After a person dies, it can take anywhere from one day to a few weeks for the official death certificate to be completely processed. Turnaround times vary by location, type of death, and when the person died. The circumstances under which a person dies can also impact how long it takes to get a death certificate. For example, if an extended investigation is required to determine the cause of death, that will slow down the process.
Average Timeframe for Death Certificate Completion
Most states require death certificates to be completed and returned to the funeral director within 48 to 72 hours. However, each state has specific regulations on the timeframe for submitting a death certificate; they can range from one to 10 days.
Verification and Required Signatures
A medical examiner, coroner, or physician is required to fill in portions of the death certificate with key information, such as the person's cause of death. They must also sign to confirm the person is no longer living. Once the medical professional has completed their portion of the certificate, they usually have to deliver it to the funeral director, who also signs the document.
Transfer to Records Department
After the medical professional and funeral director have signed the certificate, it is transferred to the local government office charged with keeping vital records. This office completes the certification process by reviewing the information and affixing a governmental seal. This process differs slightly from state to state, so how long it takes to get a death certificate after someone dies can vary.
Release of Death Certificate to Family Members
Once the death certificate has been certified by the government agency responsible for recordkeeping, copies can be provided to the deceased individual's family members. This is usually handled as part of the funeral or cremation arrangements, but families can opt to order directly from the appropriate government agency if they prefer to do so.
Required Information to Request a Death Certificate
In some states, death records are public and anyone can request one. However, in most states, death certificates will be released only to those who are related to the deceased or are legally representing their estate. To obtain a death certificate for someone, you may need to provide the following information:
- Unexpired proof of your identity that includes a photo and your signature
- Your relationship to the deceased (if applicable)
- Documentation of your status as executor or administrator of the person's estate (if applicable)
- Your current contact information
- The full name, sex, and exact date and place of death for the deceased individual
- The legal names of the deceased's parents, including their mother's maiden name
- The reason why you're requesting a copy, with documentation (such as an insurance policy that lists your name as the beneficiary)
State Death Certificate Timeframes
Use the chart below to find the processing time after requesting a death certificate. This is an indicator of how long you can generally expect it to take for you to receive death certificate copies after placing an order.
|State||Processing Time||State||Processing Time|
|Alabama||Same-day in person||Montana||2-3 weeks|
|Alaska||Same-day in person||Nebraska||Same-day in person|
|Arizona||7-10 business days||Nevada||Same-day in person|
|Arkansas||Same-day in person||New Hampshire||Same-day in person|
|California||3-4 weeks||New Jersey||Same-day in person|
|Colorado||Same-day in person||New Mexico||3-5 business days|
|Connecticut||6-8 weeks||New York||5-12 days|
|Delaware||Same-day in person||North Carolina||Same-day in person|
|Florida||1-3 business days||North Dakota||3-5 business days|
|Georgia||Same-day in person||Ohio||Same-day in person|
|Hawaii||10 days||Oklahoma||Same-day in person|
|Idaho||2-3 weeks||Oregon||Same-day in person|
|Illinois||5-7 business days||Pennsylvania||Same-day in person|
|Indiana||Same-day in person||Rhode Island||1-2 weeks|
|Iowa||Same-day in person||South Carolina||Same-day in person|
|Kansas||Same-day in person||South Dakota||Same-day in person|
|Kentucky||Same-day in person||Tennessee||Same-day in person|
|Louisiana||Same-day in person||Texas||Same-day in person|
|Maine||Same-day in person||Utah||Same-day in person|
|Maryland||Same-day in person||Vermont||2-4 business days|
|Massachusetts||2-3 weeks||Virginia||1-14 days|
|Michigan||Same-day in person||Washington||Same-day in person|
|Minnesota||Same-day in person||West Virginia||10-14 days|
|Mississippi||7-10 business days||Wisconsin||Same-day in person|
|Missouri||Same-day in person||Wyoming||5-10 business days|
Factors That May Cause a Delay
State laws are not the only factors that impact how long it may take to get a death certificate. Several factors could delay processing.
- If a medical examiner has to wait for test results, this can delay the process for several weeks.
- When a full autopsy or investigation into the death is necessary, it may take an additional six weeks or longer.
- If the person died in a large county and needs to be checked by the medical examiner, the volume of cases can cause a delay.
- The certificate can be delayed if personnel are unavailable to sign documents due to office hours, vacations, or family emergencies.
- Data entry errors on important details, such as dates and legal names, can hold up the process.
- If the signer forgets to date their signature, this can cause the process to be delayed.
How to Speed Up the Process
Because a death certificate is an official government document, there's not much you can do to expedite the process. For the fastest results, it helps if you:
- Let the funeral home handle ordering your death certificates at the time you make final arrangements for the deceased
- Order a few more copies than you think you need, so you have extras handy rather than having to submit multiple records requests
- Have the deceased's personal information on hand when you request a certificate
- Have complete contact details for the deceased's physician available
- Be prepared to provide details about the deceased date, time, and location of death
Understand the Process
Familiarize yourself with your local government and identify which office is charged with keeping vital records, as well as any laws that impact the time it takes for a death certificate to be processed and released in your state. When you learn about the regulations and parties involved in certifying a death certificate in your area, you'll better understand how long it may take to get a copy of this important document.