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How to Find a Death Record in Alabama?

What Are Death Records in Alabama?

An Alabama death record is an official document, containing a compilation of vital information regarding a person’s death, such as the place of death and cause of death. A death record also contains the deceased’s relevant personal data. Death records in Alabama are created to provide information about deceased persons in the state. The major details contained a typical Alabama death record includes:

  • The full name of the deceased
  • The deceased’s personal and statistical information, including sex, color or race, etc.
  • The death date, including age at death
  • The place of death
  • Date and place of birth
  • Usual residence before death
  • The medical certification of the cause of death

The Alabama Center for Health Statistics (ACHS) started filing death records for persons that died in Alabama from 1908. Generally, the state uses the information provided in death records to track death trends, set public health goals, and assess health status at local and state levels. Death records are also used to process pension claims, stocks, bonds, and life insurance benefits, or to transfer real and personal property titles and close bank accounts.

How are Death Records Created in Alabama?

In Alabama, the funeral director is tasked with compiling, filing, and registering a death certificate in accordance with the Alabama Vital Statistics Laws § 22-9A-14. The funeral director may be any individual or organization (i.e. mortuary) who first assumes custody of the decedent. Death certificates for each deceased person in Alabama are to be filed within five days with the Office of Vital Statistics.

An Alabama death certificate contains two significant sections: the personal/statistical data of decedents and the medical certification. The deceased’s personal/statistical data is usually gotten from the next of kin or any relative of the deceased. Upon completion of the first section by the funeral director, the deceased's physician or health care provider will complete the medical certification aspect of the death certificate. In the absence of the physician, the health facility's chief medical officer where the death occurred may complete and sign the death certificate. The medical certification section must be completed within 48 hours and sent to the Vital Statistics Office in Alabama.

If a death occurs in Alabama in the absence of the physician, an autopsy may be required to determine the cause of death. The autopsy may be performed by a physician, county medical officer, state medical examiner, or coroner. Sometimes, it may be impossible to determine the cause of death within 48 hours. In such instances, the person in charge of the autopsy may sign the death certificate and state “pending” before sending it to the Vital Statistics Office.

According to the Alabama Code on Vital Statistics § 22-9A-14, a death certificate must also be filed and registered for each dead body found in Alabama. For a dead body where the actual death place is unknown, the death place will be registered as the county where the dead body was found, while the death date will be the date the body was found. The State Registrar may also prepare and file death certificates for deceased persons whose bodies are not found, but are presumed to have died in Alabama.

How to Find Death Records Online in Alabama

The Alabama Public Health Department does not maintain an online database of death records where individuals may look up death records online. Hence, the state does not provide online access to death records.

Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources and 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 compared to government sources.

How to Find Death Records for Free in Alabama

The Alabama Public Health Department does not provide death certificates for free. However, you can look up related information like Alabama obituaries, dates of deaths, and death indexes from third-party sources. This free information is often for old death certificates that are already open to the public. Other sources like newspapers, bible records, census, or church records may also provide related information on death records.

Where Can I Get Death Records in Alabama?

Death certificates in Alabama are obtainable at the Vital Records Office of the Alabama Public Health Department. Alternatively, death records are available at the local health department in each county or city in Alabama. Generally, a requester must provide the deceased’s personal information required to facilitate the search for the deceased’s death record. A requester must also provide a valid means of identification before the record custodian can process the request. The two methods for obtaining Alabama death certificates are:

Mail Request

You can obtain a death record via mail by sending a completed mail-in application form together with the appropriate fee and valid state-issued ID to:

Alabama Vital Records
P.O. Box 5625
Montgomery, AL 36103-5625

In addition to the deceased person's personal information, ensure to include your daytime phone number and mailing address, where you will receive the death record.

In-Person Request

In Alabama, County Health Departments across the state provide in-person request services for Alabama death records. You can locate the county in Alabama where the death occurred to request a copy of the death certificate.

Note that any qualified applicants can request Apostille and Exemplified copies of death records. These death certificates mainly required for foreign use, contain the State Registrar's signature and a signed certification from the Alabama Secretary of State. Apostille copies of death records are required for countries that are part of the Hague Convention. In contrast, exemplified copies are necessary for counties not part of the Hague Convention.

Keep in mind that qualified applicants must be relatives of the deceased persons. Also, County Health Departments in Alabama do not provide copies of apostille and exemplified death certificates. Requesters can obtain copies by visiting:

Alabama Center for Health Statistics
RSA Tower Building
201 Monroe Street
Montgomery, AL 36104

A mail request can be sent to the Alabama Vital Records department, using the mail-in application form. While filling the application form, indicate the type (apostille or exemplified) of death certificate requested and the country where it is needed. This should be done under the “Reason for Request” section on the form. Interested persons wishing to make phone requests can do so by calling (334) 206-5418 to order copies of the apostille or exemplified records.

Can Anyone Get a Copy of a Death Certificate in Alabama?

Death certificates in Alabama are not open to the public until after 25 years from the death dates. The Alabama Vital Records Office only accepts requests for death certificates less than 25 years from the decedent's direct relatives and persons with direct and tangible interests, including:

  • Father or mother
  • Husband or wife
  • Son or daughter
  • Sister or brother
  • Grandchild
  • Legal representative

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Alabama?

The search fee for an Alabama death certificate is $15, while an extra copy requested at the same time costs $6. Since the payment is non-refundable, the Vital Records Office will either send a certified copy of the requested death certificate or a “Certificate of Failure to Find.” Expedited requests will attract additional costs.

The fee for an exemplified or apostille death certificate is $25. Each extra copy of the death certificate, which does not include a certification from the Secretary of State, is $6. Requesters can make payments to the State Board of Health with checks or money orders. Credit card payments are accepted for phone requests.

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

Generally, requests for Alabama death certificates made via mail are processed between seven to ten days. Requesters can make expedited requests by calling (334) 206-5418. In-person requests are processed on the same day within 30 minutes or less.

How Long to Keep Records After Death

Relatives of decedents usually need vital records like marriage certificates, tax returns documents, birth certificates, and death certificates for claiming decedent's estates. As such, it is crucial to keep such records permanently. However, if any of these records go missing, relatives of the deceased may locate the appropriate record custodian to request for it. For instance, vital records like marriage, divorce, birth, and death certificates are maintained by the Vital Records Office of the Alabama Public Health Department.

How to Expunge Death Records in Alabama?

The expungement law in Alabama allows only persons convicted of misdemeanors and nonviolent felony offenses to erase their criminal records. Individuals who have successfully expunged their records can deny committing the crime that led to the conviction. Expungement of death records is exempted from the Alabama expungement law.

How to Seal Death Records in Alabama?

In Alabama, death records cannot be sealed, only records like arrest reports and misdemeanor convictions can be sealed by the record holder to restrict them from public view. These sealed records are only available to the record holder and approved law enforcement agencies in Alabama. A death certificate in Alabama is automatically restricted by law for the first 25 years from the time of death. The restricted death records are available to only the deceased person's relative and legal representative for the first 25 years.

How to Unseal Death Records in Alabama?

Relatives of decedents cannot unseal death records in Alabama as there are no laws supporting such action. However, a death record automatically becomes publicly available after 25 years from the death date.