how to get a death certificate in Iowa

How to Get a Death Certificate in Iowa: Everything You Need to Know

Everything you need to know about accessing death records in Iowa. All the information you need to submit your request, plus who can access an Iowa death certificate, the cost, and how to get started.

What are Death Certificates (and Why is it Important to Get an Iowa Death Certificate)?

Iowa death certificates are legal documents, issued by the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services, that record the date, location, and cause of a person’s death that occurred within Iowa.

In Iowa, death certificates are completed the funeral director, with a medical professional (licensed physician, physician assistant, advanced registered nurse practitioner or medical examiner) completing the medical portion of the certificate.

Iowa law requires all deaths that occur within the state be registered via a death certificate within 3 days of the death.

Even though families and estate representatives typically require multiple copies of a loved one’s death certificate to manage their estate, you won’t automatically receive copies, and need to ask.

Most often, you can request death certificates from the funeral director. It’s prudent to request up to 10 copies when someone passes in order to close accounts and wrap up their estate.

If you need additional death certificates, or didn’t receive copies from the funeral director, you can request them via the vital records office.

Vital Records Offices in Iowa

Iowa’s Department of Health and Human Services is in charge of vital records in Iowa.

Iowa has been filing death certificates for those who passed away in Iowa since 1880.

The Iowa Department of Health and Human Services issues certified copies of Iowa death certificates, as well as birth, marriage, and divorce certificates.

You can only get a vital record in Iowa for an event that occurred in Iowa.

In other words, you can only get an Iowa death certificate for a person who died in Iowa. If they were an Iowa resident, but passed away out-of-state, you won’t be able to get a death certificate from Iowa.

How to Get a Death Certificate in Iowa?

Iowa death certificates can be ordered by mail, by phone, in person, or online using an approved third-party provider.

How to Get an Iowa Death Certificate by Mail

To order a death certificate by mail in Iowa, print and fill out the application form, have it notarized, and mail it (along with the fee or payment information) to:

Iowa Department of Health and Human Services
Bureau of Health Statistics
Lucas State Office Building, 1st Floor
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075

The application form is available from Iowa Department of Human Services. You can also find instructions for having your identity documents/entitlement documents notarized here.

The pro of ordering an Iowa death certificate by mail is that it’s convenient, doesn’t require an in-person visit to a the Bureau of Health Statistics located in Des Moines, and is cheaper than ordering online.

The cost is $15 for one copy. Payment for mail-in applications can be made by check or money order made payable to the ‘Iowa Department of Health and Human Services’.

The con of ordering by mail is that it may take longer to receive the Iowa death certificates you’ve ordered, due to mailing time.

How to Get an Iowa Death Certificate Over the Phone

To order a death certificate by phone in Iowa, you can use the state’s approved 3rd party provider, VitalChek. Call toll-free, (866) 809-0290.

The service is available from 6:00am to 7:00pm CST, Monday through Friday, closed on holidays.

There is a service fee, which starts at $9.00 per order, for ordering through VitalChek on the phone. This is in addition to the $15 cost per copy.

How to Get an Iowa Death Certificate In Person

To order a death certificate in person in Iowa, you can go to the State Vital Records Office, which accepts walk-ins. You may also be able to get it from the local County Recorders Office in the county in which the death occurred.

The State Vital Records office is open from 7:00am to 4:30pm Monday through Friday (closed on state holidays), and is located at:

Lucas State Office Building, 1st Floor
321 E. 12th Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50319-0075

Requests received before 2pm can be processed same day, in about 2 hours.

Worth noting, the Iowa Health and Human Services website indicates applicants should sign the application form in front of Vital Records staff. Don’t sign the application beforehand, or it may be rejected.

You’ll also need a current form of government-issued ID, with a photo.

Payment for in-person orders can be made by check or money order made payable to “State Vital Records Office” and the cost is $15 per copy.

How to Order an Iowa Death Certificate Online

To order an Iowa death certificate online, you need to order them through an independent company called VitalChek Network Inc.

VitalChek Network accepts major credit cards for payment, and offers the option to choose UPS for faster shipping, and for an additional fee.

While death certificates ordered directly through the Iowa Department of Health and Human Services cost $15 for one copy, death certificates ordered online through VitalChek cost $15, plus an additional service fee, which starts at $14 per order. This is in addition to the cost of the shipping/delivery method you choose.

Delivery time for online orders is between 2 to 5 business days if you choose UPS Overnight, to 2 or 3 weeks if you choose regular mail.

When ordering through VitalChek, you can also choose a will call option, and pick up the certificates ordered in person in Des Moines. This option is only available to those with an Iowa address.

Information Required to Obtain a Death Certificate in Iowa

To get a copy of an existing death certificate, you need to:

  • Provide enough relevant information about the deceased to ensure the state is able to locate relevant death records.
  • Demonstrate you have a right to access access the death certificate (referred to as “entitlement”).
  • Meet Iowa ID requirements for applicants.

Information Required to Request a Death Certificate in Iowa

To order death records in Iowa, you need to provide information about the deceased to help the Department of Health and Human Services find the death record you need.

In Iowa, the following information is required:

  • First, middle, and last name of the deceased, as it appears on the death certificate
  • Date of death
  • Place of death (city and county)
  • Parents’ full name prior to marriage

The application form will also ask your personal and contact information, plus your relationship to the deceased, and the reason for requesting the death certificate.

Qualifications: Who Can Order a Death Certificate in Iowa

In addition to providing information about the deceased, you’ll need to demonstrate you have a right to access the death certificate.

According to Iowa law, death certificates have “restricted access” for 50 years after someone has died. Only certain people can access restricted Iowa death records, and documentation is required. These people include adults (age 18+) who are the deceased’s:

  • Spouse
  • Children or grandchildren
  • Parents or legal guardians
  • Grandparents
  • Siblings
  • Legal representative

When requesting an Iowa death certificate, you’ll need to provide your name and relationship to the deceased individual, and may need to provide documentation that proves your relationship to the deceased. You’ll also need to provide government issued ID.

You’ll also need to provide an address to which the death certificate should be mailed, and your contact information.

Finally, you need to sign the request. When submitting an application by mail, your signature needs to be notarized.

What ID is Needed to Get Death Certificates in Iowa?

Individuals applying for an Iowa death record need to submit their request along with the appropriate personal identification.

Along with the application, you need to include a copy of your government issued identification such as state-issued driver’s license or photo ID, US military ID, passport, permanent resident card, employment authorization card, school photo ID for the current year, or work photo ID.

You can find a full list of acceptable ID here.

Frequently Asked Questions About Getting an Iowa Death Certificate

How much does an Iowa death record search cost?

Iowa charges $15 for one copy of a certified death certificate. After paying the fee, you’ll get either one certified copy of the death certificate. If they can’t find the death certificate you’re after, you may get a “failure to find” certificate.

For each additional copy of an Iowa death certificate (ordered at the same time), the fee is the same: $15 per copy.

If you choose to order Iowa death records online through VitalChek, it’s more expensive. At the time of writing, VitalChek charges $15 per copy, plus a service fee for each order. The service fee varies based on whether you order online or by phone. You’ll also need to pay shipping/delivery costs.

Can anyone obtain a copy of a death certificate in Iowa, or only certain individuals?

Iowa law restricts access to vital records, including death certificates. In Iowa, access to death certificate is restricted for 50 years after a person’s death.

This means only certain people (immediate family or estate representatives) can request a copy and you may have to prove your relationship to the deceased.

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