About Death Certificates
The death certificate is the legal record of the fact of death of an individual. Funeral directors are responsible for getting the original certificate completed. As a permanent legal record, the certificate is extremely important to the decedent’s family. It also is needed for a variety of medical and health-related research efforts. The death certificate provides important information about the decedent, such as age, sex, race, date of death, his or her parents, and, if married, the name of the spouse; information on circumstances and cause of death; and final disposition. This information is used in the application for insurance benefits, settlement of pension claims, and transfer of title of real and personal property. The certificate is considered prima facie evidence of the fact of death. It can therefore be introduced in court as evidence when a question about the death arises. Statistical data from death certificates are used to identify public health problems and measure the results of programs established to alleviate these problems. These data are a necessary foundation on which to base effective public health programs. Health departments could not perform their duties without such data. Mortality statistics are of considerable value to individual physicians and to medical science because they can be used to identify disease etiology and evaluate diagnostic techniques. Demographers use mortality statistics in combination with fatality statistics to estimate and project population sizes, which are important in forecasting and program planning.
Certified copies of the death certificate are legal documents issued through the Commonwealth of PA, Department of Health, Bureau of Vital Records with local offices located in the State Building in Scranton or through our local registrar. The Commonwealth charges $ 9.00 per certified copy.
Because they are legal documents, it is extremely important that you provide us with the correct information when we prepare the original certificate. Please note that photocopies without the raised seal from the Commonwealth are not accepted as legal documents.
After the original death certificate has been signed by the attending physician or medical examiner/coroner and completed by Semian Funeral Directors, it is filed with the Bureau of Vital Records or our local registrar. Generally, it takes from 2 to 3 business days for the official death certificate to be filed. Certified death certificates can be issued by any Bureau of Vital Records office within the Commonwealth.
The most expedient way to obtain certified copies of the death certificate is to call Semian Funeral Directors. Alternately, certified copies of the death certificate can be ordered through the Commonwealth’s web-site http://www.dsf.health.state.pa.us/health/cwp/view.asp?a=168&Q=229939. Whether obtained through our office, in person or through the mail, death certificates must be paid for prior to being issued. In Pennsylvania, death certificates are not public records. By law, only immediate family members and other interested legal parties such as attorneys and funeral homes can obtain death certificates. Once filed, Semian Funeral Directors do maintain a copy of the original death certificate.
In order to assist you in ascertaining the number of certified copies needed, we have provided a worksheet listing some areas requiring this document: