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Published: August 4, 2020

A death certificate is an official document that declares the cause of death, location of death, time of death and other personal information about the deceased. When someone dies in New Jersey, the death must be registered with the State Department of Health and Vital Statistics. The vital records office can then issue copies of the death certificate, which you may need to handle a deceased person's affairs or for your own personal records.

Reasons You May Need Death Certificates

There are several reasons why you may need to obtain a certified copy of the death certificate. Most often it's to serve as proof of death for legal purposes.

These reasons may include:

  • Social Security Administration 
  • Insurance policies (one death certificate per company) 
  • Veterans benefits 
  • Last Will and Testament 
  • Property ownership (residence, land, car, boat, etc.) 
  • A beneficiary of a saving's account 
  • Stocks, bonds, or brokerage accounts 
  • Safe deposit box 
  • Union benefits 
  • Internal Revenue Service (to send in with next tax return) 
  • IRA (Individual Retirement Account) 
  • Pension plans 
  • Treasury Bills 
  • Post office (to set up mail forwarding if the decedent lived alone

How to Get Copies of Death Certificates

In New Jersey, there are typically three ways to order certified copies of a death certificate:

  • Through the funeral home that handled the arrangements
  • Through the New Jersey Department of Health's Vital Statistics and Registry website
  • In person from the local registrar at the municipality where the death occurred or the state registrar in Trenton, New Jersey.

Who Can Obtain Death Certificates?

Individuals eligible to receive death certificates are:

  • Parents
  • Legal guardians or representatives
  • Spouses
  • Children
  • Grandchildren
  • Siblings
  • State and Federal agencies for official purposes

Proof of relation to the deceased person may be required when submitting the application to the office of vital statistics or the registrar. This documentation can be provided in the form of a birth certificate or letter stating who the applicant is representing and how they are related to the person named on the record.

In some instances, the person that needs a death certificate may not be one of the eligible individuals who can make application for a copy. For instance, if a cousin is named as the deceased's beneficiary of an insurance policy, they may need to ask the life insurance company to request the death certificate directly from the State Bureau of Vital Statistics and Registration as they are not eligible to apply on their own.

What Do Death Certificates Cost?

The cost of death certificates will vary depending on how and where you order them.

Currently the State's Registrar's Office in Trenton, where many funeral home's order death certificates from when they register the death, charge $25 for the first copy and $2 for each additional copy. The state registrar will issue the certificates and send them directly to the funeral home via mail.

To expedite the process and provide death certificates to you more quickly, your funeral home may choose to order death certificates directly from the municipality of which they are located. Each municipality sets its own fees which may be more expensive than what the state registrar charges, ranging anywhere from $10 to $25 per copy.

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