How to Get a Copy of Death Certificate in California

How to Get a Copy of Death Certificate in California

Losing a loved one is a difficult time, and often, there are many administrative tasks to handle amidst the grief. One crucial document you may need is a death certificate. In California, obtaining a copy of a death certificate is a straightforward process. This guide will walk you through the steps to acquire this essential document.

Step 1: Determine Eligibility
To request a death certificate in California, you must be an immediate family member, a legal representative, or have a court order. Immediate family members include parents, siblings, children, or spouses of the deceased. If you meet these criteria, proceed to the next step.

Step 2: Complete the Application Form
California offers two types of death certificates: an authorized copy and an informational copy. An authorized copy is a certified document typically used for legal purposes, while an informational copy is generally used for genealogical research or informational purposes. Visit the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) website to download the appropriate application form or obtain it in person from a local vital records office.

Step 3: Provide Required Information
Fill out the application form with accurate information about the deceased individual, including their full name, date of birth, date of death, and place of death. It is essential to provide as much detail as possible to ensure a smooth and accurate process. Additionally, include your relationship to the deceased and your contact information.

Step 4: Submit the Application
Once you have completed the application form, you can submit it in one of three ways:

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1. Mail: Mail the application, along with a photocopy of your valid identification, to the CDPH Vital Records office. Include a check or money order to cover the required fee (currently $21 per certified copy). The address for mailing can be found on the application form.

2. In-person: Bring the completed application form, a photocopy of your valid identification, and the appropriate fee to a local County Recorder’s Office or the CDPH Vital Records office. Check the CDPH website for the office nearest to you.

3. Online: Some counties in California offer online services for obtaining death certificates. Check the CDPH website or the website of your local county recorder’s office to see if this option is available in your area.


Q: How long does it take to receive a death certificate?
A: Once your application is processed, it typically takes 2-3 weeks to receive the death certificate by mail. If you submit the application in person, you may receive it faster.

Q: Can I request a death certificate if I am not an immediate family member?
A: Yes, if you can provide a court order or demonstrate that you have a direct and tangible interest in the record. Additional documentation may be required.

Q: Can I request a death certificate from another state?
A: No, you must request a death certificate from the state in which the death occurred.

Q: How much does a death certificate cost?
A: As of current regulations, the fee for a certified copy of a death certificate in California is $21. Additional fees may apply for expedited processing or copies requested in person.

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Q: Can I request a death certificate for someone who died a long time ago?
A: Yes, death certificates can typically be obtained for deaths that occurred within the past 50 years. For older records, you may need to contact the county recorder’s office or the California State Archives.

Remember, having a copy of the death certificate is important for various legal and administrative purposes, such as settling estates, claiming life insurance, and updating official records. By following these steps, you can obtain a death certificate in California efficiently and effectively.