How to Order a Death Certificate in NYC: Step-by-Step

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Ordering death certificates is one of the steps most people don’t think about after the death of a loved one, yet it’s one of the most important. The death certificate is a legal record used for things like accessing benefits, sending a notification of death letter to credit bureaus, and keeping accurate family records. 

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Because each state has its own privacy laws and practices for accessing these secure records, it can be confusing to know where to start. What do you do if you need a death certificate in New York City, New York? Because New York City is one of the largest cities in the country, they have their own vital records department that works with the state’s vital records department. 

To learn how to get a death certificate for a loved one in New York City, follow the step-by-step instructions below. There are strict privacy laws around who can access specific types of death certificates, so pay close attention to determine your eligibility and next steps. 

Are Death Certificates Public Record in New York?

There are many reasons why you may need a death certificate, but your first question should be related to who is eligible. In New York City, death certificates are not public records. This means they’re not openly accessible to the general public. 

If you wish to request a death record, you need to have a legitimate relationship with the deceased. The only exception is if you are an attorney acting for an entitled party or if you’ve received court authorization. In New York City, there are two unique types of death certificates, each with its own eligibility requirements:

  • Death certificate with the cause of death: Death certificates that include the confidential cause of death medical report are only accessible to those directly related to the deceased or their estate. 
  • Death certificate: More relatives have access to death certificates that don’t include the confidential cause of death medical report. This is typically enough for most legal and genealogical purposes.

Who can access each type of document? For the confidential medical report, these are only accessible to the spouse or partner of the deceased, parent, adult children, siblings, grandparents, adult grandchildren, or any person in control of a disposition. On the other hand, a niece or nephew, aunt or uncle, or great-grandchild can request a death certificate without the cause of death.

For your request to be approved, you need to show sufficient proof of your relationship with the deceased. This means you need to include a copy of valid identification documents that include a photo and your valid signature. 

ยป MORE: Connect with others who have experienced a similar loss. Get started.

 

How to Get a Death Certificate Online in NYC

You can start a death certificate search both online and by mail in New York City. Though there are vital record offices you can visit in person, these have limited hours and often close without notice. The fastest method is to complete a request yourself online with the steps below. 

Step 1: Navigate to VitalChek

VitalChek is an authorized, secure, and trusted third-party service that processes state records. Many states use VitalChek for online document requests, including New York. 

Though you might find other third-party services that claim they can complete your request, these aren’t to be trusted. VitalChek is the only record service approved by New York City’s vital record office. To begin, navigate to the VitalChek page for New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

Step 2: Enter information about the deceased

To start, choose the location of the death. Within New York City, you need to choose the specific borough since each has its own records department. 

From there, enter the date of death. Identify your reason for requesting a record (official government purpose such as IRS death notification, family history, etc.) and click continue. You will need to verify you’re eligible for these documents.

Step 3: Choose your quantity

You’ll need to select your order quantity. Depending on the reason behind your request, you might need several copies. The first copy costs $15.00, and there’s also a VitalCheck processing flat fee of $8.30. Each additional copy is $15.00. The total is shown before shipping costs which you choose when you checkout. 

It’s important to note that the NYC records office does not provide refunds. Your payment funds the search regardless of the results. 

Step 4: Enter the remaining information

Now, you’ll be asked for your current information. You need to enter your current legal name, relationship with the deceased, and date of birth. You also need to enter your full name below these boxes to confirm your identity.

The next step is to share the information found on the death certificate. This includes the name of the deceased, their gender, burial permit number (if known), last known address, and Social Security Number. The only required information is their name and gender, however, the more you provide the faster your results are processed. 

The last question is whether you need the cause of death medical record included in your certified copy. Remember the eligibility requirements above before proceeding.  

The final confirmation step is to list additional info. Enter as much as you can, from the spouse’s name to the parents’ names. If you don’t know any of this information, enter “Unknown” or “None.” 

Step 5: Submit shipping and payment information

Last but not least, enter your shipping address and payment information. The New York City Department of Health requires your address to match the address on your credit card information. You can pay online via credit card. 

Once you’ve submitted your request, you might be asked for additional documentation. If so, upload it at this time and click submit. Otherwise, your request is complete. The current processing time averages 20 to 25 business days for online orders. 

How to Order a Death Certificate by Mail in NYC

If you’d prefer to order a death certificate by mail instead of online, this is also a simple process. The questions are the same as the online portal, though there might be delayed processing times to account for shipping times. 

Step 1: Download the request form

The first step is to download the official death certificate request form from the New York City Department of Health website. This form can be downloaded online or picked up in person at a county health office. 

Once downloaded, print clearly and fill out as much information as possible. While you can submit your form in languages other than English, this delays processing times. 

Step 2: Enter information about the deceased

The first part of this application is referring to the deceased. The information you write should match what’s listed on the death certificate. Like with the VitalChek process, you need to include the name of the deceased, the gender of the deceased, date of death, place of death, age, address, and so on. 

You will also need to list how many copies you’re requesting as well as your relationship with the deceased. Enter as much information as possible to speed the search. If you don’t know the exact death date, there is space to include a date range. 

Step 3: Prove your identity

Next, write your own information. You need to share your name, address, phone number, email address, and whether you need the cause of death. When selecting whether you’re requesting the cause of death, you need to check the appropriate box indicating your relationship with the deceased to show eligibility. 

Because you’re ordering by mail, you need this document to be notarized. Do not sign the signature section until you’re in the presence of a notary who completes the notary public section to confirm your identity. Lastly, include a photocopy of your identification document with your request according to the instructions on the second page.

Step 4: Submit the right fee

Like with your online order, there is a fee for each record request. Indicate the number of copies and do the appropriate math to determine how much you own. If you need additional years searched, this costs an extra $3 per year. 

You can pay for your search with a check or money order. Make your check or money order payable to the NYC Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. 

Step 5: Mail your request

Lastly, mail your request to the proper address. The address is:

Office of Vital Records
125 Worth Street, CN-4, Room 133
New York, N.Y. 10013-4090

Unlike online orders, your request might take up to 20 weeks to process, not including shipping times. If you have any questions about your request, contact the record office directly by calling 311.

Frequently Asked Questions: NYC Death Certificates

Requesting any type of legal records is often confusing, especially if you’ve never done this before. These frequently asked questions below are specific to NYC’s record requests. 

How long does it take to get a death certificate?

Processing times vary depending on the current number of requests as well as your method for ordering. If you order online through VitalChek, the average time is between 10 to 15 business days. If you order by mail, it can take up to 20 weeks. 

What are the requirements to order a death certificate?

To order a death certificate, you need to be related to the deceased or authorized by the court. You need to prove your identity with supporting documents and IDs. If you’re completing your request by mail, a notary is needed for additional confirmation. 

Can you correct a name on a death certificate in NYC?

Yes, you can correct a name on a death certificate in NYC. To do this, complete a correction application online or contact the office directly via email at correctionsunit2@health.nyc.gov. Like when requesting a certificate, you need to be authorized to approve this request. 

Get the NYC Records You Need

Navigating the administrative tasks after the loss of a loved one is often difficult. This is especially true in New York City where there are strict identification and privacy laws. While these are for your own protection, they mean more time is spent on each of the steps above. 

However, don’t let this process get in the way of getting the documents you need. This is part of your loved one’s legacy, so treat each step with care and consideration. 


Source:
  1. “Death Certificates.” New York City Department of Health. NYC.gov
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