What Are Death Records in Florida?
A death record is a permanent formal document containing facts of a deceased’s death, the conditions surrounding the death, the date, and the location where the death occurred. These facts are recorded within the time specified by state law. All Florida Vital Records and vital statistical information (including death, marriage, and divorce records) are maintained by county custodians, the State Health Department, and nationwide repositories like the National Center for Vital Statistics. Below are some of the information included in a Florida death record:
- Name of the deceased
- City, county, and state of death
- Date of birth and death, including age
- Primary registration district number and registration district number
- Decedent's social security number
- Personal and statistical information on the deceased, including color or race, sex, etc.
- Usual residence before death
- Usual occupation and kind of business or industry
- File number
- The local registrar
- Parental and marital information
- Informant’s information
- Cause of death
In Florida, death records are vital records. They are used to transfer real and personal property titles, settle pension claims and life insurance benefits, formally request probate or administration of a deceased’s estate, close bank accounts, track death trends, and present end-result data for research studies. In addition, death records are useful in prioritizing medical and health-related research efforts, health-related funding, and public health interventions for genealogical research - hence, vital record information and statistics for various judicial districts are maintained by the National Center for Vital Statistics. Government agencies use official death records to update electoral registers, passport records, government benefits paid, etc. Immediate family members of legal age can also use Florida death records to obtain the birth certificates of deceased loved ones for citizenship, identification, and other legal purposes.
How are Death Records Created in Florida?
A funeral director bears the responsibility of coordinating the death recording process in Florida, thus creating death records and passing them on to the local registrar. However, under Florida Statutes 382.008 (2)(a), the role of a funeral director may be taken up by anyone present at or after the death, the physician, advanced practice registered nurse, or the District Medical Examiner of the county where the death occurred or the body was found.
The process of creating a death record is facilitated by the Electronic Death Registration System (EDRS). Hence allowing funeral directors, medical examiners, and private practitioners to generate and file Florida death records into the Bureau of Vital Statistics database. With the electronic filing of the death record through the EDRS, a more precise review, survey, and health statistics distribution are guaranteed. However, the recording process can also be completed offline by completing the form prescribed by the district’s health department or local registrar where the death occurred. Note that registration offline or with the EDRS must be within 5 days after a death and before final disposition.
A death record in Florida is created in three steps:
- Completing the Certificate of Death with the Required Information
This step is initiated with the EDRS, although the certificate may also be completed offline via the form prescribed by the health department or district local registrar where the death occurred. The funeral director or any other person performing this role is to obtain personal data of the deceased from a legally authorized informant and complete the certificate with the deceased’s personal and statistical information and every other necessary information.
- Medical Certification of Cause of Death
The medical examiner, physician, or advanced practice registered nurse, is responsible for providing the funeral director with the medical certification in person, via certified mail, or electronic transfer. For a fetal death, the physician, advanced practice registered nurse, midwife, or hospital administrator provides the death’s medical or health information to the funeral director. In both cases, medical certification must be completed and sent to the funeral director within 72 hours after expulsion or extraction.
A funeral director may be granted an extension of the 72-hour limit if good and sufficient proof is presented showing any of the following conditions:
- An autopsy is pending.
- Laboratory, toxicology, or other diagnostic reports have not been finalized.
- The identity of the deceased is unknown, and further investigation or identification is required.
- In addition, an extension may also be permitted if the medical examiner, physician, etc. is temporarily unavailable until after the 5-day registration deadline and the local registrar is aware of the absence. Note that the funeral director must present a written justification to the registrar if a further extension of the deadline is required.
In the case of an extension, the funeral director must file a temporary certificate of death or fetal death containing all available information, including the fact that the cause of death is temporarily unresolved. The deceased’s principal or attending practitioner or the District Medical Examiner of the county where the death occurred or the body was found is to provide an estimated date for completing the permanent certificate.
- Filing with the Local Registrar
This is the last step of creating a death record after all the necessary information has been recorded. The funeral director must ensure that the whole process is completed within 5 days and the death certificate is filed electronically, using the EDRS or with the local registrar.
Are Death Certificates Public in Florida?
Yes, to some extent. In Florida, death certificates without cause of death are public death records. Hence, anyone aged 18 years or older can obtain certified copies from a county health department or the Florida Department of Health's Vital Statistics Bureau. These local and state vital records offices are responsible for registering health statistics and preserving/disseminating death, marriage, divorce, and birth records in Florida.
However, Florida death certificates with the cause of death are confidential vital records under Section 382.008 of the state's Public Health Law. Per the law, only a decedent's spouse or birth parent, child, grandchild, or sibling (if 18 or older); or another legally authorized person can perform a death record search in Florida to obtain death certificates with the cause of death.
Notably, per Section 382.025 of the Florida Public Health Law, cause of death becomes publicly accessible in Florida after the 50th anniversary of a registered death.
How to Find Death Records Online in Florida?
Death records are not available to be accessed online as the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics does not provide an online database where interested persons may look up death records online. Death records may only be accessed via walk-in or mail-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 the requestor is especially keen to order online for a record of interest. 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.
