Death records can be useful for a variety of reasons. If you are curious about your family’s history, you can use a death certificate for a genealogy trace. If you are settling questions of estate, you will likely need a death certificate for the legal proceedings. In the state of Minnesota, death records were the responsibility of each county up until 1907, when the State took over the handling of birth and death records. A death record will contain information that includes: the name, sex, age, date of birth, and social security number of deceased, as well as the date of death, the place of death, occasionally the name of the deceased’s mother and father, and also sometimes the name of the attending physician. But, whether you are getting the information for a school project or to settle a court matter, you have to be specific as to which kind of death certificate you require, a Certified Death Certificate or a Non-Certified Death Certificate.
Because the state of Minnesota is responsible for birth and death records, you have to send an application for a Death Certificate directly to the Minnesota Department of Health. To obtain a copy of the application to fill out you can go to the Minnesota Department of Health website (http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/chs/osr/) where a downloadable copy is available. However, in order to file one of these applications, you have to have what they call a “tangible interest,” requiring one of the following relationships to the deceased: child, parent, sibling, spouse, grandparent, grandchild, legal guardian, successor, conservator, trustee of a trust, personal representative, representative from an adoption agency, or licensed attorney of the deceased. So if you don’t fall into any of those categories it might be difficult to get the death certificate that you want. If that is the case, there is still hope. If you can prove that a person with that “tangible interest” has authorized you OR if “you can demonstrate to the state registrar that a Death Certificate is necessary for the determination or protection of a personal or property right” you have an opportunity to still get what you’re looking for.
There is often a fee attached to everything to pay for the service and maintenance of information, and this is no exception. With that application you download, you also need to send in an application fee, and know the application will NOT be processed if it isn’t included. The $13.00 fee is payable via credit card, money order, or check. If you would like a copy of the same report, it’s $6.00 a piece, and if you are in a hurry to get the information there is a $20.00 expedition fee that gets your name on top of the “non-expedited” list (however this does not include the federal express or other mailing fees). If you want to order death certificates for more than one death record you have to fill out a separate application for each copy, and pay a separate fee.
A death record can be amended if there is missing or false information on it. If you happen to find an error on a death record, you can make a request for an amendment to the record. Depending on where and when the death occurred, there are several different options for going about the application process. If the death occurred within the last year, you can request an amendment through the funeral home that presided over the funeral of the deceased, through the local registrar, through the state registrar, or through the informant. If the death happened less than five years ago but more than one year, the amendment may be requested through a local registrar or through a state registrar. However, if the death occurred more than five years ago the amendment may only be requested ONLY through the state registrar. In the state of Minnesota there is a $40 fee that must be filed along with the amendment request in order for the request to be filed.
You might want to have an official or Certified Death record when tracing genealogy (for accuracy purposes… a non-certified death certificate would likely be just as good if you are researching for fun) or in a number of other legal circumstances. In order to access death records, the best way is to apply to the Minnesota State Department of Health in order to obtain an official copy. But, if there is no proven relationship between you and the deceased, the official copy will most likely not be granted. In order to use the death certificate in any legal matter, such as the settlement of an estate, life insurance benefits, or in court, the document must be a certified copy issued from the Minnesota Department of Health. The difference between obtaining certified and non-certified death record is that in order to receive a certified death record, the applicant must have one of the above relationships to the deceased.
If you just need a non-certified death certificate, you don’t need to have had a relationship with the deceased in order to receive a copy. This kind of death certificate is used primarily as a means of education or information. There are other numerous sources for obtaining unofficial death certificates. Newer online databases make it relatively easy to search for records and can usually be ordered for around $8 or so from the website, for example from the Minnesota Historical Society’s website (http://people.mnhs.org/dci/Search.cfm). Just remember, you have to realize that these records are not certified copies and cannot be used in public or legal matters.
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