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How to Find a Death Record in New York?

What Are Death Records in New York?

A New York death record refers to a permanent official documentation revealing factual details of a New York resident’s death. When a death occurs in New York, the circumstances pertaining to the death, such as the date, location, and cause of the death, are recorded within the time specified by the state law. Some other information included in a New York death record are:

  • Name of the deceased
  • City, county, and state of death
  • Date of birth and death, including age
  • Social security number
  • Deceased’s biodata, including color or race, sex, etc.
  • Usual occupation and industry
  • File number
  • The local registrar
  • Parental and marital information

New York considers death records as vital records. Death records help prioritize medical and health-related research efforts, health-related funding, and public health interventions for genealogical research. These records also play a significant role in closing bank accounts, transferring real and personal property titles, resolving pension claims and life insurance benefits, monitoring death trends, and presenting conclusive data for research studies. Government agencies use death records to update electoral registers, passport records, government benefits paid, etc.

How are Death Records Created in New York?

According to Public Health Law, Article 41, Title 4, Section 414, a death registration must occur within not more than 72 hours after a death occurs or a dead human body is found. The registration may begin by officially completing the information required on a death certificate with a form obtained from the district’s registrar where the death occurred or through electronic means. Electronic means refer to the New York State’s Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS). It is a secure, web-based system for funeral directors, health care providers and medical certifiers, medical examiners/coroners, and local registrars. The EDRS makes death registration easier and more organized. The EDRS is accessed through the New York State Health Commerce System (HCS) website portal.

A New York death record is created in three steps:

  1. Completing the Certificate of Death with Necessary Information
    A funeral director coordinates this process and ensures that all necessary information pertaining to the death is recorded on the EDRS or offline. The decedent’s personal and statistical particulars to be recorded in the death certificate shall be provided by a competent person familiar with the facts of the death.

  2. Medical Certification of Cause of Death
    Here, the funeral director promptly sends the certificate to the attending physician or nurse practitioner, who then certifies to the facts of death, provides the required medical information by the certificate, and signs the medical certificate of death. The medical certification may also be completed by the coroner or medical examiner if death occurs in a hospital.

    Suppose a death occurs with no medical attendance. In that case, the funeral director, undertaker, or any other person may take up the responsibility of giving notice of the death to the county's coroner or the medical examiner. The coroner or medical examiner must immediately investigate as provided by law and certify the death accordingly, stating in the certificate the disease that caused the death or any other cause of death as may be required by the commissioner to classify the death.

  3. Filing with the Local Registrar
    After the funeral director, undertaker, or any other person taking up this responsibility has completed all the necessary information pertaining to the death, it must be recorded with the 72 hour registration time limit and filed electronically, using the EDRS or with the local registrar. The funeral director or undertaker in charge of the corpse shall sign the statement of facts pertaining to the body's disposition.

How to Find Death Records Online in New York?

The Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health does not have a central online database where individuals can access death online. Instead, New York death records are only accessible via in-person or walk-in services.

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 New York?

The Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health does not provide death records for free in the state. Persons interested in obtaining these records must pay the required fees as specified by the department.

Where Can I Get Death Records in New York?

In New York, a requester can obtain a copy of a death record at the Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health or the local Registrar of Vital Statistics where the event occurred. The department is responsible for maintaining death records that occured since 1881 for all parts of New York State, excluding New York City. It does not have death records for New York City, including the boroughs of Manhattan, Kings (Brooklyn), Queens, Bronx, and Richmond (Staten Island).

Only eligible applicants can access New York death records. A requester must present any of the following forms of valid photo ID:

  • Driver's license
  • State-issued, non-driver photo-ID card
  • Passport
  • U.S. Military-issued, photo-ID

In a case where none of the above photo IDs is available, the requester may provide two of the following showing their name and address:

  • Letter from a government agency dated within the last six months
  • Utility or telephone bill

A person applying from a foreign country that requires a passport for travel must submit a copy of their US passport together with any of the above mentioned approved IDs.

A requester can obtain a New York death record via any of these ways:

  • Mail-in Request
  • Walk-in Request

Mail-in Request

Complete the Application Form with appropriate information while following all the instructions listed on the form. Payment for a mail-in request may be made with a postal money order, personal check, or certified check made payable to the New York State Department of Health. Payment for foreign countries' requests must be made by check drawn on a United States bank or international money order. Cash payment is not acceptable.

