You might be searching for a loved one’s death certificate for a variety of reasons, from legal matters and executor duties to interest in genealogy and family research. Whatever the case, if your loved one or relative died in Washington, DC, then you’ll need to go through specific channels to obtain the record.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Steps to Get an Original or Certified Copy of a Death Certificate in Washington, DC
- Steps to Get an Informational Copy of a Death Certificate in Washington, DC
- Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Washington, DC
All death records fall into one of two categories: public or closed. In Washington, DC, death records that are 75 years old or older are considered public record. That means anyone can search for and obtain a copy of those records. Deaths that are less than 75 years old, however, are closed. Only specific individuals can obtain copies of death certificates that are considered closed to the public.
What Do You Need to Order a Death Certificate in Washington, DC?
In Washington, DC, only certain individuals are allowed to order an original or a certified copy of a death certificate for a death that occurred within the last 75 years. This is to help protect the privacy of the person who passed, as well as their family.
You must be legally entitled to request a certificate
So, who is legally entitled to request a death certificate? According to the DC Vital Records Division, there are nine categories of people allowed to request this document.
Spouse: If you are the current spouse of the deceased, you are entitled to request an original or certified copy of the death certificate. You have to be named as the spouse on the death certificate as proof of your relationship.
Domestic partner: Domestic partners have the same entitlement to obtain a death certificate as spouses. Similarly, you must be listed as the person’s domestic partner on the death certificate as proof of your relationship.
Parent: All parents are legally entitled to request a death certificate. You must be named as a parent on the death certificate as proof of your relationship.
Adult child or sibling: If you’re the child or sibling of the deceased, you can request a death certificate. To show proof of relationship, you have to present a certified copy of your birth certificate that demonstrates you are their child or you are their sibling.
Grandparent: Grandparents can request a copy of the death certificate for one of two reasons. First, you can request a certificate if it’s required for personal or property rights issues. Second, you can request a certificate if it’s required for legal issues including court, insurance, and estate settlement documents.
Legal guardian: You can request a copy as long as you can provide proof of your guardianship by presenting an original sealed copy of the court order naming you as guardian.
Legal representative: If you are the deceased’s legal representative, you can request a copy of the death certificate after presenting a copy of your retainer agreement, bar card, and a typed letter on your firm’s letterhead authorizing retrieval of the death certificate.
Law enforcement: You can request a death certificate as long as you can present your current unexpired work photo ID and documents ordering the retrieval of the certificate such as a DC Superior Court subpoena.
Interested party: An interested party isn’t anyone who is curious about a person’s death or is simply conducting part-time research for a book they’re writing. An interested party must prove tangible “interest” or need for the document. Reasons include requiring the certificate for personal or property rights issues, or a legal need for court, insurance, or estate settlement issues.
You must be able to pay the fees
Every state has fees associated with obtaining original or certified copies of a death certificate. In the case of Washington, DC, the fee is $18 per copy. You can pay this fee in person, over the phone, by mail, or online, depending on how you opt to request copies of the record.
Steps to Get an Original or Certified Copy of a Death Certificate in Washington, DC
There are many reasons for needing a death certificate, and in most cases, a certified copy of a death certificate is what’s required. Certified copies accompany your notification of death letter to credit bureaus and IRS death notification paperwork. These are also used when closing bank accounts, requesting digital account closures, and performing other executor or next-of-kin duties.
Though there are several steps to take, once you understand how to get a death certificate, you should be able to breeze through the process quite quickly.
Step 1: Pick your method
The Washington, DC Vital Records Division provides four ways to request an original or certified copy of a loved one’s death record.
Mail: If you prefer snail-mail, you can request a loved one’s death certificate by mailing the DC Vital Records Division. You’ll need to include a personal check or money order made out to the DC Treasurer, a copy of a government-issued ID, and proof of your relationship to the deceased.
The address for this is:
Vital Records Division
899 North Capitol Street NE, First Floor
Washington, DC 20002
Online: Requesting a death certificate copy online might be the fastest method. All records requests online go through Vital Check, the third-party service used to provide vital records for American citizens.
In-person: If you live close, you can visit the DC Vital Records Division in person and submit your requests in person at the self-serve kiosks. The address is the same as their mailing address.
Phone: You can request a certificate by phone by calling 1-877-572-6332.
It’s important to note that if you choose to order a death certificate copy through Vital Check, you’ll have to pay a separate third-party processing fee of $15.95 in addition to the $18.00 copy fee.
