How to Get a Death Certificate in Alabama: Step-By-Step

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There are a lot of reasons you might need vital records, such as death certificates. However, learning how to get a death certificate isn’t always straightforward. Many people don’t realize these records are accessed differently depending on the state. With that in mind, how do you get a death certificate in Alabama?

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Alabama has strict privacy laws for recent vital records, including death certificates, birth certificates, and marriage records. If you want to order a death certificate for a loved one, you need to ensure you’re eligible and that you have proper identification and supporting documents. 

With so many reasons why you may need a death certificate, it’s important to understand the process before you begin. To get a death certificate in Alabama, follow these step-by-step instructions below. 

Who Can Get a Death Certificate in Alabama?

Each state has its own requirements for who can access death certificates. These are considered closed records, and they’re not open to the public according to Alabama law. That being said, there are some exceptions. 

In Alabama, anyone can access death certificates that are more than 25 years old. On the other hand, to access any records from the past 25 years, you need to be related to the deceased or legally eligible through the court. 

The following individuals are allowed to request a death record in Alabama:

  • Parents
  • Spouses
  • Adult children
  • Siblings
  • Adult grandchildren
  • The legal representative of the family or the estate
  • Informant listed on the death certificate

In addition to being one of the above, you also need to prove your relationship to the deceased by providing proper identification. Starting in 2017, Alabama requires all applicants for any records to have a valid ID like a passport, driver’s license, and so on. 

You also need to provide documentation showing your relationship with the deceased. This can be a marriage record, birth certificate, or court document. It’s important to have all of this key information ready to go before you start the step-by-step death certificate search process below. 

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Steps for Ordering a Death Certificate in Alabama

If you’re ready to order a death certificate in Alabama, there are a few different ways to proceed. You can visit in-person, submit an application online, or by mail. Regardless of the method you choose, follow the steps below. 

Step 1. Choose your order method

Like other states, Alabama offers multiple methods for ordering your loved one’s death certificate. As long as you’re eligible based on the requirements explained above, you’re free to choose whichever of the following methods works best for you:

  • Online: The fastest and most convenient way to order a vital record is online through VitalChek. It’s important to note that VitalChek is the only approved third-party service for ordering records in Alabama. 
  • By mail: You can also download an application and submit your application by mail. The application is also available in Spanish through the Alabama Public Health website. 
  • In-person: Lastly, you can also go to any county health department in Alabama to order a death certificate in person. It’s helpful to bring a printed application in advance to speed up your request. 

There are pros and cons to all of the methods below. While VitalChek is the fastest and can be completed at home, it also has an extra fee. Mail is also convenient but has longer processing times. The fastest option is to go in person, but you might not live near an office. No matter what choice you pick, continue to the steps below. 

Step 2. Enter information about the deceased

To start, enter legal information about the deceased. The more information you provide, the faster your request is completed. If you don’t have all of the information, you can still submit a request. In this case, you’ll need to complete an application in person or by mail. 

In Alabama, you need to enter the legal name of the deceased, the date of death, county of death, sex of the deceased, date of birth, Social Security number, and race. If possible, also enter the name of their spouse (if applicable), and the full names of their parents. 

If you’re requesting a death certificate for a death that occurred after 1991, you may also request for the cause of death to be included on the death record. Note that most administrative tasks like notifying credit bureaus of a death or notifying the IRS of a death don’t require the cause of death. 

Step 3. Enter your information

Next, enter your own contact information as the requestor. You need to include your name, address, relationship with the deceased, the reason for the request, and signature. If you’re authorizing someone else to access this request, you can list their name at this time. 

Remember that in the state of Alabama, you must be an immediate family member or demonstrate a legal right to obtain a copy of this record. All vital records are restricted in Alabama, so ID is required. 

Step 4. Choose your number of copies and payment type

The next step is to indicate the number of copies you’re requesting as well as enter your payment information. All records are $15. This includes the cost of one certified copy or a notice known as Certificate of Failure to Find if your record isn’t found. For additional copies of the same record, it costs a fee of $6 per record. 

If you choose to order online through VitalChek, there is another fee of $9.50 for this service. It’s important to keep in mind that the state of Alabama doesn’t return any processing fees or offer refunds if your request isn’t able to be found. 

Unless you’re ordering online or in-person, include a check or money order with your application. Make any check or money orders payable to the “State Board of Health.” 

Step 5. Submit supporting documents

To complete your request, you need to submit your ID and any requested supporting documents. You can either submit one primary ID or two secondary IDs. A primary ID is any federally-approved identification that includes a photo and isn’t more than 60 days expired. 

In addition, you might need to provide any additional supporting record proving your relationship with the deceased, such as a marriage license, birth certificate, court record, etc. 

Step 6. Submit your request

Lastly, submit your request. If you order through VitalChek, it’s easy to send a request online and get your confirmation instantly. If you’re mailing your request, mail your documents and payment to the address below:

Alabama Department of Public Health
Center for Health Statistics
P.O. Box 5625
Montgomery, AL 36103-5625

From there, wait for your request to be completed. Processing times vary based on the way you submitted your request, but it typically takes between 7 and 10 days. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Alabama

Ordering a death certificate is relatively straightforward in Alabama compared to other states, but you still might run into questions along the way. These frequently asked questions provide much-needed peace of mind. 

Are death certificates free in Alabama?

Death certificates are not free in Alabama. There is a flat fee of $15 for all record requests, even records older than 25 years which are public record. The $15 fee includes the cost of searching for the record and certifying the copy. 

If you order your certificate online through VitalChek, there is an additional $9.50 fee. There are also added fees if you need more than one record or copy. Because each additional copy is only $6, it’s more cost-effective to order as many as you need at once. 

Are death certificates public record in Alabama?

Alabama, like other states, has strict public record laws. This is to protect the privacy of the deceased and their families. However, these public record laws expire after 25 years. That means that any deaths that happened in the past 25 years are protected under privacy laws. 

Otherwise, all death records over 25 years old are open to the general public. You don’t need to be authorized as an immediate family member or by the court to access death records older than 25 years. 

How long does it typically take to get a death certificate?

Alabama has quick processing times for their death certificates. If you visit an office in person, it’s usually possible to receive your record within 30 minutes or less. If you order online or by mail, the average processing time is between 7 and 10 days. 

There is no special option for expedited service in Alabama. If you need a record quickly, it’s best to visit a County Health Office in-person for same-day service. 

How do I access older vital records?

Most vital records from the past 100 years are processed through the Alabama Vital Records Office. Otherwise, you can access records through the Alabama Department of Archives and History. These are available online for free to anyone for genealogy and research purposes. 

Start Your Alabama Death Record Search

There are a number of reasons why you might need to order death records. Whether you’re closing a loved one’s account after death or finding updated records for your family history research, there are many valid reasons to start a search. However, in order to request death certificates in Alabama, you need to make sure you’re eligible and qualified.

These steps above outline the process for requesting legal vital records in the state of Alabama. These methods vary by state, so be sure to check with the specific state your loved one died in before you continue this process. 


Sources:
  1. “Death Certificates.” Alabama Public Health. AlabamaPublicHealth.gov
  2. “Vital Records.” Alabama Public Health. AlabamaPublicHealth.gov
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