Everything You Wanted To Know About A Death Certificate

Jun 28th 2018

When a death occurs, the first and most important document to be completed is the death certificate. Without this important piece of document, the final care and disposition of a body cannot take place. In addition to its importance with the burial and body disposal, the registered copy of the death certificate or a similar document verifying proof of death is required by many insurance agencies, financial institutions, and government agencies in settling the deceased estate.

To be valid, the certificate must be signed by the attending physician or a doctor who is familiar with the deceased medical history. Most hospitals will not release a person's remains until the certificate has been signed. This can cause problems with the funeral home in receiving the remains, particularly if the death occurs on a weekend or holiday, when the physician is not working or on vacation.

To complete the medication information requested on the certificate, it may be necessary to do an autopsy to verify or determine the cause of death. If the death was unexpected, sudden or resulted from foul play, the medical examiner or coroner could will require an autopsy. The family cannot overrule this decision. The family can request an autopsy even if a death was considered natural to gain more insight in the loved one's medical history and condition.

Once the deceased is released from the hospital, the funeral director is given a copy of the death certificate which at this point, is still not complete. It then becomes the funeral home or funeral director's responsibility to complete and register it. Completing the remainder information usually consists of verifying personal history.

After the funeral service, the death certificate is registered with the Registrar of the District in which the death occurred and a copy forwarded to the State Registrar. If the death occurs at home, the funeral director will bring a blank certificate for the physician to complete before the body is transferred to the funeral home.

If the physician is not in attendance during the death, a verbal approval is obtained over the phone to the funeral director and family to remove the remains. The funeral director will need to go to the physician's office to get his signature for the certificate.

Regardless of what country you are a citizen, the death is registered in the country that the death occurred. If the death occurs on international waters, it must be registered in the country the remains are conveyed. The death certificate is an essential piece of document in the repatriation process (the process of returning a person back to one's place of origin or citizenship). Since the original certificate must be registered, embassies will require both a registered and notarized copy.

These along with other documents are placed in an enveloped and attached to the body container to be inspected at customs. If there are errors in the preparation of any document, it can cause delays and hardship for families waiting for the return of their loved one.

The death certificate registration should occur before the burial. Once it is registered, an Application and Permit For Disposition of Human Remains is completed by the funeral director or entity in charge of body disposition. The permit accompanies the body remains to the final resting place and forward to the Registrar of the District. If the body is to be cremated and scattered at sea, the permit is forwarded to the District's nearest point where the cremated remains were scattered.

There is much to know about what surrounds the completion of a death certificate. It's important to note that delays in the process could result if papers are not properly completed. It is best to work with an established funeral home or director to ensure the process goes smoothly and without additional delays.