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How to Find a Death Record in Virginia?

What Are Death Records in Virginia?

Virginia death records are classified as vital records containing details on deaths that occur within the state. A death record is a permanent legal document that reveals specific information about a death, such as when, how, and where it occurred. Some information included in a Virginia death record are:

  • Decedent's full name
  • Place of birth
  • Place of death
  • Usual residence
  • Date of birth and death, including age
  • Social security number
  • Deceased’s biodata, including sex, color or race, etc.
  • Usual occupation and kind of business or industry
  • Registration area number
  • Parental and marital information
  • Informant’s details and signature
  • Funeral director’s details and signature

Government agencies use death records to update electoral registers, passport records, government benefits paid, etc. A Virginia death record is a vital document required to close bank accounts, transfer real and personal property titles, track death trends, and provide end result data for research studies. Death records are also useful when prioritizing medical and health-related research efforts, public health interventions for genealogical research, health-related funding, processing motor vehicle transfers, pension claims, bonds, stocks, and life insurance benefits.

How are Death Records Created in Virginia?

Registrars of Districts in the Commonwealth of Virginia generate records of every death that occurs in Virginia or cases where the dead body of the deceased is found in the state. The death registration process is coordinated by a funeral service licensee, licensed funeral director, office of the state anatomical program, or next of kin as specified in Code of Virginia § 54.1-2800. The death certificate must be filed within three days after the death or after the dead body is found and before final disposition or removal of the body from the Commonwealth. Death records may be filed either electronically or non-electronically. The funeral director may electronically file a death certificate with the State Registrar of Vital Records through the Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS) within the three days time limit. A death certificate may also be filed non-electronically with the Registrar of any district in the Commonwealth within the three days time limit.

The creation of a death record in Virginia involves:

  • Gathering personal and statistical information on the deceased.
  • Determining the cause of the death.
  • Registering the information generated with the local registrar or the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.
  1. Gathering personal and statistical information on the deceased
    The licensed funeral director in charge of the death case shall obtain the deceased’s required personal data necessary to complete the certificate of death, including the deceased’s social security number or control number issued to the deceased by the Department of Motor Vehicles under § 46.2-342. Typically, this information should be obtained from a qualified informant who is trusted to give accurate information.

    Note that if a licensed funeral director, funeral service licensee, or representative of the state anatomical program’s office completes the certificate of death, it shall be electronically filed with the State Registrar of Vital Records using the Electronic Death Registration System. However, if a member of the next of kin of the deceased completes the certificate of death, he shall not be required to file the certificate of death electronically.

  2. Determining and filing the cause of the death.
    This process is referred to as medical certification and shall be completed by the physician in charge of the patient's care before the death or by the physician that pronounces the death. However, this excludes cases where inquiry or investigation is being conducted by the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner under § 32.1-283 or 32.1-285.1. After the medical certification, the certificate is filed electronically with the State Registrar of Vital Records using the Electronic Death Registration System within 24 hours after death.

  3. Registering the information generated with the local registrar or the State Registrar of Vital Statistics.
    After completing the certificate of death, it is filed with the local registrar or the State Registrar of Vital Statistics, who certifies it and issues it to eligible applicants.

How to Find Death Records Online in Virginia?

The Office of Vital Records of the Virginia Department of Health does not provide an online database where interested persons can look up death records. These records can only be accessed via mail-in and walk-in requests.

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources, and through third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:

  • The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
  • The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.

While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.

How to Find Death Records for Free in Virginia?

The Office of Vital Records of the Virginia Department of Health does not provide access to death records for free. A requester is required to pay a nominal fee when applying to obtain a death record.

Where Can I Get Death Records in Virginia?

A requester can obtain a copy of a Virginia death record at the state's Department of Health's Office of Vital Records. The Office of Vital Records maintains and provides eligible applicants with access to death records from 1912 to the present. Persons looking to obtain death records may fill any of these forms:

The Vital Records Office requires that an acceptable application include the following:

  • Requester’s signature
  • Readable photocopy of the requester’s ID
  • $12 fee for each requested copy is to be paid in the form of either a check or money order, which is completed, signed, and made payable to: “State Health Department.”

