It seems that there is always confusion during the arrangement conference when it comes time to order death certificates. When I ask the next of kin if they know how many they would like to purchase, I will usually offer an explanation about reasons death certificates are necessary. At this point, families will respond with a quick answer, or they will begin counting reasons that they do, or do not, need a certain number of them.
A death certificate proves dissolution of a decedent’s legal claims on properties and responsibilities over debts. Therefore, anything that is legal, financial, binding, contractually consumable, or requires stewardship or ownership, requires a death certificate.
If you are trying to count the number of death certificates you will need to order, it is easier to think in categories. First, consider your decedent’s financial obligations, both positive and negative. These would include bank accounts, retirement accounts, investments, insurance policies, loans, credit cards, dependent children, etc. Second, consider properties your decedent owned or was purchasing. These would include his or her home, rental properties, investment properties, vacation properties, automobiles, motorcycles, recreational vehicles, airplanes, boats, trailers, anything that requires a title, etc. Last of all, consider any utilities for which your loved one was responsible. These would include cell phones, cable, electricity, gas, water, sewer, waste removal, landlines, internet service, secondary property utilities, etc.
Quite often families will suggest that they will merely purchase one death certificate and make copies to distribute. The lists above are legal obligations. Legal obligations require legal documentation to dissolve responsibility or ownership; a copy will not suffice. Copies will work for a family member’s journal of family records and history.
When considering the purchase of death certificates, it is always better to order at least one more than you think you will need. As one’s privacy is protected while living, so too will one enjoy this right after death. Obtaining additional death certificates later on is not a quick nor necessarily easy process, nor is it available to just anyone. In order to obtain a death certificate after the immediate issue, one must be able to prove immediate kinship. Quite often, this is not convenient. Also, an amount of time involved adds to the frustration of obtaining additional certificates.
My advice as a funeral professional? Take care of as many of these details as you can before death happens. Seek out an attorney and arrange your estate to protect your assets and loved ones prior to your death. Pre-arrange your funeral services so that your family is not faced with expensive decisions when they are most vulnerable in life. Even if your estate is small or filled with nothing but debts, seek out legal counsel and arrange things so that your family is not saddled with stifling debt and setbacks that could have been eliminated if you had just taken care of the details last week.
My name is Tracy Renee Lee. I am the owner and Managing Funeral Director at Queen City Funeral Home in Queen City Texas. I am an author, syndicated columnist, and certified grief counselor. I write books and weekly bereavement articles related to understanding and coping with grief. I am the American Funeral Director of the Year Runner-Up and recipient of the BBB’s Integrity Award. I deliver powerful messages and motivate audiences toward positive recovery. It is my life’s work to comfort the bereaved and help them live on.
For additional encouragement, read other articles or watch video “Grief Briefs,” please go to my website at www.MourningCoffee.com
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