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How to Find a Death Record in Texas?

What Are Death Records in Texas?

Death records refer to official documents that contain information about a deceased’s death, such as the location, date, and circumstances surrounding the incident, as registered at the point of death or within the period prescribed by the state law. In the state of Texas, the funeral director registers deaths, hence generating death records and transferring them to the state assigned custodian that is charged with the responsibility of maintaining them and issuing them to the authorized persons. Some of the information included in a Texas death record are:

  • Deceased’s full name, including first name, middle name, last name, and alias (if any)
  • Place of birth and death
  • Date of birth and death, including age
  • Deceased’s biodata, including color or race, sex, etc.
  • Social security number
  • Usual residence before death
  • State file number
  • The local registrar
  • Usual occupation and business or industry
  • Marital status
  • Parental and spousal information
  • Informant’s information
  • Cause of death

Death records are used to establish precedence for health-related financing, epidemiological research, and public health interventions for genealogical research. They are also useful when settling pension claims, determining insurance pension benefits, transferring real and personal property title, applying for probate or administration of a deceased’s estate, closing bank accounts, surveilling death trends, and providing end result data for research studies. In addition, government agencies use official death records to update electoral registers, government benefits paid, passport records, etc.

How are Death Records Created in Texas?

The Handbook on Death Registration provides details on the procedure for creating death records in Texas. According to the Health and Safety Code HSC 193.003, when a death occurs, a Certificate of Death must be filed not more than 10 days from the date of death. All information pertaining to the death must be filed with the local registrar in the district where the death happened, or the body was found. Registering a death requires a collaborative effort of the following persons:

  • The funeral director or the person taking up the responsibility of disposing the body;
  • The informant who provides personal, nonmedical details about the deceased;
  • The certifier of the cause of death, which may be the medical practitioner that attended the deceased; and
  • The medical examiner, or the Justice of the Peace, depending on the events of the death.

A Texas death record is created in three steps:

  1. Obtaining a Certificate of Death and Completing it with the Required Information
    The funeral director or the person taking up the responsibility of disposing of the body is charged with the responsibility of obtaining the certificate of death and completing it. However, suppose the body is donated to a medical school, hospital, or mortuary school for educational or scientific purposes. In that case, the institution will be responsible for completing and filing the Certificate of Death. During the process of completing the certificate, the funeral director gets all the necessary personal and demographic information from the informant before moving on to determine and record the cause of death.

  2. Determining and Recording the Cause of Death
    Here, the funeral director notifies the medical examiner or Justice of the Peace to determine and record the cause of death. The events surrounding the death is what determines who may certify the cause and manner of death. The person completing the medical certification must attest to the inquest’s validity after concluding it and submit it within five days from the date the death certificate is received. The medical certification is to be submitted using an electronic process approved by the state registrar. If the deceased’s identity is not known, the person conducting the investigation shall obtain and forward to the Department of Public Safety:

    • The deceased’s fingerprints;
    • Information concerning the deceased’s hair color, eye color, height, weight, deformities, and tattoo marks; and
    • Other facts required for identifying the deceased.

    Suppose, for any reason the process of medical certification cannot be completed within the required five days. In that case, the person in charge of the process shall notify the funeral director with a reason for the delay. When the autopsy results or any other information that would alter the medical certification information on the death certificate is received, the medical certifier must immediately report the change to modify the death certificate.

  3. Filing with the Local Registrar
    After all the necessary information has been completed in the death certificate, the funeral director or person taking up this responsibility must file the death certificate with the local registrar in the district where the death occurred. The death certificate must be filed electronically, using the Texas Electronic Death Registration as specified by the state registrar within 10 calendar days after the death.

How to Find Death Records Online in Texas?

Texas Department of State Health Services - Vital Statistics Section does not maintain a central online registry of records where state residents may look up death records online. A death record may only be accessed through an in-person, mail-in, or online order.

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 Texas?

In Texas, an individual can only access a death record from the Texas Department of State Health Services - Vital Statistics Section at a fee. According to the Health and Safety Code 191.0045, the Vital Statistics System, including the County Clerk and Local Registrar, can demand a nonrefundable search fee before providing access to a death record.

Where Can I Get Death Records in Texas?

