Do you need to request a death certificate for a loved one? Whether you’re trying to keep an accurate family record or you need to send a notification of death to the credit bureaus, it’s important to know the specific process for ordering vital records in your state.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Are Death Certificates Public Record in Wisconsin?
- Steps for Requesting a Death Certificate in Wisconsin
- Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Wisconsin
Wisconsin is one of the easier states to request a death certificate. Thanks to more relaxed privacy laws around vital records, it’s a relatively straightforward process. If you want to know how to get a death certificate in Wisconsin, you’ve come to the right place.
Death certificates in Wisconsin are handled through the Wisconsin Vital Records Office. This is the department responsible for processing and preserving copies of all vital records, including death certificates since 1907. In Wisconsin, you can order a death certificate online, in person, or by mail. Follow the steps below to request a death certificate in Wisconsin.
Are Death Certificates Public Record in Wisconsin?
Every state has its own laws about public records and what’s disclosed openly to the public. In Wisconsin, death certificates are public record, for the most part. This means anyone can access death certificates, and they’re not limited to only close family and authorized parties.
However, there are some limitations to this in Wisconsin. Namely, with so many reasons why you may need a death certificate, only those authorized or those related to the deceased may request a certified copy. These are copies that can be used to verify someone’s identity for legal or financial purposes.
In addition, sensitive information about the deceased is not included in any uncertified copies. These exclude the cause of death and other private information. If you need to order a certified copy, it’s important to check the eligibility criteria.
Who can receive a certified copy of a death record in Wisconsin?
Like other states, Wisconsin protects information about the deceased, like the cause of death. If you need a certified record that includes this sensitive information or acts as a legal identification document, this is known as a certified copy.
In Wisconsin, only the following individuals and third parties can apply for a certified copy:
- Adult child
- Current spouse or domestic partner
- Legal guardian
- Representative authorized by a family member
- Third-party property representative
In order to complete your request, you need to provide a photocopy of your ID to prove your identity. You can submit a copy of your state-issued driver’s license, military card, passport, or tribal card as long as it has a photo and it’s not expired.
Steps for Requesting a Death Certificate in Wisconsin
Regardless of your reason for your death certificate search, you have a lot of options in Wisconsin. Each option has its own fees, processing times, and requirements, so read through the steps for requesting a death certificate carefully below.
Step 1: Choose your method
To begin, you need to choose how you’d like to order your death record in Wisconsin. Like other states, you have a few different options. They each follow similar steps for verifying information and collecting information about the deceased, so choose the option that’s right for you.
- Online: The easiest way to order a death record in Wisconsin is through a third-party service called VitalChek. Note that VitalChek is the only service approved by the State of Wisconsin.
- Mail: If you’d prefer to complete a paper application by mail, you can download the Wisconsin Death Certificate Application from the Wisconsin Department of Health website.
- In person: Lastly, you can visit the Department of Health in-person to submit a request for a vital record. You’ll need the same Wisconsin Death Certificate Application listed above, or you can access one in-person. Check the local office schedule and hours before planning your visit.
Each of the methods above has its own processing times and fees, so keep that in mind before proceeding. Once you’ve decided which is best for you, continue to the next step.
Step 2: Enter information on the death certificate
The first step in completing the application, regardless of the method you choose above, is to enter information about the deceased. This information should match what’s found on the death certificate.
You’ll need to share your relationship with the deceased (“I am this person’s parent…”), when the death occurred, why you need the death certificate, their name, place of death (county), Social Security number, age, occupation, and the names of their parents/spouse.
Step 3: Verify your identity
Next, you need to enter your own information as the applicant. This includes your name, address, mailing address, phone number, email address, type of photo ID, and your ID number. If you’re completing a request online or by mail, submit a photocopy of your ID with your completed application.
Note that you only need to include a copy of your ID if you’re applying for a certified copy. This means you’re an immediate relative of the deceased or you’re authorized to submit this request. If you submit your application in person, your ID will be examined by a member of the Vital Record Office.
