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How to Find a Death Record in North Carolina?

What Are Death Records in North Carolina?

A death record is a document stating personal information and details of the death of a deceased person. In North Carolina, death records are maintained by the North Carolina Public Health Department (Vital Records Office). The department provides death records for only deaths that occur within the state from 1930 to the present. In North Carolina, death records are available to the public on request, although the law specifies who can make such a request. A death certificate contains vital information about the deceased; these details include:

  • Full names of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • Age at the time of death
  • Marital status at the time of death
  • Cause of death
  • Race
  • Location or county of death
  • Date of birth

In North Carolina, death records are classified as vital records and maintained by the North Carolina Department of Public Health. Members of the public can make requests for death records through the vital records department.

Death certificates may be required for the following purposes:

  • To determine the cause of death
  • To settle estates of the deceased and obtain insurance or other pension benefits
  • May be required prior to cremation or burial services
  • Required by the state for compiling mortality rates and tracking disease trends, setting public health policies, and allocating health and research funding

How are Death Records Created in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, a death record is created when a person dies or a dead body is found in the state. According to the North Carolina General Statutes 130A-115, the funeral director who handles the body of the deceased must prepare the death certificate. However, suppose a funeral director will not be assigned to perform this role. In that case, anyone who assumes custody of a body must file a “notification of death” form with the local registrar within 24 hours of taking custody of the body.

The funeral director or anyone taking up this role must obtain a certificate of death from the Vital Records Office in the county where the death occured. The funeral will then complete this certificate with all the required information and pass it on for medical certification of the cause of death by a medical examiner or the attending physician. Typically, the law mandates the hospital where the deceased died to provide the funeral director with the name of the deceased, the date and time of death, and the attending physician’s name.

After the death certificate has been completed, the funeral director must file it with the Vital Records Office within 5-days of the death. Note that the funeral director must ensure that the attending physician has signed on the death certificate before filing it. This information will be used to create the death record.

How to Find Death Records Online in North Carolina

The North Carolina Vital Records Office uses a third-party website for online searches of death records in the state. However, requesters may acquire certified copies of death records by visiting or mailing the office. Alternatively, a requester may search a death record at the Office of the Register of Deeds in the county where the deceased died. For example, in Durham County, requesters may search for death records by using the online Vital Records system portal. From the portal, requesters can search and request certified copies of death certificates online.

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 North Carolina

In North Carolina, copies of death records cannot be obtained for free. However, death records can be found at the North Carolina Vital Records Office or at the office of the Register of Deeds in the county where the death occurred. Note that searches and requests for death certificates can only be made for a fee.

Where Can I Get Death Records in North Carolina?

In North Carolina, death records can be obtained at the North Carolina Vital Records Office or the Register of Deeds Office in the county where the death took place. The first step to take when seeking a death record at the NC Vital Records Office is to visit or mail the office located at:

North Carolina Vital Records (Cooper Memorial Health Building)
225 North McDowell Street
Raleigh, NC 27603-1382

A person requesting for a death record must hold an acceptable ID and proof of eligibility. Acceptable IDs includes:

  • State-issued driver’s license (address must match requester’s address on application)
  • Current state-issued non-driver photo ID card (address must match requester’s address on application)
  • Current passport or visa (must include photo)
  • Current U.S. military ID
  • Current Department of Corrections photo ID card dated within the last year
  • Current state or U.S.
  • Government agency photo ID card (for persons requesting certificates as part of that agency’s business)
  • Current student ID card with copy of transcript

The next step is to complete the Application for Vital Records Form required to obtain a death certificate. A requester must have the following information of the deceased at hand when filling the request form:

  1. Full name of the deceased
  2. Date of death
  3. Place of death
  4. Race
  5. Age at the time of Death
  6. Date of birth

If requesting a certified copy of record, a requester must furnish evidence of relationship to the deceased. A person requesting a death record by mail, should send the completed Application for Vital Records Form and a $24 money order or certified/business check to the Vital Records Office. Add $15 for each additional copy. Note that the office does not accept cash for mail requests. Cash is only accepted for walk-in requests.

Request at the Register of Deeds Office

Here, a requester is required to visit the Register of Deeds Office in the county where the death took place to obtain certified or uncertified copies of death records. Each county has specific requirements and fees for obtaining death certificates. For example, in Guilford County, persons may obtain death records by visiting the Register of Deeds Office located at:

The BB&T Building,
201 West Market Street,
1st Floor,
Greensboro, NC

Or at:

325 East Russell Avenue,
High Point, NC

Guilford County requires a requester to provide at least one valid picture ID as proof in order to obtain a death record. Examples of valid picture IDs include driver’s license, state-issued ID cards, and passports. Eligible persons who can request death records include any of the following:

  1. An immediate family member of the individual named on the death certificate, such as a spouse, sister, brother, child, parent/stepparent, grandparent, or grandchild.
  2. Persons seeking information for legal determination of personal or property rights.
  3. Authorized agent, legal representative, or attorney of the deceased.

After determining eligibility, the next step is to fill the Application for Vital Records Form and submit it in person. Note that a request can also be made by mail, which involves mailing the “Application for Vital Records Form” along with a check or money order to the office of the Registrar of Deeds.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in North Carolina?

The North Carolina General Statute 130A-93© specifies persons who are eligible to obtain certified copies of death records in the state. They include:

  • A person requesting the death record of a spouse, sibling, direct ancestor, direct descendant, stepparent, or stepchild
  • A person inquiring information for legal determination of personal or property rights
  • Authorized agent, legal representative, or attorney of the deceased

Persons who do not meet these eligibility requirements may obtain uncertified copies of death records, which may only be used for genealogical or research purposes.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in North Carolina?

The Department of Public Health specifies the required fees for obtaining death records. At the North Carolina Vital Office, the fee for requesting the first copy of a death record is $24.00 for each 3-year period search. Additional copies cost $15, while additional searches cost $24. Expedited processing of records costs $15. Persons requesting expedited processing by mail must indicate this by writing "expedited" on the front of the envelope. Certificates are sent by first class mail unless otherwise requested. The cost of expedited shipping is $20.

Fees may be paid by one of the following methods:

  • Credit or debit card
  • Money order
  • Business check
  • Certified check
  • Cash is accepted only for walk-in services and not for mail service

Note that fees are not refundable after a search or service has been provided whether or not the record was found. If requesting from the Register of Deeds Office, each county has its own specific fees. For example, in Guilford County, the cost of a certified copy of a death certificate is $10.00 per copy. The cost of an uncertified copy is $1.00 per page if requested by mail. Guilford County accepts cash, business checks, or money orders made payable to the “Register of Deeds.” Requests are processed within three working days upon receipt. At Guilford County, requests can also be made online for the same fees.

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

In North Carolina, the processing time for a death certificate is between 6 - 8 weeks, while expedited requests take 5-10 days. Same-day walk-in expedited service is available at the North Carolina Vital Office. Note that office hours for walk-in services are Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m.. Walk-in services are currently suspended due to the COVID 19.

How Long to Keep Records After Death?

There are no statutory provisions indicating how long death records should be kept after death in North Carolina. However, it is necessary to keep a death record indefinitely because it is considered a permanent official evidence of a person’s death.

How to Expunge Your Death Records in North Carolina?

Expungement is when a judge declares a record deleted from public access. There are no legal provisions on the expungement of death records in North Carolina.

How to Seal Your Death Records in North Carolina?

There are no legal provisions for the sealing or unsealing of death records in North Carolina.