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The Death Certificate
One of the concerns that both funeral directors and family members have when a death occurs, is securing the death certificate. It is an important document that is issued by the health department, in the Registrar District where the death occurred. This may be a city or county office. The death certificate is an document that verifies a person has passed away. Once a death certificate is filed with the health department a Permit For Disposition is issued. This permit is required before a person can be buried or cremated. Therefore, a timely filing is imperative.
The death certificate is an official record filed with the county and state. It has an engraved border that displays a seal and signature of the Registrar. This record includes the deceased person’s name, address, date and place of birth, date and place of death, social security number, occupation, education, race, parents names and birth states, and informant or next of kin, among other items.
Like a birth certificate, a doctor’s signature is required to verify the event. The doctor also records the cause(s) of death, duration of illness, other conditions contributing to death and whether or not there was an operation performed for a condition related to the cause of death. The funeral director contacts the doctor and coordinates obtaining the information needed and physician’s signature.
In most cases a doctor signs the death certificate. There are instances however, when the coroner must sign, such as when a person dies accidentally, is killed, or when a doctor can not attest to the cause of death. The coroner does an examination and investigation, records the causes and signs the death certificate. Also, if a person had not seen a doctor within six months of death the coroner must sign the death certificate.
The death certificate is public record and anyone can obtain an “Informational Copy.”
Authorized Certified Certificates of Death are valid documents that “establish identity”
and are only available to close family, attorneys, funeral directors, and others, as per law. Certified copies are required by banks, insurance companies, investment companies, attorneys and employers, etc… when there are affairs that need to be settled and assets that need to be disbursed.
The funeral director asks the family how many death certificates are desired to handle the business affairs, counsels the family in what they may need them for, and orders them. Some families order one and others order as many as twenty or more, depending on the number of transactions that require a death certificate. As of October 1, 2007, Los Angeles County is participating in California’s Electronic Death Registration System. Irma Vargas, Chief Deputy Registrar of the City of Pasadena Public Health Department, believes that “the new electronic filing system will make death certificates more accurate and streamline the process of filing.” Hopefully, this will make death certificates available to families sooner.
Death certificates are available at a current cost of $12.00 each. If death occurs in Pasadena, death certificates can be ordered through the City of Pasadena Health Department at 1845 N. Fair Oaks Ave. If a death occurs outside of Pasadena, but in Los Angeles County, death certificates are available at The L.A. County Registrars Office, at 313 N. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, CA 90012. Phone (213) 240-7816 (up to three months after the death). For deaths occurring more than three months prior, the death certificates can be ordered through L.A. County Recorders Office at 12400 E. Imperial Hwy., Norwalk, CA 90650. Phone (562) 462-2214. Death certificates can be ordered in person or via the mail. For deaths outside of Los Angeles County, contact the health department in the county where death occurred. (626) 744-6052.