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.
Typically, laws dictate a death certificate should be created within 72 hours of a death being reported and submitted to the local health department. Each state has specific regulations on the timeframe for submitting a death certificate and these requirements can range from one to 10 days.
Verification and Signatures
A medical examiner, coroner, or physician is often required to fill in portions of the certificate or, at the very least, they sign it to confirm the person is no longer living.
Once the medical professional has completed their portion of the certificate, they often have to deliver it to the funeral director who also signs the document. The certificate is then 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.
State Timeframe Examples
To get an idea of specific requirements for processing by state, check out these examples of the processing time after requesting a certificate.
|California||3 to 4 weeks|
|Florida||1 to 3 business days|
|Kentucky||1 day for online or in-person, 30 days by mail|
|New York||5 to 12 days|
|Virginia||1 to 14 days|
Causes For Delay
National Cremation shares many reasons that may delay the processing of a death certificate.
- If a medical examiner has to wait for test results, it can delay the process for weeks.
- When a full autopsy or investigation into the death is necessary, it may take an additional six weeks at a minimum.
- If the person died in a large county, delays can be expected because the offices are busier.
- The certificate can be delayed if personnel are unavailable for live signatures due to office hours, vacations, or family emergencies.
- Data entry errors of details like dates and names can hold up the process.
- If the signer forgets to date their signature, the process can be delayed as well.
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:
- Have the deceased's personal information on hand
- Know the exact time of death if the person died at home
- Have the deceased's physician's contact information available
- Speak with the coroner or funeral director about how you can participate in the process
Understand the Process
Familiarize yourself with local governments and identify which office is charged with keeping vital records. When you understand the regulations and parties involved in certifying a death certificate in your area, you'll better understand how long it will take to get a copy.