Death Registration Frequently Asked Questions

For legal questions regarding Texas vital records, please consult with an attorney. For questions about ordering birth and death records online, see the TexasOnline Frequently Asked Questions page.

Who can request a certified copy of a death certificate?

For deaths that occurred 25 years ago to the present, only the properly qualified applicants are eligible to request a copy. A properly qualified applicant may be the registrant, or immediate family member either by blood, marriage or adoption, his or her guardian, or his or her legal agent or representative. Local, state and federal law enforcement or governmental agencies and other persons may be designated as properly qualified applicants by demonstrating a direct and tangible interest in the record when the information in the record is necessary to implement a statutory provision or to protect a personal legal property right. All other relationships must provide legal documentation, such as a court order establishing guardianship, or a release if you are the legal representative of a qualified applicant, which documents a direct and tangible interest in the record.  [Title 25 TAC §181.1(14)]

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Who is considered an immediate family member?

Any of the following relationships by blood or marriage are considered to be immediate family members: self, his or her guardian, or the children, spouses, parents, siblings, or grandparents of the registrant. [Title 25 TAC §181.1(22)]

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How long does a funeral director have to file a Death Certificate with the state?

The person required to file the death certificate has no later than the 10th day after the date of death to filed the death certificate with the local registrar.  [HSC §193.003]

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How long does the medical certifier [Doctor, Justice of the Peace, or Medical Examiner] have to complete the medical certification on a death certificate?

The attending physician, JP, or ME shall complete the medical certification not later than five days after receiving the death certificate.  [HSC §193.003]

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Can a doctor complete the cause of death on a death certificate where the death was due to accident, suicide or homicide?

No. According the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure if a person dies the person dies an unnatural death from a cause other than a legal execution, a justice of the peace or medical examiner shall conduct an inquest. [C.C.P. Art 49.04(a)(2)] The person who conducts the inquest in turn shall sign the death certificate.  [C.C.P. Art. 49.16]

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If a Justice of the Peace is not available, does the County Judge have the authority to conduct an inquest and medically certify the cause of death?

Yes. According to the Code of Criminal Procedure, if no justice of the peace serving the county in which the body or body part was found is available to conduct an inquest, a person required to give notice under this article shall notify the county judge, and the county judge shall initiate the inquest. The county judge may exercise any power and perform any duty otherwise granted to or imposed under this subchapter on the justice of the peace serving the county in which the body or body part was found, except that not later than the fifth day after the day on which the inquest is initiated, the county judge shall transfer all information obtained by the judge to the justice of the peace in whose precinct the body or body part was found for final disposition.  [C.C.P. Art 49.07 (2)]

If the Justice of the Peace is still not available after 5 days, the County Judge can complete and sign the cause and manner of death on a death certificate.  [C.C.P. Art. 49.16]

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How long do I have to file a Report of Death with the Local Registrar?

24 Hours. The funeral director, or person acting as such, who assumes custody of a dead body or fetus shall obtain an electronically filed report of death through a Vital Statistics Unit system or complete a report of death before transporting the body. The report of death shall, within 24 hours, be mailed or otherwise transmitted to the local registrar of the district in which the death occurred or in which the body was found. A copy of the completed or electronically filed report of death as prescribed by the Vital Statistics Unit shall serve as authority to transport or bury the body or fetus within this state.  [Title 25 TAC § 181.2]

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Last updated October 5, 2010