How to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Virginia

A death certificate is a vital, official document that state and local governments maintain as evidence of the cause and manner of death, in addition to other details about someone who has passed away.

Normally, the planning of a funeral will involve family members ordering multiple copies of the death certificate from the home during their time of bereavement. However, there may be times when someone else needs to acquire one at a later date.

A death certificate is needed for many important activities such as settling estates, collecting life insurance benefits, changing bank accounts or property titles to the name of an heir, filing employee benefit claims, and obtaining Social Security payments.

Here are some examples of reasons you might need someone’s death certificate:

  • To Transfer Assets: When the executor of an estate needs to transfer assets from a deceased person’s name into another individual’s name.
  • For Tax Purposes: A death certificate is needed in order to legally claim any inheritance or income taxes that may be due.
  • To Claim Benefits: These can range from Social Security, Veteran’s Administration, life insurance benefits and other types of government benefits.

The Office of Vital Records in Virginia keeps records of birth, death, marriage and divorce. Technically, birth records become public after 100 years. Death, marriage, and divorce records become public after 25 years. These vital records are only available to immediate family members including mother, father, spouse, child, brother, sister, and grandparents – and birth records specifically are available to legal guardians. Other relatives, such as aunts/uncles, cousins, and in-laws cannot obtain vital records before they are made public.

Birth, death, marriage and divorce records are also available online from 1912 to present day on Ancestry.com.

Frequently Asked Questions about Death Certificates

How much does a death certificate cost?

Death certificates, as well as any other vital record, costs $12/copy.

How do I get a copy of a death certificate?

In Virginia, death certificates are maintained by the state Department of Health’s Division of Vital Records.

In order to obtain a death certificate of an immediate family member, you must submit a written request to the Office of Vital Records. The request should include the registrant’s name, date and place of death, relationship of applicant to deceased, purpose for obtaining a copy, and payment. You will also need to provide proof of your identity such as a driver’s license or state-issued identification card.

Death certificates can be requested:

You can mail in your request with payment by check or money order (made payable to the ‘Treasurer of Virginia’) or drop off in person at any local health department office where vital records are kept. Payment is required prior to processing the application; if mailing in a check, do not send cash.

Once the application has been processed and approved, copies can be picked up. Generally, they request 8 weeks to process the application. Applicants have the option of express, next-day delivery for an additional fee.

What are the ID requirements for obtaining a death certificate?

You will need to provide two forms of identification, including a primary form (such as a driver’s license) and two a secondary forms.

The State Registrar has a long list of acceptable documents, that can be found at the Virginia Health Departments’ website here.

What if I can’t get a copy of the death certificate, and I need one?

If you are unable to obtain a copy of the death certificate, or if it is not available in the state of Virginia, there are still other options. You can contact a funeral home or cemetery where the deceased was buried and they may be able to provide information that can help you. Additionally, you may be able to find obituaries online that includes the date of death and place of burial which could also be helpful.

If you are searching for vital records outside of Virginia, the National Center for Health Statistics website may provide answers.

Tharp Funeral Home can Help with Vital Records

When you turn to Tharp Funeral Home, one of our first steps is collecting the vital data required for a Death Certificate as well as ordering multiple copies at your discretion. This takes some pressure off you and your family during a difficult time.

If you have questions about death certificates or the planning process, please schedule an appointment with our funeral directors.