Step 4: Determine the type of record you need
You also need to select the type of record you’re requesting. You can choose between the following, depending on your relationship to the deceased:
- Certified copy: A certified copy is printed on security paper, has a raised seal, and has the signature of the state or local registrar. This can be used for legal purposes, and you need to have a “tangible interest” in the certificate (i.e., related to the deceased or authorized by the court.)
- Uncertified copy: An uncertified copy is printed on plain copy paper, and it’s marked as uncertified. This cannot be used for identity purposes, but it contains the same information as a certified copy (except the cause of death information).
Certified copies are most often used for financial transactions and insurance claims benefits. However, it’s up to you which type is best for your situation. The type of record does not affect the price.
Step 5: Pay for your request
Before you submit your request, you have to pay for your application and copies. Indicate the number of copies and add up the total cost. The cost of the first copy is $20, regardless of type (certified vs. uncertified). Each additional copy is $3. That means if you order three copies, the total cost will be $26.
If you order online, there are additional fees. First, you can choose to expedite your request for an average wait time of one to three business days. This costs an additional $20 per order. If you’re ordering online through VitalChek, there is also a $10 service fee per request. You can also choose between regular shipping (free) and UPS Air ($19.00). Lastly, online orders can only be paid with a credit or debit card.
It’s important to note that your order is non-refundable, even if your certificate cannot be found. When paying by mail or in person, submit only a check or money order. Make your check payable to State of Wisconsin Vital Records.
Step 6: Check your order and submit
Last but not least, it’s time to confirm you’ve completed everything you need before you submit or mail your request. If you ordered through VitalChek online, check the information and upload any requested documents and click “submit” to process your order.
If you wish to apply by mail, include all of the following with your order:
- The completed application form
- A copy of your ID (if required)
- Payment in the form of a check or money order
- Self-addressed, stamped business envelope
- Additional proof of authorization (if necessary)
When you’re ready to submit, mail your application to:
Wisconsin Vital Records Office
PO Box 309
Madison, WI 53701
Alternatively, visit an office to submit your application and fees in person. Visit the Department of Health Services website to find the latest office hours for the Wisconsin Vital Records Office in Madison, Wisconsin.
Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Wisconsin
There are a lot of different questions you might have about ordering a death certificate in Wisconsin. Make sure you understand what to expect with these frequently asked questions below.
How long does it take to request a death certificate in Wisconsin?
The processing times depend on the way you complete your request. If you order online, the current wait times are between seven and ten business days. The exception to this is for expedited orders, which take one to three business days.
If you order by mail, certified copies take up to two weeks, while uncertified copies take up to a month. Both of these requests also have additional mail time. The fastest way to submit your request is by applying in person. Certified copies are completed within two business hours in most cases, whereas uncertified copies can take up to one month.
What information is on a Wisconsin death certificate?
The Wisconsin death certificate includes information about the deceased’s date and place of death. Some records include details about the cause of death. These records are used to notify the IRS of a death and verify someone’s identity for insurance, financial, or legal purposes.
Can you read Wisconsin death certificates online?
You can only access Wisconsin death certificates online that are within the state’s archives. Most of the records within the Wisconsin archives are from prior to 1907. This is the year when the Wisconsin Department of Health began securing vital records, and all others are available completely to the public for research purposes.
Find Death Records in Wisconsin
Wisconsin makes it easy to find and search death records from 1907 onwards through the Department of Health. Regardless of why you’re searching for a death record, you have access to either certified or uncertified copies.
Death certificates are a way to handle your loved one’s final affairs when it matters the most. This is a final act of kindness, and it’s also an important part of preserving your family’s history. Follow the steps above to start the process for Wisconsin with ease.
If you're a Wisconsin resident and ready to start preparing your own end-of-life planning documents, Cake has Advance Care Planning forms you can download. To help ease your planning, we have all the documents you need in one place.
- “About Our Pre-1907 Wisconsin Vital Records.” Wisconsin Historical Society. WisconsinHistory.org.
- “Are Wisconsin Vital Records Open to the Public?” Wisconsin Vital Records: Wisconsin. Wisconsin.StateRecords.org.
- “Requesting a Vital Record.” Wisconsin Department of Health Services. DHS.Wisconsin.gov.