What Are Death Records in Arizona?
In Arizona, a death record is the legal documentation of a person's death. It states the cause, date, and location of death as well as the decedent’s personal data. A death record is generated by a physician, coroner, or medical examiner and is issued at the state and county levels. The State Vital Records Office, the Arizona Department of Health Services - Bureau of Vital Records (ADHS-Bureau of Vital Records) is responsible for registering and issuing death records at the state level along with other Arizona Vital Records. The various local county health departments also issue death records at the county level and the National Center for Vital Statistics responds to nation-wide vital record requests.
Typically, a death certificate features vital information about the deceased person, including:
- Full name - first, middle, and last name, and any known alias
- Demographics, including age, sex, color, title, marital status e.t.c
- Place and date of birth
- Date and place of death
- Last known address before death
- State file number
- Local registration number
- Physician’s certification, indicating the cause and manner of death
- Funeral director's information and signature
A registered death record is legal documentation of the registrant's death by the state and may be used for various official/legal transactions, such as settling the decedent's estate and claiming life insurance benefits. A widowed spouse who wishes to remarry legally needs the deceased spouse's death record. Death records are also useful for genealogical research and other personal purposes. Hence, they may are made accessible to the decedent's birth parents and close relatives.
Courts generally accept certified death records as prima facie evidence, and executors must present them while applying for probate. Death records are essential sources of data for state and federal agencies. A good example is the National Centre for Health Statistics (NCHS) which uses death records to generate and update the National Death Index (NDI), a database of all deaths in the US. The NDI provides data for monitoring mortality rates, carrying out epidemiological research, and for public health interventions.
Also, death records constitute a crucial part of a state's health statistics and vital statistics. State government agencies rely on death data to update records such as electoral registers, paid government benefits, passport records, inmates’ and offenders' records, and so on.
How are Death Records Created in Arizona?
Pursuant to Arizona Administrative Codes (A.A.C) R9-19-302 to R9-19-304, when a death occurs or a dead body is found in the state, a death record must be registered with the local county registrar in the district where the death occurred or the state registrar within 7 days. The death record is required by the Arizona Department of Health Services - Bureau of Vital Record to create a death certificate. It must feature the accurate demographic data of the decedent and medical certification of death and must be prepared according to the state-approved format using DAVE. Effective October 2nd, 2017, the Bureau of Vital Records implemented the Database Application for Vital Events (D.A.V.E) system for hospitals, funeral homes, physicians, and medical examiners to process death records electronically.
To following steps are required in the death record creation process:
- Complete a death report
The funeral director or anyone responsible for the body's final disposition shall complete a death report. The report must provide the decedent's personal information and demographic data. It must be detailed and accurate, and must follow the state-approved format as specified in Arizona Administrative Codes (A.A.C) R9-19-302. Some of the information required are the decedent's full legal name, sex, age, marital status, date and place of birth/death, social security number, etc. The information must be obtained from authorized sources only, such as the decedent's close relatives or next of kin. This is to ensure that accurate and complete information is documented. Also, the informant must sign a validity statement attesting to the reliability of the information. Note that a death report must be prepared within 72 hours after the death occurred.
- Get medical certification
The next requirement is to get medical certification for the death. If the death occurred under medical attendance, the physician/health care provider in charge of the decedent's care before death must be notified to prepare a medical certificate for the decedent. The certificate must show the date and time of death, the cause of death, and the manner of death. When specifying the conditions that led to the immediate and underlying cause(s) of death, the certifier is required to apply the standards from the Physicians’ Handbook on Medical Certification, DHHS Publication No. (PHS) 2003-110. Medical certification must be completed and submitted for registration within 72 hours after the death.
If the death did not occur under medical attendance, the county medical examiner or coroner must determine the cause of death according to Arizona Administrative Codes (A.A.C) R9-19-304. If the examiner concludes that the death resulted from natural causes, the certificate shall be signed and dated by the medical examiner, attesting that based on an examination, death occurred at the time, date, and place, and due to the cause and manner stated. If it appears that the death resulted from unnatural or unlawful causes, the examiner will take custody of the body for investigation.
If the cause of death could not be determined within 72 hours after death, the cause and manner of death shall be recorded as “pending”. The medical examiner shall sign the record and submit it for registration. However, the body's final disposition shall not occur until the medical examiner approves the release of the body. Whenever the cause of death becomes determined, the medical examiner shall submit the information to the local registrar, deputy local registrar, or state registrar.
- Submit death record for registration
The last step is to register the death certificate. The funeral director must submit the duly completed death record to the local or state registrar for registration. This must be done within 7 days after the death occurred. Where there is no funeral director or designee, the coroner, medical examiner, or local health officer must submit the completed report. On submission, the registrar or designee will review the record for accuracy and proper documentation. If the documented information is accurate and complete, it will be assigned a local registration number and forwarded to the ADHS-Bureau of Vital Records for filing and registration.
