California death records are available from the state Department of Public Health (DPH) as well as the County Recorder’s Office for the county where the person died. Another option is to order the death record for a specific individual from one of the websites offering this information for a fee.
Before you order a death record from the DPH, you will need to be aware of its processing times for providing the requested information:
• Death records from 1993-present: 3 weeks
• Death records from 1905-1992: 6 weeks
The DPH only accepts orders for death records which are submitted by mail. Before completing an application form, you will need to find out whether you are eligible to obtain an authorized copy or an informational copy of the record you are seeking. Under California state law, authorized copies of death records (and other vital records) may only be requested by the spouse, domestic partner or parents of the person named on the record, as well as the following authorized individuals or agencies:
• Attorney or licensed adoption agency
• Law enforcement or government agency
• Attorney representing the deceased’s estate
• Employee of a funeral home who is requesting a copy of the record under Section 7100 of the Health and Safety Code
If you do not meet the requirements to apply for an authorized copy of a death notice, you can order an informational copy. This version contains the same information as an authorized copy of a death record, but a legend will appear on the document stating, “INFORMATIONAL, NOT A VALID DOCUMENT TO ESTABLISH IDENTITY.”
The fee to order a death record in California is $14, payable by check or money order payable to the “Office of Public Records.” The mailing address for the DPH is:
California Department of Public Health Vital Records – MS 5103 P.O. Box 997410 Sacramento, CA 95899-7410
If the requested death record cannot be found, DPH will keep it to cover the time involved in searching for the information. It takes time for the Department of Public Health to update its records, and the best choice is to wait at least six months from the date of death to request an official document. If the requested record is not available, the state will issue a Certificate of No Public Record. The fee is kept in this instance, as well.
To apply for a California death record, you must complete an application form (available from the DPH web site) and pay the required fee. If you are requesting a certified copy, you will also need to provide a notarized sworn statement. The statement is used to establish the identity of the person requesting the death record.
An option for people who want or need to access California death records immediately is to order them online. Electronic records are available from online databases and a consumer can access them quickly and easily after paying the required fee. Consider ordering death records from a third-party provider if you need to get the information right away.