The Vital Records Office provides access to death record via any of the following means:

  • Walk-in request
  • Mail request

Walk-in Request

Requesters can choose from any of the Vital Record Walk-In Locations close to them and confirm if they will need to book an appointment before visiting the office. Certain restrictions have been imposed due to COVID-19; these include:

  • According to Governor Ralph Northam’s Executive Order 63, all patrons aged ten and above are required to put on face-covering while seeking services.
  • Seats in the Vital Records Office’s customer lobby will be spaced six feet apart as defined by CDC guidelines.
  • The number of people in the lobby will be limited to ten people at all times. Hence, only customers requesting services will be granted entrance into the building.

Interested persons may contact the office for more inquiries or general information at (804) 662-6200.

The Vital Records Office has two new convenient options to avoid long wait times, although the guidelines listed above are mandatory. The convenient options include:

  • Two-hour Pick-up - Requester drops off a completed application for a vital record at the front desk and returns to pick-up the requested record(s) two hours from the time request was received. Note that two-hour pick-up requests must be submitted at the office no later than 3:00 p.m. and will be issued to the requester only.
  • Application drop-off - Requester uses dropbox to submit a completed application(s) for certified copies of vital records to be delivered by mail. The office processes these requests and mails them the next business day. Requests submitted after 4:00 p.m. will be considered received the next business day.

Mail-in Request

A person requesting a death record is required to complete the Application for Certification of a Death Record with the necessary information, sign it and send it alongside legible identification documentation and a signed money order or check payment before the order can be processed. The following information must be included in a mail request:

  • Name of deceased
  • Date of death
  • Place of death
  • Relationship to the deceased
  • Reason for the certificate
  • Area code + daytime phone number
  • The return address where the record will be delivered.

Send mail request to:

Office of Vital Records
P.O. Box 1000
Richmond, VA 23218-1000

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Virginia?

A death certificate is only accessible by the deceased’s next of kin or immediate family, including mother, father, husband, wife, child, brother, or sister for the first 25 years after the death. However, it becomes public after the 25-year period. A qualified requester must present a valid ID before access will be granted to the certificate. A verification of death is a certified document that verifies a death. It contains the decedent's name, date of death, place of death, date of birth, and last four numbers of the social security number.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Virginia?

Pursuant to Code of Virginia § 32.1-273, a fee not exceeding $12 per copy of a death certificate will be required when requesting a Virginia death certificate. The fee is non-refundable, and payment must be made when submitting an application. The fee may be paid in the form of a check or money order, which must be signed and made payable to: “State Health Department.” Note that there is a $50.00 service charge for returned checks.

How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in Virginia?

The length of time it takes to get a death certificate is dependent on the medium of request. The current turnaround time for a certified death record mail-in request is approximately 8 weeks from the day the request is received at the Vital Record Office. The delivery time for mail-in requests is not fixed. If the death certificate is needed urgently, use the walk-in request option.

How Long to Keep Records After Death

A death record is a permanent legal document that may be used for official purposes, such as evidence to prove the date of death. It is necessary to retain death records for as long as possible after death. The IRS statute of limitations for a tax return audit is three years, which means that the IRS may randomly audit the deceased's tax returns for the immediate three years after the death and the deceased's death record will be needed to carry out the audit. Generally, it is recommendable to keep all financial records for at least seven years after the death before discarding them.

In Virginia, under Code of Virginia § 32.1-274, it is required that persons in charge of institutions, funeral directors, etc., retain records relating to deaths for a period of at least ten years. The records maintained shall be made available for inspection by the State Registrar or his representative upon demand.

How to Expunge Your Death Records in Virginia?

Expungement is a court-ordered action that authorizes the deletion of a record to erase off traces of an event that occurred. Expungement is beneficial to the record’s subject as it helps keep away any sensitive record that the record’s subject wishes to keep confidential. There are no laws in Virginia authorizing the expungement of death records.

How to Seal Your Death Records in Virginia?

Virginia does not have any laws authorizing the sealing of death records in the state. However, death records are kept confidential for the first 25 years after the death, after which they automatically become public.

How to Unseal Your Death Records in Virginia?

Virginia does not have any laws authorizing the unsealing of death records in the state.