What is the Difference Between a Death Certificate and Other Death Records?
Arizona has a variety of death records, some of which are categorized according to their purpose and the data they contain. Death certificates, death verification letters, stillbirth records, and fetal death certificates are among the different death documents accessible in Arizona. The most complete death record is a death certificate, and this contains more information compared to other death records. A doctor's signature appears on a death certificate, an official document stating the reason, date, and location of death. Another important distinction between a death certificate and other records is that it can be used as legal evidence for to:
- Settle estates
- Claim life insurance benefits
- Claim pensions
- For research purposes
Are Death Certificates Public in Arizona?
Arizona is a "closed records" state. This implies that personal information is not publicly available to the public. Arizona law places restrictions on the public's access to crucial records to safeguard residents' right to privacy. Hence, only qualified persons may obtain a certified copy of a death certificate, according to Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) R9-19-314 and R9-19-315.
How to Find Death Records Online in Arizona
The Arizona Department of Health Services - Bureau of Vital Records does not have an online repository where members of the public can look up death records. Only archival death records are available online through Arizona Genealogy Record Search. The database contains death records from 1800 to 1971 (50 years after the date of death). The records are available for genealogical search only and do not constitute certified copies. Researchers may search the database for records using the decedent's first and last names, birth date, death date, and mother's maiden name.
Interested persons may also visit the county's website where a decedent's death was recorded to confirm the availability of an online search for death records.
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 a good place to start when looking for a specific or multiple records. 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 Arizona
The Arizona department of health maintains a database used for Arizona genealogy search. This database contains death records that date as far back as 1800. Individuals can use this database to find death records that have been made public. Searches can be done using the decedent's first name, last name, or their mothers maiden name.
How to Find Death Records for Fee in Arizona
Arizona does not issue death records for free. As specified under Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) R9-19-105, it is compulsory to pay a non-refundable statutory fee to obtain a vital record in the state. As such, requesters can only get copies of Arizona death records for a fee from either the state Department of Health Services - Bureau of Vital Records, the county registrars, or the local health department offices.
Where Can I Find Death Records in Arizona?
To obtain a death record in Arizona, requesters must contact the ADHS-Bureau of Vital Records or the local county health department office of vital records at the county where the death occurred. The Bureau maintains certified copies of death and fetal death certificates from July 1909 but has abstracts of death records filed by counties as far back as 1855. Death records are issued to eligible parties only.
Requesters can order death records from the Bureau of Vital Records by mail, through the walk-in service, or via the online/expedited service.
To order a death certificate by mail, a requester must submit a duly completed Application for Certified Copy of Death Certificate (or Español). A copy of the front and back of a valid government-issued picture ID, which bears the requester's name and signature, or notarized signature, and a documented proof of eligibility. Add a cashier's check or money order for the appropriate fee, and a self-addressed stamped envelope to the request and mail it to:
The Bureau of Vital Records
P.O. Box 6018
Phoenix, AZ 85005
The department provides same-day, walk-in service to record seekers. Requirements include a completed application form or written request indicating the decedent's name, sex, age at the time of death, date, and location of death. A valid form of ID, proof of eligibility, and the required payment must also be provided. Cash payment is acceptable as well as cashier’s check. The office is located at:
The Bureau of Vital Records
1818 W. Adams
Phoenix, AZ 85007
Phone: (602) 364-1300
Map & Directions
The office opens from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. every Monday to Friday, except on state holidays.
Note that walk-in services are currently suspended by the state office due to Covid-19 safety precautions. Requesters may contact the local county health departments or county registrars to enquire about the availability of walk-in services.
The ADHS-Bureau of Vital Records accepts online requests through a State-endorsed vendor. Orders may be placed through the phone or online. Requesters are required to upload a copy of the front and back of a valid ID that bears their names and signatures or have their signatures notarized and uploaded. Include documented proof of eligibility and make the required payment. All major credit cards are accepted. Additional charges apply to cover the vendor's processing fee and expedited shipping cost for persons who request it.
Certified death records can also be requested from the counties. Contact the county registrar or local health department in the county where the death occurred for ordering details.
Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Arizona?
No, Arizona is a "closed record" state; As such, vital records are not open to public access. The state restricts public access to death records to protect the confidentiality rights of Arizonians. Only eligible requesters qualify to obtain death records in the state. For genealogy search, the state makes death certificates available to the public 50 years after the date of death, and the records do not constitute certified records.
As specified in Arizona Administrative Codes (A.A.C.) R9-19-314 and R9-19-315, only the following persons are qualified to obtain certified/ uncertified death records:
- A living spouse
- Parents, grandparents
- Adult child, grandchild
- A person designated in a power of attorney
- Funeral director or designee/ any person responsible for final disposition of decedent's body
- Named executor of the decedent's estate
- A beneficiary of the decedent's life insurance policy
- A person named in a court order/authorized by an eligible person
- An insurance company/financial institution
- A hospital or healthcare institution
- Anyone with a claim against the decedent's estate
- An attorney representing an eligible person
- Consulate of a foreign government request
- Government agency request (non-certified copy)
Note that non-certified copies are only issued to family members for genealogical research.
