How to Get a Death Certificate in West Virginia: Step-by-Step

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Have you been put in charge of handling a loved one's affairs after death? If so, you might wonder how to get a death certificate

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That being said, you may have other reasons for needing a death certificate. This post will serve as a guide for several different reasons (and ways) to request a death certificate in West Virginia. 

In this post, we’ll discuss how you can access death certificates in the state of West Virginia, specific methods for how to access one, and how to get copies. We'll also address some general frequently asked questions about obtaining death certificates.

What Do You Need to Get a Death Certificate in West Virginia?

You might ask, “What do I need?” before you begin your death certificate search. Like most states, the requirements to get a certified copy of a death certificate involves proper identification and eligibility, an application (in some cases), and appropriate fees. That’s it! 

Curious about what we mean about eligibility? We cover that in-depth in the FAQ section. However, in brief, vital records such as certified copies of death certificates stay with the next of kin or to persons with a legal right to the certificate. In West Virginia, you also have a few different options for how to obtain a death certificate detailed in the section below.

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Steps to Get a Death Certificate in West Virginia

You must make a few decisions and do the proper research before getting a death certificate in West Virginia. The best steps to follow to get a death certificate include determining your timeline, your eligibility, then choosing your method. 

Determine your timeline

First, you should determine how quickly you’ll need to receive your death certificate(s). One method over another may make the most sense for you — mail-in, online, or telephone. You can use expedited services, but they do require additional fees. Remember these if you find yourself on a tighter schedule.

Make sure you’re eligible

The West Virginia Vital Registration Office issues certified copies of death certificates of individuals who died within the borders of West Virginia.

Furthermore, the next of kin or persons with a legal right to the certificate must only receive vital records such as certified copies of death certificates. If you fear you do not meet these requirements but still believe you still have grounds to access these records, you should appeal directly to the vital records office.

Choose your method: mail-in, online, or phone

Many states give you options for requesting death certificates. Out of convenience, speed, or cost, you may know which method will work best for your situation. In West Virginia, you can mail in a request along with a proper form and fee. This method will only cost about $12 but will likely take up to three weeks for you to get the certificate.

If you cannot wait three weeks or you prefer using online or phone services, you’ll like the next method: VitalChek. This provider allows you to make death and other vital record requests easily online (and 24/7) or over the phone. In fact, VitalChek offers the only trusted provider for many states for online or telephone requests of this nature. By using this service and paying the expedition fees, you can instead receive your request in a few days.

Request copies or verifications

You may need additional copies of the death certificate and you might also only need something called a "death verification."

Credit card companies, cellphone providers, and related entities use death verifications to verify a death. These showcase an abbreviated version of death certificates but are still official. You can read more about writing notification of death letters to credit bureaus on Cake. 

You may want to request five to 10 copies because you might need more than you think. For example, you don't want to forget to get a death certificate to notify the IRS of a death

When should you request copies of death certificates in West Virginia? You may want to do it right away for the most hassle-free and cost-effective option. However, West Virginia provides you with one additional copy at the initial cost or per each request.

Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in West Virginia

We also wanted to take the opportunity to answer some frequently asked questions, courtesy of the West Virginia Health Statistics Center site.

Are death certificates public record in West Virginia?

Vital records, such as death certificates, serve as public records in some states. "Public record" means something has been filed by a public agency. More specifically, public record means that the public can search and access this information.

West Virginia is not an “open record” state. This means that not just anyone can have access to the information contained in vital records. In fact, you'll face restrictions on access to certified copies of birth, death, and related certificates. 

Vital records, such as certified copies of death certificates, can only go to the next of kin or to people with a legal right to the certificate. However, if you do not meet the requirements for eligibility further detailed in the section below, you can appeal directly to the office of vital records in West Virginia.

Who can request a death certificate in West Virginia?

Only the following individuals can get access to certified copies of birth or death certificates:

  • Mother or father as listed on the certificate or current stepparent of registrant
  • Legal guardian (submit a copy of guardianship papers)
  • Registrant's spouse
  • Children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, etc., of the registrant (including half and step relationships)
  • Brother or sister of the registrant (including half and step relationships)
  • Mother-in-law or father-in-law of registrant
  • Son-in-law or daughter-in-law of registrant
  • Grandparents and great-grandparents of the registrant
  • In addition, a legal representative of one of the above or an authorized government agency may obtain a certified copy.

As mentioned, those who do not meet one of the above categories but who can demonstrate a direct or tangible interest in the record should contact the office directly for instructions.

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

You'll pay a nonrefundable $12 search fee, which also entitles you to one certified copy of the death certificate. The search fee covers a three-year search that includes the year specified, the year before, and the year after the year specified. In the absence of a record, you'll receive a letter informing you of the inability to locate a record for the deceased. You'll pay $12 for each additional copy.

To request copies of a death certificate, link to and print out the form and send it along with the appropriate fee to:

Vital Registration
Room 165
350 Capitol Street
Charleston, WV 25301-3701

Telephone: (304) 558-2931
Fax: (304) 558-8001

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

According to the West Virginia Health Statistics Center, it depends on the workload within the office. During low volume periods, requests usually take five business days after receipt. Normal turnaround time usually takes two or three weeks or less. During March, April, August, and September, the office experiences high customer service demand due to school enrollment. Anticipate a minimum of three weeks.

However, if you would like to have an expedited service, you can request records via a trusted vendor, VitalChek. In fact, many states choose VitalChek as the chosen online provider of vital records. However, as we mentioned in the “steps” section, you have the option of placing an order online or over the phone with VitalChek as well. 

Check it Off, Then Relax

Once you get familiar with how to find a death certificate in West Virginia, you're ready to get your deceased loved one's death certificate.

Hopefully, this article shows you that you can make a mindful decision about which request method works best for you if you take a few minutes to do so. Making decisions ahead of time helps you find peace of mind or at least helps you check something off your growing to-do list.

For more resources on navigating end-of-life planning (including a handy checklist), don't forget to visit the rest of Cake. You can even set up a digital end-of-life planning profile on Cake’s free platform for yourself or a loved one.


Sources:
  1. Vital Registration. West Virginia Health Statistics Center.   https://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/oehp/hsc/vr/deathfm.htm
  2. West Virginia Vital Registration. VitalChek. https://www.vitalchek.com/vital-records/west-virginia/west-virginia-vital-registration?click_id=599542134185984002&ppc=0
  3. Obtaining West Virginia Birth and Death Certificates. West Virginia Health Statistics Center. https://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/oehp/hsc/vr/oldbirtcert.htm
  4. Obtaining West Virginia Birth and Death Certificates - Who can request. West Virginia Health Statistics Center. https://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/oehp/hsc/vr/oldbirtcert.htm#who
  5. Obtaining West Virginia Birth and Death Certificates - How long does it take? West Virginia Health Statistics Center. https://www.wvdhhr.org/bph/oehp/hsc/vr/oldbirtcert.htm#dtime
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