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Why You May Need a Death Certificate When Administering an Estate

Why You May Need a Death Certificate When Administering an Estate

If you have been named the executor of the estate, you likely have a number of different duties on your plate. In fact, the process can become a little overwhelming at times. Yet, there are certain things that need to be done. One such task is to obtain a death certificate for the deceased. At first, this may seem like a trivial task, but there are some important legal ramifications if you fail to take this step. Learn why you need to take immediate action to get a death certificate in accordance with estate law.

Defining the Death Certificate

What exactly is a death certificate? In general, it is a government document that formally recognizes the passing of a person. In a sense, it is the opposite of a birth certificate. When a death occurs, the local authority (such as the county) will issue this document. Death certificates are then signed by the physician who oversaw the person's passing.

Each jurisdiction has its own format for death certificates. Yet, there is some basic information that you are likely to find on any given version. This includes the name and address of the deceased, as well as the time and place of death. It will also contain information about the decedent's marital status, birth date and birthplace. In some cases, it will list the names of the person's parents or other relatives.

Certain personal information may be excluded from the death certificate. This will depend on the laws of the state issuing the document. For example, you are unlikely to find a social security number listed. Privacy laws often prevent some personally identifiable information from being included.

The Legal Reasons You Need It

For most estates, obtaining a death certificate is a necessity. You will likely need a certified copy of this document to manage the decedent's property. This includes claiming money in a payable-on-death bank account and filing for Social Security proceeds. You will also need a certified copy to start the probate process or to hold probate hearings. Thus, any probate attorney will suggest that you work on getting this document as soon as possible.

Utah's Process for Death Certificates

In the state of Utah, the certificate is issued by the local health department. At some point, you may also be able to obtain a copy from the Office of Vital Records. If the cause of death is known, a death certificate will be started immediately after the physician's examination. The information is then transmitted electronically to the health department. Next, the relatives of the deceased need to complete the final steps with the funeral director. The certificate will then be ready to file with the county, and can be certified.

In some cases, the county will issue a pending death certificate. This is done when the cause of death is not immediately known. When further examinations are completed, the final version will be created. This version will be referred to as an "Amended Death Certificate."

For more assistance with estate law issues, contact us at TR Spencer Law Office at 801-566-1884.

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