By Last Updated: March 9th, 2023

Quickly Get a Death Certificate Online in California with VitalChek Services

By Heather Hindin and Troy Centazzo
Information and Statistics Provided by Mike Padilla, VitalChek.

Opal Cremation is always looking for ways to ease the clients’ burden of dealing with the death of a loved one.

That’s why the Founder of Opal Cremation, Troy Centazzo, met with Funeral Home Portal Project Manager for VitalChek, Mike Padilla, to discuss a better process for quickly and easily obtaining death certificates on January 4, 2022.

The goal was to offer Opal’s clients the opportunity to get death certificates within a few days instead of a few weeks.

One of the first funeral homes in Southern California to use VitalChek to process death certificates for its clients, Opal’s clients receive their certificates in days instead of weeks or more, a service that is included with its comprehensive, fixed-price cremation service package.

What is VitalChek?

VitalChek is a service that allows funeral homes to order and ship death certificates online and on an expedited basis. They can be sent directly to the customer via USPS First Class Mail for free, or UPS Express Delivery for $19 – $20, depending on the county.

VitalChek is a subsidiary business of RelEx, “a global provider of information-based analytics and decision tools for professional and business customers. The Group serves customers in more than 180 countries and has offices in about 40 countries. It employs over 33,000 people, of whom almost half are in North America” and brings in nine billion dollars of revenue each year.

According to VitalChek’s website:

  • VitalChek is the #1 authorized resource for official, government-issued online vital records ordering.
  • Since 1987, VitalChek has provided a convenient service, allowing Americans to easily and securely order official copies or replacements of government-issued birth, death, marriage and divorce records.
  • We do this as an official service provider for hundreds of government agencies throughout the United States and U.S. Territories, helping to safely deliver millions of life’s most important documents every year.
  • VitalChek provides a safe, easy and convenient way for you to obtain your family’s vital record documents – including birth certificates, marriage records, divorce records, and certain family death records through online vital records ordering.

Why VitalChek? Fast Turnaround and Trust.

As the only external processor authorized by agencies across the nation for ordering vital records online, VitalChek is by far the best solution for funeral homes that order death certificates as a service, reducing the wait time from weeks to days.

VitalChek offers their services to consumers, government agencies, and now, funeral homes. Not only do they provide death certificates, but consumers can also order other vital records, such as marriage certificates and birth certificates, through the VitalChek website. Partnering with states and counties around the United States, VitalChek is now extending its death certificate processing services for funeral homes.

In California, VitalChek has agreements with each county health department, with the exception of Riverside and San Bernardino Counties (as of the writing of this article) (check your local county to see if they have an agreement with VitalChek). VitalChek launched its collaboration of services with funeral homes in Los Angeles County in February 2021.

This makes VitalChek a trusted, credible, and widely-used option for obtaining vital records.

The VitalChek Solution: The Fastest Way to Get a Death Certificate

Traditionally, death certificates have been ordered from local health departments through a time-consuming, manual process. Funeral homes spent valuable time and resources filling out and filing paper order requests at LA County’s downtown vital records office.

For funeral homes, using VitalChek to order death certificates for their customers is a gamechanger. What was once an arduous process has become an easy task. Funeral homes can simply go to the VitalChek online dashboard and order death certificates with a few clicks. The processing time with VitalChek is only a couple of days, as opposed to several weeks when ordering directly from the local health department. For a small fee (2.5% of the order total before shipping), VitalChek offers a fast and easy way to order death certificates in a fraction of the time as the old paper process.

“VitalChek is a game changer. What used to take days or more now takes only minutes.” says Troy Centazzo, CEO of Opal Cremation. “We’re in the business of helping families during a difficult time in their lives, and this expedited service allows us to dramatically shorten the wait time.”

This streamlined approach to helping funeral homes get death certificates quickly and easily for their clients is the reason Opal Cremation uses VitalChek. Clients are shocked at how fast they can get their death certificates, particularly if they’ve gone through the outdated paper process before. And, they are sent directly to the client’s home.

Aside from the personalized care and expedited services it provides, Opal’s collaboration with VitalChek is yet another reason they continue to be a leader in the funeral home industry in Southern California. Only 25% of funeral homes in Southern California use VitalChek to obtain death certificates for their clients, which means 75% of funeral home clients in SoCal wind up waiting for up to two months to receive their death certificate.

The Death Certificate Process

Before L.A. County launched the VitalChek service February, 2021, Padilla said the average death certificate processing time was about three to four weeks or more. This is a major issue for families because certain businesses, like banks and life insurance companies, require a certified death certificate to release funds, insurance payments, etc. Families often must wait for the certified death certificate to access much-needed money.

