Pennsylvania death records are maintained by the Department of Health under the Division of Vital Records (DVR). A copy of death certificate documents is needed in order to settle an estate, collect insurance, update Social Security records, transfer property and collect retirement funds from a deceased person. You must order death certificate documents after someone passes away, as the DVR does not issue certificates automatically. To request death certificate information, you may apply directly at a DVR office, mail in an application or apply over the phone. Continue reading for more information on how to search public death records in PA and how to get a death certificate if you have power of attorney or are a family member of someone who has passed away.
How do I get a death certificate in Pennsylvania?
A PA death record is usually necessary for the family members of a person who has passed away in the state. Applicants may get a copy of a death certificate if they are a spouse, sibling, child, parent, grandparent or great grandparent of a decedent. Death certificates can also be obtained by stepsiblings, stepparents, stepchildren and other similar family members, as long as the relationship can be proved with a marriage certificate. Applicants who are not family members can follow the instructions on how to get death certificate information for attorneys and members of the public in the following section.
To order a death certificate in Pennsylvania, you will need to provide your contact information and information about the decedent. The death record application requires you to know the decedent’s name, date and location of death, Social Security Number, age at time of death, birth place, parents’ names and the funeral director’s name, if applicable.
You may submit an application for death certificate documents in one of three ways, using the Pennsylvania DVR:
- By phone
- In person at a DVR public office, located in the cities of Erie, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh, Scranton or Philadelphia
- Via mail by sending your application to the Division of Vital Records address
Requesting death certificate documentation via telephone can prove problematic for applicants who are hard of hearing or have language barriers. Applying for death certificate credentials by phone can also limit an applicant to certain payment options. Additionally, registrants who want to learn how to obtain a death certificate in Pennsylvania in person are informed that the process is limited to specific locations that may be out of their way and take time out of their busy days. Finally, sending a request to find death certificate papers by mail can take weeks to process.
Ordering online death records will help you avoid longer processing times and let you complete a submission form in minutes from the comfort of your own home.
How to Obtain a Death Certificate in Pennsylvania With Power of Attorney
A Pennsylvania death certificate can be obtained under certain circumstances if you have the power of attorney (POA) or are an estate representative who is not a family member. Death records can usually only be accessed by POA if a family member is unable to apply for the certificate directly. You must provide the following documentation when applying for a copy of death certificate documents:
- An explanation as to why a family member cannot apply
- A notarized document showing that family members have granted you POA permission to the decedent’s information
- A letter signed by a city, state or county office granting you power of a decedent’s estate, if no POA document is available from a family member
How to Perform a Death Certificate Search in Pennsylvania
Members of the public may find death certificate information in Pennsylvania after the records have become a matter of public record. However, applicants cannot obtain a certified copy of death records as members of the public, unless they have the legal authority to do so. This is a measure put in place to protect the identity of people who have passed away. Another consideration is that applicants may not find a death that occurred in PA by searching the DVR’s death index on their own. Rather, registrants must submit a request for the DVR to perform the search for them. With each death certificate search requested for the DVR to perform, applicants must pay a separate search fee. It is important to include as much information as possible on the application so that the DVR can properly locate the record requested. If an applicant is unsure of the year that a death occurred in, then he or she may request a multi-year search.
How long does it take to get a death certificate in Pennsylvania?
Obtaining a copy of death certificate documents from the Pennsylvania DVR may take several weeks. Death record processing times vary based on when your application is received and how many records you have requested. In general, death certificate and death record requests may take anywhere from 14 to 20 weeks.
For faster service, you may also obtain a copy of a death record in Pennsylvania by using an online service. This is a convenient alternative for obtaining death records in a timely fashion.