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Death Certificates

You may not think that death and paperwork go together, but of course they do. The thought of death is difficult for most people to consider, but eventually it happens. And, in today’s complex modern society, paperwork and its details are always important. After death, one critical piece of paperwork is the record of death. The “vital information” regarding the person who has died is recorded with the city and state. The family members are given a certified copy of the official record and that is what we commonly call a Death Certificate.

Accurate information is crucial. Errors can cause problems later on. Usually the Funeral Director will be completing part of the record and you may be asked to provide much of the information that goes in it. This may include:

  • The full name of the decedent (the person who died) his date of birth and perhaps even his social security number (although most states have stopped using it on Death Certificates). A name sounds easy, but some people use different names over time, including different middle initials. You should give the name that the person used most of the time; most likely what it says on a Will and what is on the ownership documents of the person’s possessions.
  • The name of the mother and father of the decedent including the maiden name of the mother (this is more complex in a modern world of various ways of changing or not changing names when people get married). You may not even know this information, which could be a problem.
  • The “domicile” or “residence” for the decedent. This is a fundamental fact and you must be correct. If you must go through Probate, you will have to do it in the decedent’s state and county of residence. You will need the death certificate to be accurate. Think carefully before you give just any old address – where did the person really live? Where are his assets? Where was his real home? A parent might have been living with a child for a little while (or in a nursing home) before dying, but his real residence is probably his old home.

The doctor will usually complete the part on “cause of death” but you might want to discuss this with her if you can. If the cause is listed as “natural” you will usually have no problem. If something like “gunshot wound” is listed, it may complicate the probate proceedings. Of course, if it is true, you cannot change it, but you may be able to have a doctor put a more benign statement to protect some private facts or even add more details to “protect the innocent.”