*Please note, our law firm does not provide copies of death certificates. Our firm focuses on Estate PlanningTrust & Estate Administration and Probate.

A death certificate is a legal document that provides evidence that an individual has died. While obtaining copies of a loved one’s death certificate might seem like an unpleasant and unnecessary legal formality, it is often the first step in ensuring that a beloved family member’s estate is dissolved and their legacy respected.  The importance of death certificates | California Probate Lawyer

Contents of a California Death Certificate

A death certificate is a legal document that contains information about the deceased person, their family, and the circumstances of their death. In general, death certificates include:

  • The decedent’s full name, date of birth, Social Security Number, and residential address
  • The full name of the decedent’s surviving spouse, domestic partner, and living parents, if any
  • The name and address of the funeral director or registrar
  • The cause and circumstances of the deceased person’s death

The Necessity of Death Certificates

Death certificates are more than a matter of public recordkeeping. In many cases, public institutions and private corporations will require a copy of the deceased person’s death certificate before transferring control of the decedent’s assets to their loved ones.

You might need a death certificate to:

  • Arrange a funeral, burial, or cremation
  • Transfer control of a real property or motor vehicle to the decedent’s heirs
  • Transfer control of a financial account to the account holder’s designated beneficiaries
  • File an insurance claim
  • File a petition to receive continuing Medicaid benefits or pension payments
  • Notify a creditor or mortgage lender of the decedent’s death

While the paperwork required to obtain a copy of a California death certificate is not especially difficult to fill out and understand, the state has additional requirements that must be met before it will release a copy of the decedent’s records. In some cases, failing to understand and meet these requirements could delay probate proceedings or trust fulfillment, preventing heirs from receiving their inheritances. 

Philip J. Kavesh
Nationally recognized attorney helping clients with customized estate planning guidance for over 40 years.