By Last Updated: October 14th, 2022

How to Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in California

Our professional team at Opal Cremation understands that filing paperwork after the death of a loved one can be overwhelming. Surviving family members often have questions about death certificates. As a commitment to easing the burden on grieving families, our team at Opal can prepare and file this vital record as part of the services we provide. We handle the paperwork, so families can focus on the important things, such as bringing loved ones together. Opal believes in transparency and education. So, we are providing this complimentary guide on death certificates to help families navigate the next steps after a loved one dies.

This article focuses on California laws and regulations around obtaining a death certificate. However, if you’re looking for a broader discussion on this topic, please refer to this article:

What is a Death Certificate?

A death certificate is a public record filed in the county of death that proves a person has died.

All deaths must be registered with the county or state vital records department for documentation and legal purposes. In the State of California, a death certificate must be filed within eight days of death. This vital record is needed in order to proceed with a burial or cremation. 

A death certificate is required by law for many purposes, such as:

  • Closing accounts
  • Accessing life insurance or death benefits
  • Settling estates
  • Getting a permit for cremation or burial

photo of blank death certificate form

What Information is Needed?

In order to proceed, you will need to gather pertinent information about the deceased from the next of kin for the death certificate, including:

  • The full name and address of the deceased
  • Their birth date and birthplace
  • Their father and mother’s names and birthplaces
  • Social security number
  • Veteran’s discharge or claim number (if applicable)
  • Education level
  • Marital status and full name of surviving spouse
  • Place, date, and time of death
  • Cause of death

A signature of the doctor, coroner, or medical examiner will be obtained. This will allow for filing the document with Vital Records at the California Department of Public Health. The process will be expedited quickly, as there is an eight-day window from the time of death to file.

Obtaining Copies of the Death Certificate

After the death certificate is filed, those who qualify may order certified or informational copies. Certified copies are only provided to authorized recipients. Informational copies can be provided to anyone who requests them.

Opal Cremation can order informational or certified copies of the death certificate on the family’s behalf to make the process as simple and easy as possible.

Family members may also order copies on their own from:

All that’s needed is a notarized sworn statement declaring that the person requesting the certified copy is authorized by law to receive the document. You can find this form, along with the Application for a Certified Copy of Death Record, here.

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Here is a list of people who are authorized to receive a certified copy of a death certificate:

  • A parent, legal guardian, child, grandparent, sibling, spouse, or domestic partner of the deceased
  • A member of a law enforcement agency or other government agency conducting official business regarding the deceased
  • Power of attorney or executor of the estate
  • An attorney representing the registrant or registrant’s estate
  • A funeral establishment (such as Opal Cremation), acting on behalf of and employed by the family
  • Surviving next of kin

Please keep in mind that the CDPH charges $21 per certified copy of the death certificate. That fee will increase to $24 per copy on January 1, 2022.

You can find out more information from the California Department of Public Health.

How Long Does it Take to Receive Copies of the Death Certificate?

Processing times for certified copies of a death record vary depending on whether the submission is filed electronically or via mail. Ordering death certificates traditionally requires mailing an order through the mail or delivering them to the local health department’s office. During COVID, many local health departments have cancelled in-person customer service, requiring order to be dropped off in a drop box nearby.

The death certificate(s) are then typically are mailed to the funeral home first. Then, they either mail them to the family or allow for an authorized person to pick up the documents at the funeral home, creating an additional step (and delay) in the process.

The traditional purchase process using a funeral home typically takes: 5 to 7 weeks

However, Opal Cremation has the ability to dramatically reduce this processing time because of our relationship with Vitalchek.
Opal Cremation processing times are typically: Within a few days

These times may increase if there is a high volume of requests.

For more information on the processing times in California, visit the State’s Vital Records webpage.

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Who needs a copy of the death certificate?

You’ll need to provide copies of the death certificate to settle the deceased’s affairs. Some institutions will require a certified copy, while others will only need an informational copy. It’s a good idea to order at least ten copies. Here is a list of institutions or establishments that will require a certified copy:

  • Life insurance provider
  • Death benefits provider
  • Social Security office
  • Veterans Affairs (if applicable)
  • Financial institutions and investment firms
  • Banks
  • DMV
  • 401k and retirement plans
  • Mortgage lender or landlord
  • Utility companies
  • Post office

Checking the mail and filing cabinets of the deceased can be helpful for discovering which accounts need to be settled.

Check with each institution or company to determine if they need original certified copies of the death certificate or if a photocopy will suffice. This may allow the family to save money on certified copies.

If your family needs additional death certificates in the future, they can be ordered from your local Department of Health (i.e. County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health) a period of time. A customer will need to provide identification to show they are authorized to purchase the deceased’s certificates.

Our support staff at Opal can also assist with this as well.

“If you ever need additional death certificates, call us anytime! We’ll be sure to get them to you within a couple days – mailed directly to your home like last time.” says Opal Cremation’s CEO Troy Centazzo.

Opal does not charge for this service. We can get them for you a lot faster than ordering through the County site, and you can avoid having to pay the extra processing fee that the charge.

About Opal Cremation of Southern California

At Opal Cremation, we simplify the end-of-life process so you can focus on what matters most. Opal provides consumers in Los Angeles, San Diego, and Orange County with a straightforward and affordable direct cremation service with specialized resources to aid during a difficult time. Our staff is available to assist you with any further questions you may have regarding the death of your loved one. If you are located in Southern California, please do not hesitate to reach out to us for support.

Southern California County Resource Sites:

San Diego County Death Certificates:

San Diego County Health and Human Services Agency (HHSA)

Los Angeles County Death Certificates:

County of Los Angeles Department of Public Health

Orange County Death Certificates:

Orange County Health Care Agency (Within 60 days of death)
Orange County Vital Records (More than 60 days after death)

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