Death certificates are used to close accounts and tie up an estate. Most families think they need way more death certificates than they do, and a few families wonder why they would need one at all.

Our suggestion is that you start with two or three.

Bank accounts and investment firms will take a photocopy – you walk in with an original “certified copy” and they will take a photocopy and hand you your original back. Pensions and life insurance companies will often take the original and not return it. Additionally, if an estate needs to go to probate, you will probably have to leave an original with your attorney.

Example 1: You have four bank accounts and one investment account to close, you would need one death certificate.

Example 2: You have three bank accounts, a pension, a house, life insurance and a 401k to close, you will likely need four (4) death certificates – One for banks and 401k, one for the attorney, one for the pension and one for the life insurance. Note – it is not common that someone dies and these items haven’t been wrapped up already.

Many attorneys, friends, and family will suggest that you get 5-10. While these people have good intentions, things have changed a great deal in the past few years and most institutions aren’t requiring original death certificates.

Once the death certificate is filed with the county, we can get additional copies quickly if you need them. Therefore we suggest starting with no more than five, and then letting us know if you need additional copies down the road.