cost?
Currently, the Health Department charge for a death certificate in Sarasota County is $10.00 per copy, $10.00 per copy in Charlotte County.  The per copy cost is the same whether the certificates list the cause of death or not.  There are no additional charges added by our funeral home for death certificates.

What happens if I notice incorrect information on the death certificate?  How do I get it corrected?

Correction (also called amendment) of a filed death certificate can only be made by the state office in Jacksonville.  Certain errors (other than those in the medical section) may be corrected by submitting an “Affidavit of Amendment to Death Record,” Form DH 433. In addition to the affidavit, documentary evidence is needed in support of major corrections.  Changes to marital status that affect the surviving spouse require a court order.  Currently, a $20.00 statutory amendment fee is required and includes the issuance of one certified copy of the amended record. Our funeral home will gladly assist you with the amendment process.