Death Record Search by Name in Florida
In general, members of the public can perform a death record search by name via a United States death registry or index. This index, which a government or third-party source may offer, can usually be searched with a first and last name, place of death, or year of death.
However, the Florida county and state registrars (offices that issue birth, death, marriage, and divorce records) do not provide public death record indexes. To perform a death record search by name in Florida, an individual must request a certified copy of a death certificate from a registrar. While completing the application form, the deceased's full name is a required criterion.
Nevertheless, it is worth noting that death certificates are one of the instruments recorded in Florida counties. Spouses of deceased persons may record certified copies of death certificates with clerks of the circuit courts (who serve as county recorders) to publicly state their ownership or claim to joint property.
Because the clerks file and index such documents, an individual may find an official records database on a clerk's website, where they may conduct a Florida death certificate search. However, only information such as the recording date, the surviving spouse's name, book/page number, and instrument number are displayed. The document itself will not be published, as state law prohibits the release of an image or copy of a death certificate on a publicly available internet site. The interested person must visit the county registrar's office to view the restricted image.
Death Record Search by Address
Local and state vital records offices do not require a complete address to carry out a Florida death certificate search or furnish a requester with a certified copy of a Florida death certificate. A requester only needs to provide the city or county of a registrant's death to perform a death record search in Florida. Florida death certificates ordinarily carry decedents' residences and places of death.
How to Find Death Records for Free in Florida?
According to Florida Statutes 382.025 (2)(a), a requester can only obtain a Florida death record upon paying a fee.
Where Can I Get Death Records in Florida?
Florida death records may be obtained at the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics. These records are kept in the department’s custody, which is responsible for maintaining and issuing them to persons interested in obtaining them.
It is required that an eligible applicant pays the prescribed fee ($15 and $4 per additional copy) and provides a valid photo identification (if the cause of death is requested). If a death record application is submitted in writing, the applicant must provide the following personal information:
- Full name
- Mailing address
- Relationship to decedent
- Phone number
- Signature of applicant
- Suppose the applicant is a Funeral Director or an Attorney. In that case, such a person will be required to provide the name of the individual they represent and their relationship to the decedent, alongside their professional license number.
The following information about the person named on the death certificate is also required:
- Full name on the death record
- Date of birth
- Social Security number
- Date of death (if unknown, indicate the range of years to be searched and provide an extra $2.00 fee per calendar year)
- City or county of death
A requester can obtain a Florida death record through the following ways:
- Mail-in Request
- Walk-in Request - Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics Office
- Mail-in or Walk-in Request - Local County Health Department Offices
Complete the DH727 Application for a Death Record (English PDF 55KB) or DH727S Application for a Death Record (Spanish PDF 71KB) with the required information. Note that a rush order is treated as urgent and is processed faster. However, this type of request requires an additional $10 fee. If interested in placing a rush order, the applicant should mark the outer part of the envelope “RUSH”. All applications should be mailed via Standard U.S. Postal delivery unless a special prepaid delivery envelope is provided.
A completed mail-in application or written application is sent alongside the necessary documents and fee to:
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics
P.O. Box 210
Jacksonville, FL 32231-0042
Walk-in Request - Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics Office
Submit a written application or complete the DH727 Application for a Death Record (English PDF 55KB) or DH727S Application for a Death Record (Spanish PDF 71KB) alongside the necessary documents and fee to:
Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics
1217 N Pearl Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202
The office is accessible Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Walk-in payments may be made in the form of cash, money order, check, Visa, and Mastercard.
Mail-in or Walk-in Request - Local County Health Department Offices
Death records for deaths from 2009 to the present can be obtained by Mail-in or Walk-in requests to a local county health department in Florida. Applicants can select locations close to them and get all the necessary information on application requirements and fees at the Florida County Health Departments' website.
Note that the Florida county or state registrars cannot provide death information recorded by another United States jurisdiction. Generally, to obtain those United States death records, a person must submit a request to the appropriate state vital records office or search an applicable United States death registry. For instance, if qualified, one can access the CDC's United States death registry (National Death Index) to search United States death records.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Florida?
Yes, to an extent. Anyone 18 or above can apply to get a certified copy of a death certificate without the cause of death information. This type of record also does not have the full digits of the decedent’s social security number. The first five digits are redacted.
On the other hand, a death certificate less than 50 years old, with the cause of death information and full social security number, is confidential and may only be issued to:
- Decedent's spouse or birth parent;
- Deceased’s child, grandchild, or sibling, if of legal age;
- Any person who presents a will, insurance policy, or other documents that demonstrates their interest in the estate;
- Any person who presents documentation showing that they are acting on behalf of any of the persons named above;
- By court order.
Suppose the requester is not one of the persons named above. In that case, the application must be accompanied by a notarized Affidavit to Release Cause of Death Information (DH Form 1959) signed by one of the persons named above. It must be submitted alongside any supporting documentation and a copy of a valid photo ID of both the person authorizing the release and the applicant. The valid photo identification may be a Driver’s License, State Identification Card, Military Identification Card, or Passport.
How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Florida?
