How many death certificates do I need?
This is one of those questions we don’t think about until someone passes away and we are tasked with trying to settle his or her estate and finances. Everyone’s situation is different and can range to simple to complex. If you are the one assigned this tedious task, the first order of business is to try and determine how many assets and accounts may require a death certificate in order to transfer or dispose of property or close accounts. Again, depending on the individual, these can add up.
Additionally, there are two different types of death certificates, a long form and a short form. The long form shows the cause of death, known as a “With Cause Death Certificate.” The short form does not show the cause of death, and is known as a “Without Cause Death Certificate.”
Long Form Death Certificate (With Cause of Death)
Here are some of the companies or agencies that require a Long Form showing the cause of death.
- Life Insurance Company (if there is more than one policy with different companies, you will need one for each company.)
- Company Pension and Retirement Plans
- Veterans Administration – for Pensions or Compensation
- Social Security Administration
- For you own personal family records we recommend a long form.
Short Form Death Certificate (Without Cause of Death)
Short Forms are primarily needed for bank accounts, financial institutions and property. Again, there can be many and each one will require a copy.
Banks and Financial Institutions
- Banks and Credit Unions for checking and savings accounts or loans
- Credit Card Companies
- Brokerage Companies for investment accounts (Stocks, Bonds or 401k(s))
If the deceased owned personal or business property, you will need to have this transferred.
- Real Estate Property (1st home, 2nd home, etc.)
- Rental Property
- Automobiles, Motorcycles, Trailers, Recreation Vehicles, Boats, Airplanes, etc.
Miscellaneous Entities requiring a death certificate
- Wills, Attorneys and Probate Court (if applicable) will require a death certificate.
- The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) will require one to satisfy income tax requirements.
- Cell Phone Contracts. Many people are in long term contracts and need a death certificate to get out of these legal commitments.
- Long-term Cable TV, Satellite TV or Internet Subscriptions
Use this list above to think through not only how many death certificates you will / may need. But also, how many or each type, long form or short form death certificates, you will need.
While these to not necessarily require a death certificate, think about all the different companies we have relationships with today. In today’s world, it is not uncommon for us to have 25, 50 or even 75 or more different logins to various sites and entities. With many of these sites, we have subscriptions where we are charged a recurring monthly fee by the companies we have relationships with.
If you have a solid and trustworthy relationship with a family member, it is always a good idea to have your login information shared with a secondary resource. However, make sure it is someone you can really, really trust.
If you don’t have a family member you feel you can trust wholeheartedly, but you have a trusted attorney, you can provide this to your attorney and attach it to your last will and testament. This can save a tremendous amount of time and ‘headache’ when trying to settle someone’s estate.