Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Practical Information: Death Certificates

This post is a bit of a different twist from my usual ethical debates, nursing care instructions, symptomatology of dying, or film/book review. This is the type of information that is usually obtained through a mortuary or a funeral home, however I thought it may be of interest, particularly for nurses. When a patient dies in a hospital, family members frequently inquire about receiving a death certificate. Hospitals vary as to how the death certificate is made available. Some hospitals provide the death certificate; some hospitals deligate that job to the mortuaries.

Some reasons you might need a copy of a death certificate:

-Airfare reimbursement to attend death or funeral of family member
-Probate issues
-Life insurance proceeds
-Sell or transfer of stocks and bonds
-Sell or transfer of real estate property and for real estate tax purposes
-Sell or transfer of title to car, boat, mobile home, or modular home
-Employee benefits and pensions
-Bank and loan transactions, such as to close a bank account
-Income tax records
-Veteran monetary benefit claims
-Transfer of remains outside of the United States

Generally it is recommended that at the time of death you request four more copies than you expect to need. You can obtain a copy of the death certificate after the fact. See where to request a copy of a death certificate for more information. However, keep in mind that it may take weeks to months to receive a copy of the death certificate and it's usually preferrable to not have to wait to complete closure on a personal loss of a loved one any later than you have to.

Some of the previously mentioned companies may return the original copy of the death certificate, so that you may be able to reuse it with another business. Inquire with each business as to what their policy is.

Cause of death will not be on all death certificates. States differ in their statutes with regards to who may obtain information as to cause of death; your state may or may not allow this information to be given to the deceased's spouse, parent, child, grandchild, sibling, or any family member who provides a will, insurance policy or other document that demonstrates the family member's interest in the estate of the deceased.

Cause of death cannot be included when requesting copies for probate issues. Cause of death does not need to be listed on death certificates used for real estate taxes, property claims, vehicles title transfer, or the closing of bank accounts. Life insurance companies, however, often require cause of death to be included on the death certificate.

Any questions?

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