The process has always been a long and cumbersome process, but the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional delays due to staffing issues. In Mississippi and other states, for example, there is currently an 8-week processing time. It has been reported that many family members have been extremely upset at the delays.

The Old Process

  1. The funeral home would order death certificates on behalf of their customers directly from the local or state health department. Each state is different and each local health department has its own ordering/processing system.
  2. The ordering process is largely manual, involving a paper application submitted to the health department via mail or drop off at the vital records office.
    Processing time after application is dropped off:
    Minimum processing time: 1 full day; Average processing time: 2 – 3 days
  3. The funeral home must wait for the death certificate to be processed.
    Processing time: 3 to 8 weeks
  4. Death certificates get mailed to the funeral home.
    Processing time: 5 to 7 days
  5. The funeral home mails them to families or family representative must pick them up at the funeral home.
    Processing time: 5 to 7 days

los angeles county death certificate form screenshot

Total processing time with direct filing: UP TO 10 WEEKS

Opal Cremation’s New Process to Quickly Order Death Certificates Online With VitalChek

After a death certificate has been approved and certified by the local health agency, Opal Cremation uses VitalChek to order death certificates online in Southern California through its easy-to-use dashboard. Also, through the electronic information system used in California, the Social Security Administration is notified of the death.

As an additional service to clients, Opal pays for any county permits related to cremation through the VitalChek dashboard. This is a new feature offered through VitalChek. The ordering process takes about 5 minutes, freeing up our team of professionals to focus on the care and support of our valued customers.

  1. Use VitalChek’s online dashboard to order death certificates.
    Processing time: 5 minutes
  2. Since the local agencies typically prioritize VitalChek orders over direct orders, the request is instantly received and processed by the health department.
    Processing time: 1 to 3 days
  3. The death certificate is shipped directly to the client via USPS First Class or expedited through UPS Express, removing the delays of mailing to the funeral home first.
    Processing time: 2 days for expedited UPS shipping, 5 to 7 days for USPS shipping.

Vitalchek online death certificate form page screenshot

Total Processing time with VitalChek: 3 to 10 days

How Much Does VitalChek Cost?

VitalChek provides a large amount of value for such a low price of just 2.5% of the death certificate fee.

So, for a $24 death certificate, VitalChek only charges 53 cents. USPS shipping is free. For expedited shipping through UPS, there is a $19 fee.

For the cost of a gumball, clients can cut the death certificate processing time by 86%, or up to two months.

Where is VitalChek Available in California?

In California, VitalChek has developed relationships with several counties, such as Orange County and San Diego County. Ventura County loves the VitalChek service and is pushing to get 100% of its funeral homes to use it. Right now, about 50% of Ventura County funeral homes use VitalChek. Los Angeles County launched the service in early 2021. In Los Angeles, only about 120 funeral homes out of about 500 use VitalChek.

However, some CA counties, such as Riverside and San Bernardino, use a different online ordering system and therefore are not connected with VitalChek.

The public companies, Dignity, and Carriage Services, use VitalChek if the local funeral home requests it.

Whenever possible, Opal only uses VitalChek to order death certificates for clients. Opal’s customers appreciate receiving their death certificates so quickly and are usually surprised at the speed in which their records arrive. To date, Opal has provided the service, with UPS Express shipping, as part of its all-inclusive cremation package. The package comes with a tracking number, so clients can track their delivery.

Additionally, Opal provides the electronic “working copy” of the registered death certificate to customers (families), which is available when Opal receives the county permits for cremation—generally a few days or a week before the cremation occurs. This is helpful because some businesses will now accept the electronic version instead of requiring a paper certified copy. The electronic working copy of the death certificate is registered, but it’s not the official certified version printed on special security paper, which includes the state seal. While some businesses now accept the electronic version, others, like life insurance companies and banks, still require the certified copy.

Opal Cremation continues to stay on the cutting edge of the funeral home industry with collaborations like the one with VitalChek. Troy Centazzo is passionate about ensuring Opal’s customers feel cared for and that the cremation process and arrangement experience is the best in Southern California.

“VitalChek is a game changer. What used to take days or more now takes only minutes.” says Troy Centazzo, CEO of Opal Cremation. “We’re in the business of helping families during a difficult time in their lives, and this expedited service allows us to dramatically shorten the wait time.”

For more information about the positive impacts that VitalChek is having on funeral home businesses and their clients, visit VitalChek’s website.

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