Obtaining a death record in the state of Texas is not difficult, although it may take a little time. Texas has two documents that you may order that pertain to death records; the actual death certificate and a document called a “death verification.” Among many, there are three, easy ways to order the documents both online and offline: through the Texas Department of Health Services, from the county clerk in the county where the death took place and through a sponsored site called vital check.
What kind of information do you want?
When dealing with death certificates in Texas, apart from the two different death record documents, there are also protected (closed) records and unprotected (open) records. A protected record, as would indicate by the name, is only available for purchase by certain qualified individuals, specifically, immediate family members; and, it goes without saying that when requesting this type of death record one must establish that you are qualified to receive the information. When you are living out of state and trying to obtain such records will also be a time you will be asked to establish that you are qualified to receive the document; “you must be the surviving spouse of the deceased, a parent of the deceased or the funeral director of the funeral home on the record.”
Death records retain their “protected” status for 25 years. If you are not an immediate family member, yet you have proof that you are eligible to receive that death certificate, you may submit the legal documentation, such as an “insurance policy listing you as a beneficiary” which would establish your right to receive the document.
Unprotected (open) records are, as their name indicates, open for the public. If you are ordiering a death certificate from the last 25 years, it is required that you send in a copy of a government issued ID such as a: state drives license, state/city/county ID, student ID, government employment badge or card, prison ID, or military ID.
Where to go:
When looking for public records, particularly a vital record like a death record, a good place to start your search would be at the Texas state government’s website. On their homepage, there is a link to access an online vital records application. Here, you can start and finish the process of requesting a death certificate, as well as a death verification, and allows you to pay with a major credit card. The online orders are completed within 10-15 business days. Payment is required even if the search doesn’t bring up any record; in other words, the payment is non-refundable and non-transferable. Another important reminder when ordering online, it is not possible to request next-day or overnight deliveries—planning ahead are a necessity.
Make it easy
Through the Texas Department of State Health Services Vital Statistics, there are many ways to order a death certificate or a death verification, and it is also where you go to fill out an “amendment to a death record.”
To work with a person face to face, avoid the confusion, and miss out on the misinterpretation, you may go in person to the Texas Vital Statistics office in Austin. There, the processing times are usually shorter than any other method, 30 minutes to 2 hours; however, they can take longer, so come prepared. Payments can be made with cash, a check or a money order. The first document costs $20 and $3 for additional copies of the same record.
You may also order by “regular” mail. This takes longer, 6-8 weeks and has the same payment requirements, excluding the $5 expedited processing fee. It is processed using the same application and the same payment methods are accepted.
There is also a form called form VS-172 that you can fill out if you think something on a death certificate needs to be amended. In the event that you order your information and find there are factual mistakes, misspellings, or any errors that need to be corrected, instructions for doing this are here:
Can’t make it to Austin? Option B
Death records are also available from the county clerk in the county where the death took place. Forms, costs and methods are very similar, if not the same as ordering through the Vital Statistics department however; sometimes this way is a little faster.
Lastly, there is another site called VitalCheck.com which is an, “official online government-authorized service and secure ordering system approved by hundreds of vital record issuing agencies nationwide,” where you can order death certificates.
Death verification documents are another means of getting information on those that have died in the state of Texas. This is not a substitute for a legal document and it only establishes whether a person’s death was filed with the state of Texas. If so, the death verification will include the person’s name, date of event, county where it occurred and state file number; these verification letters are available for deaths since 1903. The Department of Health Services also has off-line methods of requesting death verification letters besides the online application. You can request them in person at the VS offices in Austin or by mail. Processing times, payment methods and costs are the same as those mentioned above for the death certificate. Just remember, they cannot be used in an official setting.
As one can see, there are many methods of ordering a death record. It all comes down to if you can prove your relationship, how long in advance you need the information, and how official you need the information to be. One thing to note is that death records may not be available yet if the death occurred within the last 90 days. The state of Texas does not “publish death indexes.” Therefore, in order to find out if a death record is on file with the state, you will need to fill out the death verification form. Remember; with a population like Texas’, make sure you have the right information because with that many people, it’s not uncommon to have similar names.
Categories: State News and Tips