How to Obtain a Death Certificate in Montana: Step-By-Step

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Vital records are used for a number of purposes, from closing important accounts to keeping track of family history. It’s important to know how to get a death certificate in your specific state so you’re ready for any administrative tasks you have following a loved one’s death. 

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In Montana, you can order a death certificate by mail, online, or by phone. The death certificate search process is different depending on your specific state, so it’s important to pay close attention to your state’s requirements and eligibility rules. 

If you need to obtain a death certificate in Montana, use the step-by-step guide below to begin the process. Tackle each step carefully to ensure your process is as quick and easy as possible no matter your relationship to the deceased or the purpose for the request.  

Are Death Certificates Public Records in Montana?

Each state has its own privacy laws regarding vital records. In Montana, death records are considered public records. That means they’re open to the public, and anyone can request a certified copy for any purpose. 

That being said, the records available to the public have limited information. They exclude sensitive information about the death of the deceased, like the cause of death. This information is only available to immediate family members and those with legal authorization. 

What do you need to order death records?

Though there are no limits on who can order death certificates in Montana, you still need to provide proper identification. You need to include either a picture ID with a signature or two forms of alternative identification. 

Your ID needs to certify your relationship with the deceased if you wish to receive confidential information like the cause of death. This is also needed in the case of a sealed record.

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Steps for Requesting a Death Certificate in Montana

There are a lot of reasons why you may need a death certificate, but the steps to start the process are all the same. In Montana, you can order a death certificate online, by mail, or by phone. You need proper identification regardless of the method you choose. 

Step 1: Choose your method

To begin, choose how you’d like to submit your application for a death certificate in Montana. In this state, it’s not possible to order a vital record in person at a Department of Health or Vital Records Office. Instead, choose one of the following:

  • Online: The easiest and fastest way to order a death record is through VitalChek. VitalChek is the only approved third-party service for ordering death records in Montana. 
  • Phone: You can also order by phone through the VitalChek service. Call toll-free at (888) 877-1946 to place an order over the phone. 
  • Mail: Lastly, you can complete the Death Certificate Application from Montana’s Office of Vital Records. Paired with a copy of your ID and payment, this can be mailed directly to the state record office. 

These are currently the only options to order a death record in Montana. If you’d wish to ask questions about your order, contact the Montana Vital Records Office directly at (406) 444-2685 or by email at HHSVitalRecords@mt.gov.

Step 2: Enter information about the deceased

To start, enter information about the deceased. This should match the information found on the death certificate. It includes the name of the decedent, their date of death, date of birth, place of death, place of birth, gender, parents’ names, occupation, and spouse’s name.

You also need to include your relationship with the deceased and the reason for your request. If you’re requesting an informational copy, it does not matter what your relationship is (if any) with the deceased. 

What happens if you don’t know any of the information above? If so, complete an application over the phone or by mail. This gives you more flexibility to leave things blank or to provide a range of dates to be searched. However, if your request can’t be found, you will not receive a refund. 

Step 3: Verify your identity

Though Montana has relaxed privacy laws around vital records, they keep accurate accounts of who accesses documents. This means your ID needs to be verified for your application to be completed. If you’re completing an order through VitalChek, follow the steps to upload any documentation or ID images. 

If you’re completing your order by mail, you need to verify your ID with a notary. You also must include photocopies of both sides of your ID with your request. Complete the notary section with a legal notary to verify your ID. 

Step 4: Choose your number of copies and pay

You need to pay for copies of the death record in Montana. A certified copy of the death certificate costs $15 per copy. An informational copy is $13 per copy. For most things, like notifying the IRS of a death or genealogy, an informational copy is enough. 

If you order through VitalChek, you only have access to certified copies, and there is an additional fee of $11.50 per request. Finally, if you pay via VitalChek (online or by phone), you can pay with a credit card. Otherwise, if submitting your application by mail, you must include a check or money order made payable to Montana Vital Records. 

It’s important to note that these application fees are nonrefundable. If your request can’t be completed, you will not receive a refund for your payment. 

Step 5: Submit your request

Lastly, once you verify your information on your application, submit your request. If you’re completing an order on VitalChek, there might be additional steps to verify your identity as the applicant. 

If you’re ordering a death record by mail, address your application, check, or money order, and copies of your ID to the following address:

Office of Vital Records
Department of Public Health and Human Services
111 N Sanders Rm 6
PO BOX 4210
Helena, MT 59604

Processing times vary depending on the time of year and current staffing at the Montana Vital Records Office. It typically takes between 2 and 3 weeks to process requests, and these can change at any time. They don’t include shipping times. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Montana Death Certificates

Whether you’re updating family records or you need to send a notification of death letter to the credit bureaus, ordering a death certificate can be confusing. The unusual privacy laws in Montana make this a bit intimidating, particularly if you’ve never requested a vital record before. These frequently asked questions shine a light on the biggest questions related to this process. 

Who can request death certificates?

In Montana, there are limited privacy laws around public records. A certified copy of a death certificate is issued to anyone who verifies their identity and completes an application properly. However, you will need key information about the deceased to access these records. 

If there is a death certificate with pending information about the cause of death, autopsy, or an ongoing investigation, this is a sealed record. That means it isn’t available to the public, and it’s only accessible by members of the immediate family. Though anyone can request these documents, they will exclude any information about the deceased’s cause of death. 

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

Processing times are always changing in most states depending on current staffing and the current queue of applications. According to the Department of Health and Safety website, most mail-in requests are processed within 2 to 3 weeks. 

Applications online or over the phone might be faster because they reach the office immediately. That being said, there is still time needed for processing the search and mailing the certified copies. For the latest times, check directly with the Vital Record Office in Montana. 

How much does it cost to get a death certificate in Montana?

It costs $13 for an informational record in Montana and $15 for a certified copy of the death certificate.

If you choose to order online or through VitalChek, there is an additional fee for this service. You’ll need to pay the flat rate of either $13 or $15 per copy. For example, if you order 3 copies of a certified death certificate, you’ll need to pay $45. 

Which type of copy do you need? 

In most cases, an informational record is enough. While not certified, this is usually enough to handle most legal, financial, and genealogical matters. That being said, it’s important to have several copies of the certified death certificate for your records. 

There are no limits to the number of copies you can order. It’s typically easier and less expensive to order more at once, so calculate the total number you need for your affairs before you begin the process. Most families obtain multiple death certificate copies after the death of a loved one to finalize legal procedures.

How far back do Montana vital records go?

Most states didn’t begin collecting and saving vital records until the past century. In Montana, vital records start in 1884. However, this wasn’t legally required by local counties until 1895, meaning not all records were secured starting in 1884. 

For records dating back pre-1884, you’ll need to check with specific counties. In addition, you can check the state archives and online library resources. Locating these older records is certainly a greater challenge, but resources are typically available for free online for genealogical research. 

Order Death Records in Montana

Unlike other states, it’s relatively easy to order a death record in Montana regardless of your relationship with the deceased. This means you don’t need to follow strict eligibility guidelines, simplifying the overall process of applying. However, it’s still important to know what to expect at each step to make sure you’re following state guidelines. 

Ultimately, death certificates are used for a number of purposes. They’re one of the most important documents you’ll ever have for a loved one, and they’re a final act of kindness when completing someone’s final wishes.  


Sources:
  1. “Are Montana Vital Records Open to the Public?” State Records: Montana Vital Records. StateRecords.org
  2. “Birth/Death Certificate Application.” Montana Department of Health and Safety. DPHHS.Mt.gov
  3. “Montana Vital Records.” Family Search: Montana. FamilySearch.org
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