Can a Death Certificate Be Changed?

A potential client called asking how to change his recently deceased wife’s death certificate.  He had been told by the department of vital statistics that he would need a Court Order to do this.  The man and his wife had been separated for a few months before her untimely death, but were not yet legally divorced.  However, this did not prevent the wife’s sister from reporting her as single on the death certificate.  As crazy as it sounds, this happens more often than many would believe.  

The process to correct this error is not a simple one.  The Court Order that the Department of Vital Statistics was referring to is called a Judgment Declaring Heirship.  This Judgment is a Court Order that declares the legal heirs of the decedent.  This includes the Decedent’s marital status.  

In order to complete this process, an Application must be filed with the Court.  Then, the Court will appoint an independent attorney to conduct an investigation of the decedent’s marital and family history.  Finally, a hearing is held.  During this hearing, the Applicant must secure testimony from two disinterested witnesses –  people who will not inherit from the Estate – to prove up the Application.

This process is complex and requires the assistance of an experienced attorney.  If you have questions regarding heirship issues, contact Ford + Bergner LLP today.