What’s the Process of Obtaining Death Certificates?

During a period of such intense grief following the passing of a loved one, obtaining death certificates can seem like a difficult task.

The process is relatively straightforward, however, especially with the help of a funeral home that can organize the majority of this process.

Here’s everything you need to know about the process of obtaining the certificate.

Requesting a death certificate

Pennsylvania provides a few different methods of requesting the original certificate.

You can carry out the process online through VitalChek, Pennsylvania’s only authorized vendor of online death record requests, where you file your request and the Pennsylvania Department of Health (DOH) will process the requests.

You can also order a certificate over the phone, speaking to a VitalChek agent.

If you choose a different vendor, they will convert your orders to a paper application, which then gets submitted to the DOH. This can take a bit longer in comparison to the online route.

You can also request a certificate in person, but you’ll have to make an appointment from one of the 6 offices in the state. You’ll need to fill out a vital records appointment request form and an application for the certificate before your visit.

You can also request the certificate by mail, but this is one of the most extended processing times.

As far as payments go, online, phone, in-person, and by-mail requests all cost the same, unless you request expedited services, which will be subject to additional charges.

Requesting copies of the death certificate

You’ll also have to request additional copies of the certificate for several reasons; each copy will be the same price.

Requesting all the copies at once won’t necessarily save you a lot of money, but will save you a lot of time and hassle.

There is a $10 processing fee every time you make a new request, so save yourself time, effort, and a little bit of money by ordering more copies than you think you’ll need.

It’s recommended that you request 5-10 additional copies of the certificate.

The main reasons that you’ll need a copy of this certificate include:

  • Claiming insurance
  • Filing final tax returns
  • Transporting the body/remains
  • Transferring titles between owners
  • Processing retirement plans, military benefits, and pension payments
  • Closing or squaring away financial accounts

There can, however, be more reasons that may pop up depending on the deceased and the life they lived.

Receiving the death certificate

You can request the certificate in Pennsylvania at any time of the day if it’s done online. It can be done from anywhere—even from the comfort of your own home.

Other methods may take a little longer, but you may prefer it, as walking into an appointment or a telephone call allows you to ask more questions.

Depending on your request, which method you used to request it, and other factors, processing times can vary.

These processes often don’t include the time taken for delivery.

If you place your order online via VitalChek, it’s currently estimated to take three weeks.

Paper orders filed are estimated at four weeks, but you can also request expedited services for a quicker turnaround.

A funeral home can help ease the process of obtaining the certificate

With a massive list of tasks, arrangements, and loose ends to tie up following the death of a loved one, funeral homes in Pittsburgh can help immensely in informing you of everything you need to do.

So while you may feel incredibly overwhelmed and stressed about this entire process, a funeral home can help with many processes, including dealing with obtaining death certificates.

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