Who Can Get a Death Certificate?


When her husband passed away, she needed to access his account but was told she needed his death certificate to do that. Then the widow was told she couldn’t get that death certificate. Are you entitled to a loved one’s death certificate? It’s why she called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

It’s hard to imagine a tougher 24 hours for Maria DiSalvo, as she lost her husband Robert and her mother Nana.

Maria DiSalvo: “He passed away on the eighth. My mom passed away on the ninth. One day of each other.”

Two deaths, two funerals. Too much.

Maria DiSalvo: “I’m holding up as best as I can because I have to. I can’t fall apart right now, I can’t. I can’t fall apart. It’s not easy, but you have to move ahead. You can’t crumble; it’s just not the way it should go.”

Nothing can prepare you for those tragedies.

Then Maria discovered more problems she was not prepared for.

Maria DiSalvo: “You look at all the massive bills, all the massive accounts. I have no idea what to do because he used to do it all.”

After the funerals. Maria went to work to access the money to pay those bills and hit a roadblock.

Maria DiSalvo: “I need to be able to process the pension and the Social Security, and I can’t do anything without the death certificate. Everyone is asking me for the death certificate, and I don’t have it.”

Robert and Maria had been married 19 years. Before they met, he had paid for his own funeral arrangements that included a death certificate.

Maria asked for it.

Maria DiSalvo: “The daughters are getting the death certificate, so I said, ‘I don’t understand. The wife is entitled to the death certificate.’”

Her husband’s daughter was from his prior marriage. Maria was told to ask her for the document. No chance, Maria said.

Maria DiSalvo: “Because they laugh at my face. They just won’t give it to me. They won’t.”

Maria can go online and pay for the death certificates, but she would have to wait for the state to send it to her and wonders why his widow cannot get the one her husband had already paid for.

Maria DiSalvo: “Is a wife that’s been married to her husband or widower. the wife that has been married, are they entitled to the death certificate?”

It’s a difficult question for someone to ask, but Howard, legally, is it difficult to answer?

Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “The widow is legally entitled to a copy of the death certificate, but in this case, not from the funeral home. That’s because, when her late husband paid for his funeral, he designated his daughter as the recipient of the document. But Maria can get that death certificate as the surviving spouse. She just has to pay the state to get it.”

We contacted the funeral home, and while they legally had to give the death certificate to the daughter, they did offer to order one for Maria. She did it herself and now has the death certificate.

Howard Finkelstein: “Anyone can order a death certificate, but it will not include the cause of death or the Social Security number of the deceased. To get one with all that information, you have to be the surviving spouse, parent, children, grandchild or sibling.”

The death certificate brought more bad news for Maria. Her late husband did not have a pension and had very little Social Security benefits, leaving her broke and scrambling to find a job.

Maria DiSalvo: “I’m sure others will find themselves in the same position that I’m in. Do not shrivel up and fall apart. You have to stay strong. It’s a new journey.”

Maria is determined to get her life back together. Good luck, Maria. With that attitude, you will get it done.

This is a reminder. No one wants to think about death, but if you have loved ones, you might want to draw up a will, or at least get everything in order. You never know what tomorrow will bring.

Sad news left you stunned? Lost the will to fight back. Contact us. We will try to give you hope and help.

Email: helpmehoward@wsvn.com
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at pfraser@wsvn.com
Miami-Dade: 305-953-WSVN
Broward: 954-761-WSVN


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