The cost of a death certificate at the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics is as follows:
- $5 - Search fee for one calendar year and one certified copy
- $4 - For each additional certified copy
- $2 - Search fee for each calendar year when the precise year is unknown. The maximum fee $50.00
- $10 - Rush fee (required for records before 2009 for same-day walk-in service, when available)
How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in Florida?
Usually, the processing time for death certificates from 2009 to date is 3 to 5 working days, excluding shipping time to and from the Florida Bureau of Vital Statistics Office. Death records before 2009 require extra processing time. The processing time for records maintained at the county may vary.
How Long to Keep Records After Death
Florida statutes do not specify how long a death record should be kept after a person’s death, although the IRS statute of limitations for an audit of a tax return is generally within three years. This means that the IRS may perform random audits on a deceased’s tax returns for the immediate three years after death. The deceased’s death record is required during this process. Regardless, it is recommended to keep all financial records for at least seven years after the death before disposing of them. A death record should be kept for as long as possible because it is regarded as permanent official evidence of the death.
How to Expunge Your Death Records in Florida?
Expungement is defined as the complete removal of certain facts or records of a particular event, permitted by an official authorization. Expungement helps erase any information on a record that is considered sensitive or any information that the record subject desires to keep away from the public. There are no statutory provisions for the expungement of death records in Florida.
How to Seal Your Death Records in Florida?
In Florida, death records are automatically sealed and considered confidential for the first 50 years after the death. However, the records will become public after 50 years. There are no statutory provisions for sealing death records in Florida.
How to Unseal Your Death Records in Florida?
There are no statutory provisions for unsealing death records in Florida. Until after the first 50 years after the death date, the record will only be accessible to eligible applicants.
How to Use the Florida Death Registry
In Florida, the Department of Health (DOH) is responsible for recording public health statistics, including all births, fetal deaths, deaths, marriages, and divorces that happened in the state. While the DOH maintains a Florida death registry (also called a Florida death index) of all deaths that happened in the state, this registry cannot be remotely or physically inspected by the public. Instead, to search any calendar year of the registry, a person must apply and pay a search fee to the Florida DOH or a local county health department. The department staff will search for the record and issue a certified copy of a Florida death certificate if one is found.
Individuals may also try searching Florida vital statistics indexes available at many local libraries. However, libraries may only have limited collections of death indexes.
Notably, although access to the Florida death index is restricted, members of the public can access the DOH's Death Count Query System to view death statistics in Florida by year, county, age group, sex, or ethnicity.
Bear in mind that the Florida death registry is not the same as a Florida death notice. The state death index is a list of persons whose deaths were recorded in the state, organized by name, death date, gender, race/ethnicity, etc. On the other hand, Florida death notices are brief announcements found in newspapers and other publications that inform the public of people's deaths.
How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person in Florida
Obituary indexes and databases from government and non-government sources remain available to members of the public who wish to find Florida obituaries. As a result, it is easier than ever to locate the obituary of someone who died in Florida.
An excellent place to start a Florida obituary search is the local newspaper that posted the announcement. The requester must, however, know the date and city or county of death. An inquiry can be made to the hometown newspaper's obituaries unit, or the interested individual can browse the paper's online archive of obituaries. Several local newspapers have a digital collection of obituaries that can be accessed remotely.
Another place to search for a Florida obituary is the local public library. Local libraries may provide searchable online obituary databases as well. An individual may also check reputable public records or genealogy websites for obituaries. Sometimes, a fee may be required to conduct the Florida obituary search.
How to Conduct a Free Obituary Search in Florida
Residents can visit their local public library to carry out a free Florida obituary search. Usually, public libraries have extensive collections of digitized local newspapers, including archives of older newspapers. These libraries may also provide an online resource where interested persons can remotely conduct a free obituary search. For example, the Florida Electronic Library provided by the Division of Library and Information Services and the Learning & Research resources provided by the Hillsborough County Public Library Cooperative are both online resources for persons interested in performing a free obituary search in Florida. However, in most cases, an individual must have a public library card or membership to view a library's collection.
Other than the public libraries, individuals can use online databases (for instance, newspaper or genealogy sites) to conduct a free obituary lookup in Florida. Many of these databases are searchable with a decedent's name, place of death, or death year range, but they may not contain older obituary records.
What are Florida Death Notices?
A Florida death notice is a short, formal announcement that notifies the community of a passing or loss. Typically written by family (and sometimes friends or a funeral home), the notice provides basic details about a death and information about the funeral arrangements or memorial service. Death notices usually appear in local newspapers as paid or classified advertisements. However, it is not uncommon to find death notices published online by family to replace a newspaper advertisement or in addition to one.
What is the Difference Between Death Notices and Obituaries?
A death notice and obituary are public notifications sharing details about a death. However, compared to a death notice, an obituary provides extensive biographical information, including a deceased's career information, major life events or accomplishments, birth and death information, survivors, hobbies, etc. In essence, it tells the life story of a person who died.
Obituaries are usually written by journalists or news reporters and appear alongside other editorial articles. Many newspapers allow families to request an obituary piece. However, newspapers can grant or deny these requests.