Documentation is necessary to prove that someone has passed away. As the executor, or even as next-of-kin when no executor was named, it’s important to obtain proof of death. The proper documentation will allow you to perform important actions, such as freezing the deceased’s bank account.
By reading this, you’ll learn about the two types of death certificates, where you can obtain them, how they differ, and how they are used. The information presented here is relevant in the province of Manitoba. If you live in another jurisdiction, the information here may not accurately reflect how death certificates work in your jurisdiction.
What is a death certificate?
There are two documents that are often called “death certificates”, and these two documents are often confused:
The first document, called “funeral director’s statement of death” or a “proof of death certificate”, can be issued by funeral directors.
The second document, called a “death certificate” is issued by Vital Statistics (in Manitoba). This certificate usually takes several months to obtain. The confusion between these two documents can sometimes lead people to request a provincial death certificate when it isn’t required. In the next section, we’ll illuminate some scenarios in which medical death certificates are required.
The proof of death provided by a funeral director will contain vital information, such as the person’s name and date of death. The death certificate contains the same information, but will also feature a watermark from the Government of Manitoba, and a signature from the Director of Vital Statistics.
Why do you need a death certificate?
Financial institutions, government regulators, and companies of all stripes require some form of proof of death before they can close an account. The reason for this is quite straightforward: without proof of death, they cannot know that an individual isn’t trying to close another person’s accounts maliciously.
For most of these companies, the proof of death certificates provided by a funeral home director are sufficient. Getting a provincial certificate of death is a time consuming process. Most companies understand this. They may, however, require that the proof of death you provide is not photocopied - a topic we’ll cover more in the next section.
Death certificates provided by Vital Statistics are used much more rarely. Death certificates may be needed to sell the house of the deceased person.
This isn’t the only reason you may need a death certificate, but it is helpful to know. It’s a good idea to request a death certificate as soon as possible, as you don’t know when you might need one. You don’t, however, need to wait to obtain a death certificate from Vital Statistics to begin handling the affairs of the deceased - as we mentioned before, most companies will accept proof of death.
How many copies do I need? Do I need the original?
At Alterna, we issue as many funeral director’s statements of death as you need. We start by issuing 8 with the initial arrangement. You’ll rarely need more copies than this, but if you do, we can get them to you.
Acquiring provincial death certificates can be much more expensive. You’ll need to pay $30 per copy for a provincial death certificate. For this reason, we highly advise you to confirm that provincial death certificates are what’s needed - most of the time, if you’re not dealing with real estate, you only need a funeral director’s statements of death.
What is the process to acquire a death certificate in Manitoba?
To acquire a death certificate from Vital Statistics, visit their Online Certificate Application page. If, for whatever reason, you cannot complete the application online, you will also be able to find paper request forms that you can print out, fill in, and mail.
The processing times to acquire death certificates vary, but it usually takes 6-8 weeks. Should you need to obtain a death certificate more quickly, you can use the rush option. Note that the fee for this option is higher ($65 if you live in Canada). You should also know that this option does not speed up the registration of a vital event - in other words, Vital Statistics must still obtain proof of death and create the original copy before they can send you a certified copy of the death certificate.
We hope this article has helped illuminate the differences between proof of death and death certificates, and why both are required. Should you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to us.