How to Get a Death Certificate in Missouri: Step-by-Step

Updated

Ordering a death certificate isn’t always as simple as completing an online request. After the death of a loved one, there are many different avenues you can take to begin a death certificate search depending on your needs. However, Missouri does not consider vital records open to the public, so you need to prove you’re eligible under state guidelines. 

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With so many different reasons for needing a death certificate, it’s often confusing to know where to begin. Luckily, in Missouri, it’s possible to order a death certificate online, by mail, or in person. Each option has its own fees, as well as processing times, so consider your own budget and timeline before you begin. 

Keep reading to learn how to get a death certificate in Missouri. This step-by-step guide is designed for all types of requests, whether you’re a relative or acting on behalf of a third party with a legal interest. A death record is one of the most important things you’ll order on behalf of your loved one. Take your time with the steps below to make sure you complete the process quickly and easily. 

What Do You Need to Get a Death Certificate in Missouri?

Different states have different privacy laws to determine who is eligible for specific records. Vital records are any official, legal document relating to birth, death, marriage, or divorce. In Missouri, these records are private and not open to the public. 

This means you need to qualify to apply for a certified death record. You must be an eligible party or your request will be denied. In addition, you need to pay close attention to the date of death to determine which record office in Missouri has the record you need. 

Who qualifies for a death certificate?

In Missouri, death certificates can only be issued to relatives or a third party with a legal need. This includes any of the following individuals (with proper documentation):

  • Parents
  • Adult children
  • Spouse or partner
  • Siblings
  • Grandchildren
  • Grandparents
  • Beneficiaries
  • Someone acting legally on behalf of the deceased or their estate
  • Third-party creditors, account providers, etc. who demonstrate a legal need
  • Those with a court order

Records can also be obtained for research purposes if through a qualified institution. Ultimately, it’s up to the applicant to demonstrate their eligibility through legal documents, identification documents, and so on.

What death records can you request in Missouri?

The state of Missouri Department of Health has all records for deaths occurring in the state of Missouri beginning in 1910. Prior to 1910, the state did not collect vital records. You’ll need to visit a local archive office to determine if they have specific records. 

If you’re seeking a record from 1980 or sooner, you will likely be able to make your request through a local Vital Record Office or Health and Senior Services Department. When in doubt, contact your local office to determine how far back their records date. 

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Steps to Get a Death Certificate in Missouri

If you’re ready to learn how to get a death certificate, you’ve come to the right place. It’s possible to get a death certificate in Missouri through online request, mail-in request, and in person. Each option has different fees and costs, as well as processing times, yet the information for each application is similar. 

Step 1: Choose your method

To begin your record request, choose which method works best for you. Like many other states, there are several different options to choose from, though some are more convenient or efficient than others. Your choices are:

  • Online: The easiest way to order is to send a request online through VitalChek. This is an authorized third-party service used by many states, and it’s the only third-party tool approved in the state of Missouri for vital records.
  • Mail: Another simple option is to order your death certificate by mail. For this, you need to download the official Application for Missouri Vital Records Birth/Death.
  • In person: If you’d rather visit an office in person, you should still print and bring the same application as above. Bringing a completed application to your appointment saves you and the office time. 

The only difference between the options above is processing time and fees. For example, it’s generally the fastest to go in person. You also have to pay an added convenience fee for using VitalChek. That being said, it’s up to you to determine which is the best fit.  

Step 2: Enter information on the death certificate

First, once you’re ready to begin the application, enter the information found on the death certificate. This includes the full name of the deceased, date of birth, sex, date of death, place of death, spouse name (if applicable), and the full names of their parents. 

At this time, confirm whether you’re requesting a long-form or short-form version of the death certificate.

A short form is a traditional copy that’s suitable for most purposes such as notification of death letters to credit bureaus.

A long-form letter is known as a formal “Certificate of Death” and includes additional information about the death. Note that long-form records can only be purchased through VitalChek, by mail, or by visiting the state vital record office in Jefferson City. 

Step 3: Confirm your information

Once you’ve completed information about the deceased, you also need to share your own information as the applicant. This is to verify your identity as well as indicate that you have a “tangible interest” in requesting this legal document since it’s a closed record. 

You need to provide your name, phone number, address, the purpose for your request, email address, and your relationship to the person named on the record. Ensure this information is correct to avoid delays in your application processing time. 

Step 4: Choose your number of copies and payment type

You also have the choice of the number of copies. You’re free to request as many as you wish, and each copy costs $15.00 (The cost is $14.00 through VitalChek). Additionally, if you order online through VitalChek, there is a $12.99 processing fee. The cost is the same whether you order a short form or long form death record. 

If you’re mailing your request, only send a check or money order. Your check or money order must be made payable to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services and must be from a U.S. bank. 

Step 5: Verify your identity

One of the last steps is to sign and complete your application by verifying your identity. If you’re submitting through VitalChek, you will be asked to share additional documents after entering your payment information. 

If you’re sending your order by mail, your document needs to be notarized in the appropriate space. This is to verify that you are who you say you are. With your mailed order, also include a self-addressed, stamped return envelope and any additional documentation proving your relationship with the deceased. Lastly, if you apply in person, this information will be verified there. 

Step 6: Submit or mail your application

Once you’ve completed the steps above, you’re ready to submit your application. If you’re mailing your application, mail your records to:

DHSS - Bureau of Vital Records
930 Wildwood Dr.
Jefferson City, MO 65109

If you’d rather visit in person, locate a local public health agency on the Missouri Department of Health website. You can also contact the Bureau of Vital Records in Jefferson City directly by calling 573-751-6387. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Missouri

Because ordering a death certificate can be tricky, it’s normal to have questions throughout this process. Regardless of why you’re ordering records, consider the frequently asked questions below to guide your search. 

Are death certificates public record in Missouri?

Death certificates and other vital records are not public records in Missouri. The only exception to this is records from earlier than 1910. 

This is when the state of Missouri began storing and keeping track of records, so any records that pre-date 1910 are under state archive laws. You can contact your local state archive office or library for assistance navigating documents from before 1910. 

Who can request a death certificate in Missouri?

You can only request a death certificate in Missouri if you’re related to the deceased or have a legal need for an authorized document. When it comes to who needs original death certificates, this is typically limited to family and legal authorities. 

These privacy laws in Missouri exist to protect the deceased and their families. They ensure information isn’t released to the public about sensitive, private matters. 

When should one request a long-form record?

In Missouri, vital records applications can request either a short or long-form record. For the majority of cases, a short-form record is more than enough. This is an official document indicating someone has died, and it’s used in most instances. 

However, some families might request a long-form record with more information about the death if they want it for genealogy purposes. Additionally, it could be used for historical or legal research. 

How long does it take to get a death certificate in Missouri?

The fastest way to access a record is to get it locally. If you’re able to visit a local office where the document is held, this is the fastest method and you might get same-day service. 

Otherwise, current processing times are between two and four weeks. If your request has errors or requires more searching, it could take longer than this. 

Search for Death Records in Missouri

Compared to other states, Missouri makes it relatively easy to find vital records from before 1910. As long as you’re eligible under state privacy laws and take the steps to verify your identity, the process is straightforward and easy. 

Ordering a death certificate shouldn’t be complicated. This is one of the most important records you’ll ever order, and it’s an important part of the final affairs process. Though it can be intimidating, don’t be afraid to take the first step to order the records you need. 


Sources:

  1. “Order a Copy of Vital Records.” Missouri Department of Health & Senior Services. Health.MO.Gov
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