How to Get a Death Certificate in Kentucky (Online or By Mail)

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If you need to order a death certificate for a loved one, it can be confusing to know what steps to take. While the funeral home provides initial copies of the death certificate, what happens if you need to get a death certificate at a later date?

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In this case, you likely won’t go through your funeral home. Instead, you need to access the state’s Vital Record Office. In Kentucky, there are a few different methods to conduct a death certificate search. It can be unclear if you’re unfamiliar with the administrative process of ordering official vital records. 

A vital record is any document related to death, birth, marriage, or divorce. In Kentucky, you can order these records online, in-person, or by mail. Read the complete guide below to learn who can order a death certificate in Kentucky and how to start the process.

Who Can Order Death Certificates in Kentucky?

Unlike other states, Kentucky does not have strict privacy laws around vital records. You don’t need to be related to the deceased or authorized by the court to receive a legal death record. However, there are still some limitations. For example, the cause of death won’t be listed on a death certificate unless you can provide proper documentation. 

That being said, you do still need to provide information about the deceased before accessing records. These are required regardless of how you proceed with your request. 

It’s also important to note that vital records cannot be accessed for free in Kentucky. There is a fee for each search. 

Steps for Ordering a Death Certificate in Kentucky Online

Ordering a death certificate online is an easy process. The state of Kentucky goes through a third-party service known as VitalChek. Note that VitalChek is the only authorized third-party service by the state. 

Step 1. Navigate to VitalChek

To begin, navigate to the VitalChek website for Kentucky. While fast and convenient, VitalChek does charge an additional service fee for using the service. 

Once you’ve gathered the information you’ll need, click “Order Now” to begin. Because you can order all types of vital records through VitalChek, be sure to select “Death Certificate” and confirm your state. 

Step 2. Enter information about the deceased

Next, enter details about the deceased, including their name, the county or city of death, place of death, date of death, and the name of the funeral home. You’ll also need to include the reason for your request and your relationship to the deceased.

If you don’t know any piece of this information above, it’s best to complete an application in-person or by mail. This gives you more flexibility with the application. The more information you are able to include, the more likely your record will be found quickly. 

Step 3. Enter your information

As the requestor, you also need to enter your own information. You need to include your full name, address, contact information, and billing information if you’re paying by credit card. 

It’s essential to make sure your information is correct. This includes the shipping address where you want to receive the record. Entering the wrong address or contact information can result in your request not being completed. 

Step 4. Choose your number of copies

Before you complete your request, choose how many copies you need. There are a lot of reasons why you may need a death certificate. So you might need to request multiple copies at once. 

Each copy costs $6. If you purchase online through VitalChek, there’s a service fee of $9.50. It’s important to note that this fee is non-refundable even if your request can’t be completed. 

Before checkout, you’ll also be asked to choose a shipping method. In Kentucky, you can select regular mail (free) or expressing shipping for $17.50. 

Step 6. Submit your request

The final step is to submit your request. You’ll need to confirm that your billing address matches the address on your credit card. With VitalChek, you can pay with MasterCard, Visa, and Discover. You can also pay with a personal check or business check through the online payment portal. Your request might take up to 30 days to be completed. 

Steps for Ordering a Death Certificate in Kentucky In Person or By Mail

In the state of Kentucky, you can also order a death certificate in person or by mail. In-person service is faster, and you can often get same-day service. Whichever method you choose, follow the steps below. 

Step 1. Download the application

To begin your request, download the official Application for a Certified Copy of Death Certificate. This is a one-page document available on the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services Website. 

It’s a good idea to download and complete the application even if you plan to visit an office. By doing so, you’ll speed up the process. 

Step 2. Enter information about the deceased

The first section of the official application is information found on the death certificate. This includes the full name of the deceased, date of death, place of death, name of the hospital (if any), attending physician name (if applicable), and the funeral service provider. 

Do your best to include as much information as you can. If you don’t know something or it’s not applicable (e.g., the deceased did not have a physician), leave the space blank. 

Step 3. Complete the requestor section

Next, fill out the section for the requestor. This is where you share your relationship to the deceased, your full name, phone number, mailing address, and signature. Again, it’s important to verify this information before you complete your application. 

Step 4. Choose your number of copies and pay

Under the requestor section, indicate the number of copies. Each copy is a flat fee of $6. Write the number of copies you are requesting along with the total payment amount. 

If paying by mail, you must use a check or money order. Make your check or money order payable to “Kentucky State Treasurer.” This is a non-refundable fee. If you plan to drop off your application in person, you will still need to pay by check or money order. 

Step 5. Mail or drop off your application

Lastly, mail your application or drop it off at an office. The mailing address for completed applications is:

Vital Statistics
275 East Main Street 1E-A
Frankfort, KY 40621

To drop your application off in person, visit the Office of Vital Statistics at the address above. Check online to learn hours of operation as they’re subject to change at any time. They also have a drop box at the visitor entrance for documents and requests. Just like with online requests, it takes up to a month to process mail-in requests.

Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Kentucky

Whether you need to send a notification of death letter to the credit bureaus or notify the IRS of a death, it can be confusing to start this process. While these administrative tasks are an important part of tying up loose ends, they’re not always easy to figure out on your own. These frequently asked questions are specific to Kentucky death records. 

Who’s allowed to look at death records or death certificates in Kentucky?

In the state of Kentucky, death records are public records. While other vital records have more protections, death records are open to the public. As long as you know some of the key information on the death certificate (name of the deceased, funeral home, etc.), anyone can request a death record for a fee. 

If you are not related to the deceased, the death record won’t include every detail. The cause of death will not be listed, for instance. This is to protect the privacy of the family and the deceased. Ultimately, it’s easy to order a death certificate for someone in the state of Kentucky regardless of your relationship to the deceased. 

How long does it take to receive a death certificate in Kentucky?

In Kentucky, you can expect your order to take around 30 days to process. This varies depending on the shipping method you choose (if you order online). 

The fastest options are to order online with expedited shipping or to visit in person. If you visit the office in person, you may be able to receive same-day service. Otherwise, expect to wait up to a month for your request to be completed. 

How much does a death certificate cost in Kentucky?

Kentucky is one of the most affordable states when it comes to ordering vital records. Each death certificate costs a flat fee of $6 which covers search and printing costs. 

If you order online through VitalChek, there is another fee of $9.50. Remember that these fees are non-refundable no matter the result of your record search. 

Which records are available at Kentucky’s Vital Records Office?

In Kentucky, birth and death records only became mandatory in 1911. Any records from before 1911 are kept with the state archive office. 

Additionally, central records at the Office of Vital Statistics only began in 1958. This means any deaths prior to 1958 need to be acquired from the county clerk or the state genealogy department. 

Find the Right Records in Kentucky

Are you searching for a death record in Kentucky? Whether you’re compiling records for your family history or handling a loved one’s affairs after their death, this is an important task. Ordering a death certificate is often confusing, but the state of Kentucky makes it relatively simple thanks to open record legislation. 

If you wish to order a death record in Kentucky for any purpose, follow the steps above. Your request could be completed in up to 30 days. It’s a relatively straightforward process. Taking steps to tie up a loved one’s loose ends is an act of kindness and compassion and helps ensure their legacy.


Sources:
  1. “Are Kentucky Vital Records Open to the Public?” Kentucky State Records. Kentucky.StateRecords.org
  2. “Certificate Purchase Options.” Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services. CHFS.KY.gov
  3. “Kentucky Public Records.” Public Libraries. PublicLibraries.com
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