A requester can obtain a Texas death record at the Texas Department of State Health Services - Vital Statistics Section. The Department maintains only records of persons that died from 1903 to the present in Texas. Go to the county where the death occured for earlier records. A requester is required to pay the required fee ($20 and $3 for each additional copy) and provide a valid state-issued verification of identity such as a state-issued driver’s license or I.D. number, and Social Security Number. The following information will also be required to facilitate the search:

  • Date of death
  • First and last name of decedent listed on record
  • Gender of decedent listed on record
  • City and county where the death occurred

A death record may be obtained through the following ways:

  • Order Online
  • By Mail-in Request
  • By In-Person Request - Austin Office
  • By In-Person Request - Local Offices

Order Online

To order a death certificate or verification letter online, use the Order Online portal on the Department’s website and provide the required information about the record, your identity, and payment. Online order is the quickest method to process a death record request. It is processed and delivered in 20-25 business days.

By Mail Request

Download and complete the Mail Application for Death Record and send the completed application with a notary seal, any required supporting documentation, and payment for your application to the applicable address. Mail-in orders can be processed with standard or expedited service.

Send your request to this address for regular processing:

Texas Vital Statistics
Department of State Health Services
P.O. Box 12040
Austin, TX 78711-2040

Send your request to this address for expedited processing through an overnight mail service such as UPS, FedEx, or LoneStar:

Texas Vital Statistics
MC 2096
Department of State Health Services
1100 W. 49th Street
Austin, TX 78756

By In-Person Request - Austin Office

In-person request at the Austin Office is temporarily on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the high risk of infection. Contact the numbers listed below to get regular updates on the availability of this service:

1100 West 49th Street
Austin, TX
Phone: (888) 963-7111
Fax: (512) 776-7711
Monday-Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.

By In-Person Request - Local Offices

To access death records maintained at the local offices, contact the specific local office for their hours of operation, fees, and procedures for requests. The Texas Department of State Health Services - Vital Statistics Section provides access to the addresses, websites, and contact details of all the local offices in Texas. Note that the local offices only maintain death records for persons that died in their respective counties.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Texas?

According to Health and Safety Code 191.051 and Government Code 552.115 is a confidential record for the initial 25 years following the date of death and may only be accessed by an appropriately qualified applicant. Qualified applicants are immediate family members of the decedent. Suppose the requester is a resident of another state. In that case, a death certificate may be ordered if the requester is the surviving spouse, surviving parent, or funeral director listed on the record. A qualified applicant is required to verify their identity online by providing a state-issued driver’s license or I.D. number, Social Security Number, and relationship to the individual listed on the record.

On the other hand, a death verification letter is open to anyone interested in obtaining it but cannot be used for official purposes. The verification letter contains the decedent’s name, the date of death, and the county where the death occurred.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Texas?

The first copy of a death certificate or death verification costs $20.00, while each additional copy ordered at the same time will attract an extra $3.00 charge. All record requests are delivered by USPS First Class mail at no cost. For expedited return shipping orders, the fee is as follows:

  • Expedited processing ee - $5.00
  • Shipping within the USA only via overnight mail - $8.00
  • USPS Express Mail (shipping overnight to P.O. Box only) - $22.95

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

The duration for a death certificate to be processed is determined by the type of order. For an online and expedited mail-in order, the processing time is within 10-15 business days, while it takes between 25 and 30 business days after receipt of a regular mail-in request for it to be processed. The processing time does not include shipping and delivery time. Visit the Processing Times portal for regular updates on the processing times.

How Long to Keep Records After Death

There are no statutes specifying how long a death record should be kept after a person’s death. Despite that, the IRS statute of limitations for an audit of a tax return is generally within three years, which implies that a deceased’s tax returns may be randomly audited for the next three years after death. The deceased’s death record is required to facilitate this process. However, it is better to keep all financial records for at least seven years after the death disposing them. A death certificate may be retained in possession for as long as possible because it is regarded as evidence of the death date and is used for official purposes.

How to Expunge Your Death Records in Texas?

Expungement is an official order that permits the complete deletion of specific information or records of a particular event. Expungement helps remove certain information that the record subject desires to keep away from the public. There are no provisions for the expungement of death records in Texas.

How to Seal Your Death Records in Texas?

Generally, death records are automatically sealed from public access for the first 25 years after the death date, but these records will become public after 25 years. There are no provisions for sealing a death record in Texas.

How to Unseal Your Death Records in Texas?

There are no laws in Texas that indicate that death records may be unsealed in the state. During the first 25 years after the death date, when the record is sealed, it is only accessible to adequately qualified persons.