An authorized applicant must be at least 18 years old and must provide documented proof of relationship (birth or marriage certificate) to the decedent and a valid government-issued ID showing name and signature or a notarized signature.
How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Arizona?
As specified in Arizona Administrative Code (A.A.C.) R9-19-105, a certified copy of an Arizona death certificate costs $20. This is a non-refundable statutory fee charged by issuing agencies in the state to process each request for a record search. If a death record is found, a certified copy is issued to the requester. If it is not found, a certificate of "No Record" is issued. A non-certified copy costs $5 and is only issued to government agencies and researchers.
Depending on the request method used, additional processing and shipping charges may apply. For online orders, an additional $12.95 processing fee is charged per order. For expedited shipping services, requesters may incur up to $18.50 more, depending on the courier service chosen. Check the state fee schedule for further payment details. All payments must be made payable to the Arizona Department of Health Services - Bureau of Vital Records.
Acceptable modes of payment include:
- For mail requests - The department accepts a cashier's check or money order. It must be for the exact amount payable. Cash is not accepted
- Walk-in service - Cash, money order, or cashier's check.
- Online/ Expedited service - Major credit/debit cards. Indicate the full card number and expiration on the application.
Most Arizona counties follow the state's fees schedule, but other county-specific charges may apply. For instance, Cochise County charges a $2 minimum or 2% convenience fee for each credit/debit card transaction. For specific details about a county of interest, requesters may contact the county registrar/recorder or visit the county's website.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Death Certificate in Arizona?
Arizona Department of Health Services Bureau of Vital Records provides same-day walk-in services for record seekers. For mail-in requests, the average processing time is 5 business days from the day it was received in the department. Online requests are processed and shipped within 2 to 3 days, but through expedited services, death records can be delivered within 24 hours. At the county level, processing/delivery time is county-specific. In Cochise county, for instance, the average processing time for mail-in applications is 7 - 10 business days from the date it is received.
Note that an incomplete application may prolong processing time, while a request with inaccurate or false information will be rejected.
How Long to Keep Records After Death
Arizona death records are considered permanent legal records, this means they are kept indefinitely by the state. As specified by the State Revised Statutes ARS §41-151.12(3), the Arizona State Library, Archives, and Public Records determines and authorizes the retention period for government-generated records. According to the agency's retention schedule, death records are categorized under records for permanent retention. Records designated as "permanent" on the retention schedule must not be destroyed. This is because death records have archival/historical value. They help to preserve the genealogical heritage of the state.
How to Expunge Death Records in Arizona
Arizona has no provision for expunging death records. Expungement refers to the process of officially deleting a record or part of it, such that it no longer shows up during background checks. Since Arizona's death record is a permanent legal record and an essential part of the state's vital statistics, it cannot be expunged.
How to Seal Death Records in Arizona
In Arizona, record sealing does not apply to death records. When a record is sealed, public access is restricted to the record or a part of it. To get a record sealed, the applicant is required to petition a court of competent jurisdiction for an order to seal the record.
Some records are automatically sealed from public access by the state. An example of this is a juvenile court record, the state restricts access to court hearings, dockets, and files concerning juvenile cases. However, Arizona does not restrict public access to death records and does not have rules allowing anyone to seal them.
How to Unseal Death Records in Arizona
Arizona has no legal provision for unsealing death records. However, other vital record information including divorce records and marriage records may be unsealed if restricted on the request of the record-holder.
How to Find an Obituary for a Specific Person in Arizona
There are several free online obituary databases allow users to search for specific death records by the name of the deceased or by the city or town where they were resident before their death.
How to Conduct a Free Obituary Search in Arizona
Interested members of the public may search for free Arizona obituaries by typing "free obituary Arizona" into a search engine. The results will yield numerous recent Arizona obituaries as well as several obituary indexes where interested persons can find the obituary in previous issues of newspapers. Another choice is to physically go to a local library. The majority of public libraries offer free access to obituary databases and microfilm.
What are Arizona Death Notices?
A death notice in Arizona is an announcement of a person's passing that is printed in a local newspaper or published online. Death notices, frequently written by family members, provide readers with information about the deceased's name, age, place of residence, and the location of the funeral service.
What is the Difference Between Death Notices and Obituaries?
Only the most pertinent details about the deceased are provided in death notices. Longer profiles called obituaries are written to honor a person's life and accomplishments and inform the public of their passing. A death notice may also include additional details, such as the deceased's year and place of birth or previous workplace. However, the notice's purpose is to provide a brief overview of the essential information. Obituaries are extended biographies of the deceased person intended to honor their life and accomplishments and inform the public of their passing. As a result, they frequently go into great detail about their background and their achievements.