Death certificate delay?
April 8, 2018 9:34 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend's mother died yesterday morning and the mortuary is telling us that before the family can proceed with any burial/cremation arrangements, the county must issue paperwork that will take five days or more to generate. I don't remember dealing with this kind of delay when making funeral arrangements before. Does this sound right? Are we missing something here?

My boyfriend's mother died yesterday in a nursing home in Southern California, under hospice care, and was pronounced dead by a hospice nurse. While trying to make arrangements for her cremation and graveside service, my boyfriend was told that nothing could proceed until the county provided documentation (a death certificate?) that would allow the body to be released for cremation. Apparently this documentation will take five or more days to generate.

When my own dad died last year, we were scheduling things the following day with no mention of paperwork or delays. Is the five-day wait common? Is there a way around it? Five days of uncertainty seems like a terrible thing for families to have to deal with and we'd like to avoid that if at all possible.
posted by corey flood to Law & Government (14 answers total)
Death certificates can sometimes take weeks. For my jurisdiction, "It may take up to 12 weeks for a death to be registered [...] The death must be registered before a burial permit can be issued and a burial permit is needed for a cremation or burial."

This is highly dependent on things like jurisdiction, but yes. It can take that long.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:38 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Also, my condolences on your loss. This is a hard time.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 9:41 AM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

With the understanding that I'm in Georgia, specifically metro Atlanta:

My wife died on a Thursday, and on Friday (as in, the very next day) I was at the funeral home making arrangements for her cremation. To my knowledge, she was cremated that day. I didn't get the actual death certificates for another week, but that didn't stop the cremation process or any other planning, and the death certificates were never mentioned as being needed at that time.

Your experience with your father's death sounds more like what I'd expect, and what I've gone through with when having to deal with the deaths of other family members.

So no, this doesn't sound right, and I'd call back and talk to someone at the hospice or the funeral home where his mother was taken to and try to see what the actual process is. I can't imagine that the funeral homes in California have the storage capacity to keep the deceased around for up to 12 weeks waiting on cremation or a burial, to be morbidly honest about it.
posted by ralan at 9:55 AM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Formal death certificates may take a while, but the hospice will have some documentation which you can show the funeral home. Call the hospice agency and/or nursing home.
posted by basalganglia at 10:15 AM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: I know in some religious traditions, the deceased are ideally buried ASAP. My mom (terminal with cancer, Muslim), was buried the same day that she died - but this was in 1991, in VA. My dad passed away suddenly in 2011, and he was buried 48 hours later. I did not pick up formal death certificates until 7-10 days after his passing.

I believe similar "ASAP" recommendations exist in Jewish traditions, if any of these religious burial needs are relevant to getting the ball rolling and asking questions to relevant facilities. But I'm sorry you guys are dealing with this, I know it's already an incredibly stressful thing to go through. Don't hesitate to ask what your options are, and ask again.
posted by raztaj at 10:25 AM on April 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

Yes, if by chance she was Jewish, religious Jews have funerals within a day, and a local rabbi might be able to help you get this expedited.

Hospice staff generally have all kinds of skills and connections and will most likely be able to help you with this.

You shouldn't have to go through this bureaucratic nonsense, my sympathies.
posted by mareli at 10:39 AM on April 8, 2018 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Nthing that why my mother-in-law died in hospice, the facility's social worker had the answers to all sorts of questions like this. Turn to that person. (Agreeing that the five-day wait sounds crazy.)
posted by BlahLaLa at 11:28 AM on April 8, 2018 [3 favorites]

In Texas, but my mother died on a Friday afternoon and we had to wait until Monday for the county judge to authorize cremation. It had nothing to do with the death certificate. She wasn’t actually cremated until Wednesday so five days sounds about right.
posted by tamitang at 1:04 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

A quick search shows that in CA, the health department has to issue a cremation permit.
posted by tamitang at 1:07 PM on April 8, 2018

Best answer: My grandmother died under hospice care in Southern California last month and my family was making arrangements for the service the next day. (She was not cremated, so I'm not sure what that specific timeline is.) I think maybe this has been a miscommunication; there may be other paperwork involved, but from my personal experience, you can certainly begin your planning now.

I'd call the mortuary back and ask for clarification. The hospice/nursing home may also be able to help. I'm so sorry for your loss. This is a stressful time for everyone even without red tape.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 1:55 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: in some religious traditions, the deceased are ideally buried ASAP

Definitely true for Jews, as they do not embalm. No way would we wait weeks for burial for a formal death certificate, or even 5 days. I received death certificates for both my mother and my brother well after they were buried. Somebody has misunderstood something. Try asking the hospice for clarification and assistance.

I am sorry for you and your boyfriends' loss.
posted by RRgal at 2:25 PM on April 8, 2018 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (I managed the paperwork for three family deaths in California in the last few years.)

You won't need a death certificate to get someone cremated, but the crematorium will need you/the family to fill out forms and they will need documentation from the hospice or hospital releasing the body to them, which usually involves a medical person signing a form attesting the patient is dead. That is not the same as a death certificate but should be accomplished within a day or so.

The formal death certificate, which is issued by the county, can and usually does take weeks in California. This will be needed for bureaucratic stuff like dealing with banks and wills and so forth. Get at least a dozen copies made.

I'm very sorry for your loss.
posted by suelac at 2:35 PM on April 8, 2018 [5 favorites]

Best answer: I worked in a medical examiner's office for many years and this doesn't make any sense. If there were an autopsy, or something like that, it would make sense, but for a hospice death (and most deaths), the doctor signs the death certificate the day the person dies and at that point the remains are good to go, as it were. The remains are released to the funeral home for disposition. They aren't released to the funeral home to hang out and wait for paperwork and then have disposition.

There's a difference between the "death certficate" and the "certifed copies of the death certificate" the family receives days or even weeks later. The "raw" death certificate is signed by a physician and the funeral home lists the disposition of the remains on it. (A lot of states do this electronically). This paperwork is then certified by the city/county and the certified death certificate is issued to the family on fancy paper with a seal. The funeral home does not wait for anything from the county for this - they are the ones who issue the paperwork to the county first, not the other way around.

Doctor Certifies Death > Funeral Home Fills Out Death Certificate and Files It > Death Certificate Certified and Mailed to Family

I would ask the funeral home what is holding up the burial or cremation and that you know this is not normal procedure for a hospice death. It's entirely possible there is a legitmate reason, but "waiting five days for the county to generate paperwork" ain't one of them. If they give you a hard time, call the hospice nurse for help. If they can't help, I would call another funeral home.
posted by orsonet at 2:58 PM on April 10, 2018 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thank you all so much for your kind help and condolences. The hospice turned out to be very helpful with what turned out to be a delay in the permit for cremation. We've got it straightened out and have plans moving forward. Thank you again for jumping in to help total strangers at a very stressful time.
posted by corey flood at 10:21 PM on April 16, 2018 [2 favorites]

« Older Modern Bank Account with Solid App Showing More...   |   Name that song Filter [Dear White People Episode... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.