Step 2: Provide information about the deceased
Whether you order a death certificate online, by phone, mail, or in person, you’ll need to provide information about yourself and your loved one.
The information you need to enter for your loved one includes:
- Their full name
- Date of death
- Hospital where they died (if applicable)
- Social security number (if you know it)
- Reason for request
Get our free checklist for navigating loss 💙
Enter your email to get your free roadmap for the steps after loss in your inbox.
Step 3: Provide information about yourself
Once you’ve provided information about the deceased, you’ll be required to provide or fill out information related to yourself as the applicant.
The information you need to provide about yourself includes:
- Your full name
- Your address
- Your relationship to the deceased
- Your email address (if applicable)
- Your phone number
- Address to send the certificate
- Your signature
- Date of application
In addition to these items, you’ll need to provide proof of your ID, proof of your relationship, or proof of your interest. This goes back to the list earlier in this article. If you’re a spouse, then you must be named as their spouse on the death certificate you want to obtain. If you’re an interested party, you need to prove valid interest, such as certified or sealed court documents that name you as an interested party in an estate settlement case.
You’ll need one primary and two secondary forms of ID to prove your identity. Primary proofs of ID include a military ID card, state-issued driver’s license, state-issued non-driver’s ID, valid passport or passport card, employment authorization card, government employee ID, department of state card, or law enforcement ID.
Secondary proofs of ID include a signed social security card, social security disbursement statement, certified court documents, previous year’s W2, official correspondence from US Citizenship and Immigration Services, unexpired vehicle registration/title, copy of a utility bill from no longer than 60 days previous, copy of a pay stub from the last 30 days, or a Hospital Newborn Discharge document for birth within the last year.
Step 4: Submit payment
Depending on how you process your request, you’ll need to provide a credit card number, mail a check or money order, or pay with cash. Cash payment can only be made in person, checks and money orders can be mailed, and a credit card can be used online, over the phone, by mail, or in person.
Step 5: Submit your request
How you complete this step depends on whether you complete the request via the mail, online, over the phone, or in person. Be sure to fill out all required paperwork, leaving nothing blank, and providing copies of all documentation required to ensure a smooth process and avoid delays.
Steps to Get an Informational Copy of a Death Certificate in Washington, DC
Informational copies abide by the same rules as obtaining certified copies. If you’re doing a death certificate search of someone who died within the last 75 years, then you have to be one of the eligible people who are legally allowed to request a copy as mentioned above. If you’re looking for an open record certificate or an archived copy, follow these steps below.
Step 1: Contact or visit the DC Office of Public Records
As the title suggests, the DC Office of Public Records handles all requests for records that are open, or public.
You can contact the office by going in person to 1300 Naylor Court NW or by emailing them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Step 2: Submit inquiry request
Whether you go in person or submit an email request, you can simply submit the information on the person you’re looking for. Since they handle all public records, if the death certificate you’re looking for is in the archives, it will be available for you to obtain a copy.
Frequently Asked Questions: Death Certificates in Washington, DC
Do you have a couple of lingering questions about the process for obtaining a Washington, DC death certificate? Here are answers to two of the most asked questions.
How much does it cost to get a death certificate in DC?
If you’re ordering directly through the DC Vital Records Division, copies are $18 each. If you place your order through a third-party provider such as Vital Check, you’ll be required to pay the third-party processing fee. Vital check charges a $6 fee for mailed-in orders and a $15.95 processing fee for phone or online orders.
How long does it take to get a death certificate?
If you request a death certificate copy in person, you could end up walking away with the copy the same day. However, if you take advantage of remote ordering services, you’ll need to allow anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks to receive the copy or copies you ordered.
You will have the chance to expedite your order and choose a faster shipping method during the ordering process if you need the certificate in a hurry.
Obtaining Vital Records
Acquiring copies of death certificates is needed for many reasons after a person passes away. Whether you’re the executor of an estate, a spouse, or an interested party, requesting a certificate should be a fairly painless and straightforward process. Simply make sure you follow the required steps and you should have the needed document in no time.
If you're a Washington DC 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.
- “Death Certificates.” DC Health, DC Health, 2021. dchealth.dc.gov
- “Death Certificate Application.” Vital Check, Vital Check, 2021. vitalchek.com
- “District of Columbia.” Where to Write for Vital Statistics, CDC, 2021. cdc.gov
- “Genealogy.” Office of the Secretary, DC Health, 2021. os.dc.gov
- “How to Order Certificates.” DC Health, DC Health, 2021. dchealth.dc.gov