A completed mail-in application should be sent by first-class mail, registered mail, certified mail, or US Priority Mail together with the necessary documents and fee to:

New York State Department of Health
Vital Records Certification Unit
P.O. Box 2602
Albany, NY 12220-2602

Walk-in Request

Submit a completed Application Form together with the necessary documents and fee to:

Office of Vital Records
Bureau of Vital Statistics
New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
125 Worth Street
Room 125
New York, NY 10013

The acceptable means of payment include cash, check, or money order. Credit or debit card payments are not allowed. Note that walk-in services are temporarily on hold.

Although third-party pick up is not encouraged, the department mandates that an eligible applicant furnishes the third-party that will be picking up the record with the following:

  • A signed, dated, and notarized letter granting the third-party permission to pick up the record. The letter must also specify who will be picking up the record and which record they will be picking up.
  • Include copies of your identification
  • The third-party will be required to provide proof of their identity with a valid photo ID as recommended by the department and will need to co-sign the application form.
  • Send a filled out and signed application form with the third party but do not mail it.
  • If the letter is notarized before an official outside New York, it must be accompanied by an authentication certificate.

Note that if all the above requirements are not appropriately fulfilled, the Vital Records Office may not issue the requested record.

How to Get Death Records in New York City?

The Vital Records Section of the Health Department of New York City maintains death certificates for persons who die in one of New York City's five boroughs. There are two types of death certificates:

  • The part including a confidential medical report of the cause of death
  • The standard certificate of death

While anyone can order the standard certificate of death, the part including a confidential medical report of the cause of death can only be ordered by an eligible person. However, both certificates have the same cost.

To request a copy of a death record in New York City, accurately complete a copy of the death certificate application, or call 311 or (212) 639-9675 (outside New York City) to request one if unable to download the application. Ensure to follow all the instructions on the form and calculate the required fee. Each certificate costs $15, although other charges may apply, depending on how the order is placed. The requester must make payment with a money order or personal check payable in US dollars to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Cash payment will not be accepted. Standard first-class US postal service mail is not tracked. A mail-in application should be sent in a self-addressed, stamped envelope together with the fee, necessary documents, and valid ID to:

Office of Vital Records
125 Worth Street, CN-4, Room 133
New York, NY 10013-4090

Usually, walk-in services are allowed, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the mandatory restriction on public gatherings, in-person orders of NYC death certificates are suspended until further notice.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in New York?

In New York, a spouse, parent, child, or sibling of a deceased can obtain the deceased's death certificate, although it is also open to other people who have a:

  • Documented lawful right or claim
  • Documented medical need
  • New York State Court Order

Anyone that does not fall under any of the above categories must document a lawful right or claim. For example, if the requester needs the death certificate to claim a benefit, they would need an official letter from the agency stating that the death record is required to process the claim.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in New York?

The cost of a death certificate at the Vital Records Section of the New York Department of Health is $45 for walk-in orders and $30 for mail orders. However this fee may vary when requesting from the local Registrar of Vital Statistics. A New York City death certificate costs $15 per copy which includes a two consecutive year search. $3 will be charged for each extra year searched.

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

The processing time for obtaining a death certificate in New York State is not specified, but it may take between 5 and 12 working days, while it takes between 3 and 4 weeks to obtain a death certificate in New York City. Typically the processing time for records requested from county repositories vary.

How Long to Keep Records After Death

There are presently no state laws or regulations that define how long a death record should be kept after a deceased's death, but it is necessary to keep a death record permanently because it is regarded as official evidence of the death. In addition, the IRS statute of limitations for a tax return audit is generally within three years, implying that the IRS may randomly audit a deceased's tax returns for the following three years after death. The deceased's death record is required to facilitate the audit. Despite this, it is advisable to keep all financial records for at least seven years after the death before getting rid of them.

How to Expunge Your Death Records in New York?

Expungement refers to an official authorization to take out certain facts or records of a specific event. It ensures the complete deletion of any information on a record that is considered confidential or is permitted to be removed after the record's subject has met up with some requirements. New York laws and statutes do not provide for the expungement of death records.

How to Seal Your Death Records in New York?

New York laws and statutes do not provide for the sealing of death records.

How to Unseal Your Death Records in New York?

New York laws and statutes do not provide for the unsealing of death records.