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

Updated

Requesting a death certificate is a way to protect your loved one’s legacy, finances, and accounts. Whether you’re learning how to get a death certificate to close an account or just for family records, it’s simple to complete this request depending on your relationship with the deceased. 

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In Tennessee, vital records like death certificates are only issued to certain relatives or authorized parties. Not only do you need to determine your eligibility, but you also need to have proper identification and supporting documents.

Every death certificate search is different, so make sure to read through all of the requirements before getting started to avoid wasting money on the nonrefundable application fee. 

If you’re ready to get a death certificate in Tennessee, read through the step-by-step instructions below. Tennessee has strict laws around vital record privacy, but they make it easy for those who do qualify to access records and quickly. 

Who’s Allowed to Order a Death Certificate in Tennessee?

Tennessee is not an open record state, meaning that their vital records (birth certificates, death certificates, marriage certificates) are not open to the public. You can’t easily search for these documents online or in-person. You need to be qualified for these requests because these vital records contain confidential information. 

Who is legally authorized to order a death certificate in Tennessee?

  • Spouse or partner
  • Parent
  • Legal guardian
  • Adult child
  • Anyone acting as an authorized representative for the deceased or their estate

There are many legitimate reasons why you may need a death certificate. Regardless of your reason, you need to be one of the above for the state of Tennessee to approve the record request. If you’re an authorized representative, you need a copy of a signed government ID for yourself and the person you’re representing as well as a statement from the court. 

The legal requirements and eligibility rules are subject to change at any time. Contact the Tennessee Vital Records office for the latest up-to-date information regarding your request.

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Steps for Getting a Death Certificate in Tennessee 

Whether you need to send a notification of death letter to the credit bureaus or close a bank account, getting a death certificate in Tennessee is a straightforward process. You can make a request in-person at the official Tennessee Vital Records Office, by mail, or online using the steps below. 

Step 1. Gather your information

To begin, gather all of the information you need for this request. Having this on hand before you start makes the process run smoothly, especially if you’re completing a physical application by mail or in-person. 

What information do you need?

  • Your information: First, you need your information such as your name, address, contact information, and relation to the deceased. This includes a photocopy of a valid, up-to-date ID. 
  • Deceased's information: Next, you need information about the deceased. This includes basic information like their name, age at death, place of death, time of death, and the name of the funeral home. 
  • Payment: You also need to pay for your request via card if your order is online or by check or money order payable to Tennessee Vital Records. 

What happens if you don't have some of the information above? In this case, you can still submit a request with the information you do know. However, it’s a good idea to visit in person to fill out an application so you can get further assistance. 

Step 2. Choose your method

Next, choose your method for making your request. The easiest and fastest method is to order your death record online. This can only be done through the third-party service known as VitalChek. This is the service used by all states that offer online requests, and it’s the only third-party record tool used by the state of Tennessee.

Though VitalChek charges a processing fee, this is the fastest way to submit a request. Otherwise, you can download an official application for a death certificate through the Tennessee Vital Record Website. This is a one-page application you can complete and submit by mail or in-person. 

Lastly, you can visit an in-person office near you. Check the Tennessee Department of Health website to determine which location is closest to you as well as their current operating hours. 

Step 3. Enter your information 

First, whether you go in-person, use VitalChek online, or download an application to mail, you need to start by entering the right information. This begins with information about the deceased, their name, date of death, age at death, and so on. If you know the name and address of the funeral home, enter this as well. The more information you provide, the faster and simpler your request becomes. 

Next, enter your own information. You need to include your contact information as well as a signature and purpose for your request. Note that you must be able to prove through supplemental documents that you are related to the deceased or eligible for these records. 

Step 4. Choose whether to include cause of death

In Tennessee, you can choose whether or not to include the cause of death on your official certificate. The cause of death is usually only needed for insurance or benefit purposes, but it might also be useful for your records. 

If you’re trying to notify the IRS of a death or update bank account records, there usually is no need to include this private detail. When in doubt, ask the specific requestors what needs to be on the death certificate.

Step 5. Include supporting documents

Whether you’re submitting in-person, online, or via mail, you need to include supporting documents. You can upload these directly into VitalChek’s online portal, or photocopy them to include with your printed application. 

You need to submit a photocopy of a valid ID showing your signature. The only alternative is to have your printed application notarized or to visit in-person so you can show your ID. If you don’t include proper identification, your request will not be processed.

Step 6. Choose the number of copies and pay the fee

One of the final steps is to indicate the number of copies. The cost in Tennessee starts at $15. All additional copies are $15 each. Note that this is a non-refundable fee. It cannot be refunded if your record cannot be found or is canceled. 

If you order online through VitalChek, there is an additional processing fee. This is a flat fee of $11 per order. Again, this fee is non-refundable. If you order online, you can pay with a credit card. If you order via mail or in-person, please pay with a check or money order made out to the Tennessee Vital Records. 

Step 7. Submit your order

Lastly, submit your order. The current processing times vary depending on the number of requests and how you processed your order. If you order online, VitalChek provides a confirmation. To order by mail, send your completed application to the address below:

Tennessee Vital Records
1st Floor, Andrew Johnson Tower
710 James Robertson Parkway
Nashville, TN  37243

If you wish to check on the status of your order, contact the Tennessee Department of Health Customer Service Unit. Orders by mail or online take up to 6 weeks to process. If you visit an office in-person, some requests can be completed the same day. 

Frequently Asked Questions: Tennessee Death Certificates

Because the death certificate process can be confusing, it’s normal to have questions along the way. Here are the most frequently asked questions related to Tennessee death certificates and vital records. 

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

In Tennessee, the processing time depends on how you order. The fastest way to submit your request is in-person. Most record requests are completed in-person on the same day. If you order by mail or online, however, expect your request to take up to six weeks not including shipping time. 

How do you search death records in Tennessee?

The Tennessee Vital Records department is in charge of all death records in the state from the past 50 years. To search for death records, you’ll need to visit in-person or complete an application online or by mail. If you don’t have all of their information, just include as much as you do have.

Otherwise, for death records up to 100 years old, contact the Tennessee State Library and Archives. These records are accessible to the public and are free to access. 

Can you request a death certificate for free?

In Tennessee, you cannot request a death certificate from the last 50 years for free. These can be accessed for a small fee ($15) to eligible individuals through the Tennessee Vital Records office. 

If you’re seeking an older death record up to 100 years old, these can be accessed for free through the state archives. The state archives are used primarily for historical, cultural, and genealogical research. 

How do I verify records?

If you need your records verified for any reason, you don’t need to meet the same eligibility requirements as the official application. Under state law, verification of information from any Tennessee vital records can be provided to any requestor

The only exception to this is a request about the cause of death which are protected under privacy laws. For assistance with this request, contact the Tennessee Department of Health. 

Access Death Records in Tennessee

Tennessee makes it simple for eligible requesters to access the vital records they need. If you’re seeking a death certificate for a loved one’s records or legal matters, you can order updated records in-person, online, or by mail. There is no complicated application or confusing steps, though you must be eligible under state privacy laws. 

There are a number of legitimate reasons to request a death certificate for a loved one. These administrative and record-keeping tasks are an important part of someone’s legacy. How will you take steps of your own?


Sources:
  1. “FAQs.” Tennessee Department of Health, www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/vital-records/faqs.html
  2. “Genealogy Research.” Tennessee Department of Health, www.tn.gov/health/health-program-areas/vital-records/genealogy-research.html
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