When someone you love dies, the last thing that you are thinking about is the mountain of paperwork that death creates.
Unfortunately, there is no escaping the dreaded paperwork. When you are ready to tackle the mountain you will likely need many original or certified copies of the death certificate, which is an official document issued by the government declaring the date, location and cause of a person’s death.
Why You’ll Need the Death Certificate
You may need an original or certified copy of the death certificate in order to:
- Transfer money from bank accounts (both in the sole name of the deceased, or held jointly with the deceased);
- Remove the contents of a safe deposit box;
- Transfer ownership of real estate;
- Transfer ownership of motor vehicles;
- Access insurance benefits (e.g. life insurance; burial or funeral insurance);
- Cancel insurance benefits (e.g. funeral insurance; car insurance);
- Access certain government services (e.g. pension benefits);
- Cancel other government services (e.g. health card; driver’s licence; voter registration);
- Transfer ownership of stocks, bonds, or other investments;
- Redeem bonds or other investments;
- Prepare final tax returns.
Key Questions to Ask Each Company or Institution
Each company and institution will have its own requirements for the type of paperwork you’ll need to submit.
Start by listing all of the companies and institutions that you need to contact. You will need to call each one and ask four key questions:
- Will you accept “Proof of Death” that is prepared and issued by the funeral director? (This alternative will save you money, assuming the company accepts “Proof of Death”.)
- If the company or institution does NOT accept “Proof of Death”, ask what version of the death certificate is required? There are many types of death certificates with varying levels of detail contained in each: short version; long version; extended long version. For example, you may need an extended long form version for settling an estate outside the country and collecting pension benefits outside the country.
- Does the death certificate need to be “certified”? A certified copy of a death certificate issued by the Local Vital Records Office will have a raised seal, will show the signature of the Local Registrar, and will be printed on security paper. A certified copy may be required to settle an estate or to claim insurance benefits.
- Do I fill out any forms, and if so, how can I obtain them? For some tasks, you might not have to fill out a form, but you may have to submit a signed letter your request in writing. For example, to cancel a car insurance policy.
- Do I need to provide any other proof or paperwork? For example, a company or institution may require you to provide a certified copy of the last will and testament as proof that you are a named executor, and therefore have the authority to deal with the institution on behalf of the deceased.
When Can You Apply for the Death Certificate?
You can apply for a death certificate at any time, but it cannot be issued until a death is registered with the provincial government where the death occurred.
Who Can Apply for the Death Certificate?
There are no restrictions on who can apply for the short form death certificate.
The deceased’s next of kin may apply for the long form certified copy of a statement of death. This includes parents, a spouse or common-law partner, children or siblings.
If all the next of kin are deceased, extended family members may apply for a long form certified death certificate. This includes aunts, uncles, first cousins, grandchildren, grandparents, nieces and nephews.
A family member who is eligible to apply for the long form death certificate may authorize someone to apply on his or her behalf. Authorized representatives will be required to provide proof of authorization.
The executor of the will or the estate administrator may also apply. He or she will need to provide a copy of the will as proof of authorization.
How to Obtain a Death Certificate?
The funeral director handling the deceased’s funeral arrangements can order death certificates for you from the provincial office that handles vital statistics.
If you wish to order directly, you will need to provide the government office with the following information:
- First and last name of the person who died;
- Sex of the person that died;
- Date of death;
- Name of city or town where the death occurred;
- Names of the deceased’s parents;
- Name of the spouse or partner of the deceased (if applicable).
You can call the provincial office responsible for vital statistics to order the death certificate, or you can order them on-line through the provincial office’s website. The contact details for each provincial office responsible for issuing death certificates are provided below.
If you urgently require a death certificate, you should check with your provincial vital statistics office if there is a “fast track” or “emergency service” available. There may be an additional cost for this service, and you may need to provide proof of urgency.
British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency
PO Box 9657 STN PROV GOVT
Victoria, BC V8W 9P3
Telephone: 604-660-2937 or 250-952-2681
Telephone toll free within BC: 1-888-876-1633
Alberta Vital Statistics
Edmonton, Alberta T5J 4W7
Telephone: 780-427-7013 (Edmonton & surrounding areas)
Telephone toll free within Alberta: 310-0000 then dial 780-427-7013
Vital Statistics Registry
101 – 1445 Park Street
Regina, SK S4N 4C5
Telephone toll free within North America: 1-855-eHS-LINK (1-855-347-5465)
Vital Statistics Agency
254 Portage Avenue
Winnipeg, MB R3C 0B6
Office of the Registrar General
189 Red River Road
Thunder Bay, ON P7B 6L8
Telephone toll free within ON: 1-800-461-2156
Le Directeur de l’Etat Civil
2535, boulevard Laurier
Québec, QC G1V 5C5
Telephone: 418-644-4545 or 514-644-4545
Telephone toll free within QC: 1-877-644-4545
Teletype (TTY) toll free within QC: 1-800-361-9596 (general information only)
Service Nova Scotia
PO Box 157
Halifax, NS B3J 2M9
Service New Brunswick
P.O. Box 1998
Fredericton, NB E3B 5G4
Telephone toll free within North America: 1-888-762-8600
Prince Edward Island:
126 Douses Road
Montague, PE C0A 1R0
Newfoundland & Labrador:
Vital Statistics Division
Department of Government of Services
PO Box 8700
St. John’s NL A1B 4J6
Whitehorse, YK Y1A 2C6
Courier: 4th floor-204 Lambert St.
Whitehorse, YK Y1A 3T2
Telephone toll free within YK: 1-800-661-0408 ext. 5207
Department of Health and Social Services
Government of NWT
Bag Service #9
Inuvik, NT X0E 0T0
Nunavut Vital Statistics
PO Box 889
Rankin Inlet, NU X0C 0G0
Telephone toll free within Canada: 1-800-661-0833
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