Obtaining a death certificate in California requires several steps.

Death certificates serve as proof of death and are required to settle the estate of a deceased person. In California, death certificates can be obtained from the California Office of Vital Records or the recorder’s office in the county in which the death occurred. If the death occurred less six months prior to the time you request it, then the death certificate will still be available from the recorder’s office of the county where the death occurred.

Office of Vital Records

Obtain the “Application for Certified Copy of Death Record” from the California Department of Public Health website at cdph.ca.gov. Users can either fill it out electronically or print it.

Select whether you want a certified copy or a certified informational copy of the death certificate by placing an “X” in the appropriate box. The only difference between these two types of copies is that a certified copy may be used to establish the identity of the deceased, while a certified information copy may not.

Fill out the “Applicant Information” section of the form by providing personal information, as well as the reason for the request, along with the number of death certificate copies requested.

Fill out as much of the “Decedent Information” section of the form as possible to decrease the likelihood that the Office of Vital Records can not locate the death record, which may result in you being issued a Certificate of No Public Record.

Bring the “Sworn Statement” page to a Notary Public who then must sign and notarize it.

Write a check or money order for the appropriate amount and make it payable to “Office of Vital Records.”

Mail the application along with your check or money order and notarized sworn statement (if requesting a certified copy) to the California Office of Vital Records.

County Recorder's Office

Visit the California Department of Public Health’s website cdph.ca.gov.

Click on the tab near the top of the page labeled “Certificates & Licenses.”

Select the link titled “Birth, Death, Fetal Death, Still Birth, & Marriage Certificates” from the list.

Select the link titled “Directory of County Vital Record Offices.”

Select the county of the person deceased from the list. Call the number listed for the county recorder’s office or visit their website to obtain instructions detailing how to obtain a death certificate from the office. This process will vary slightly by county but will be similar to the process used to obtain a death certificate from the California Office of Vital Records.


  • If requested from the Office of Vital Records, the death certificate should arrive within 6 weeks. If it does not arrive within this time, contact the California Office of Vital Records customer service department.

    The California Office of Vital Records maintains the death records for all persons who have passed away in California since July 1905.