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Death Certificate Process


In the state of South Carolina, this is an electronic process with the “in-process” document housed at DHEC. All financial matters are stymied until production of the death certificate! Prior to the status of the death certificate being “final”, information put in from funeral homes, Coroner offices, or clinical health providers is kept in an “in-process/pending” status until the form can contain the official (1) cause and (2) manner of death.

When the funeral home picks up the body, their burial, removal, and transit (BRT) form requires the naming of the responsible physician provider on the form (each form has a unique ID number). As soon as the funeral home initiates/enters some information (electronic filing) in the on-line “in-process” phase, that physician’s office is rapidly electronically notified by way of the internet (SCWebdeath…a secure process in to which almost all funeral homes, coroners, and clinicians are linked). And, if an erroneous responsible physician is entered, that physician's office will likely immediately react by notifying the funeral home or coroner that this notice is in error (that is, this death was NOT under this particular physician's responsibility at the time of death). Occassionally, there are time-consuming delays in settling such an issue.

Deceased person's life insurance: How can families find out if their deceased loved one had any life insurance? If you know they had an agent & who that person is, ask for their help. Otherwise, the MIB can help (it costs somewhere on the order of $75 and database has policies applied for amongst member companies as far back as 1996), HERE. As of August 2016, S. C. does not have a state agency to help consumers (here is a national registry of states that do and with links: HERE).

An autopsy WAS performed:

An autopsy was NOT performed:

  • The funeral director, embalmer (if any), and the responsible physician must (1) complete the on-line form and (2) sign electronically.  
  • The original official death certificate and copies, as soon as information is completed and signing complete, can be printed out at the County Health Department in the county in which the funeral preparations are being made and copies given to the personal representative (PR) for the deceased (there is a $ charge).
  • NOTE: As soon as the funeral home initiates the electronic death certificate at DHEC, an electronic notice is sent of the death to the Social Security Administration headquarters in Woodlawn, Maryland for verification of the match of the name and social security number. In 2015, S. C. passed S.176 law requiring a medical certification of death be submitted by health provider to the funeral home within 48 hours. This can include a cause of "pending". There is a potential state administrative penalty should there be a delay or an unreasonable "pending".

    DELAYS: So, the certification process can be delayed (1) during determination of who the responsible physician is, (2) during federal confirmation of the identity (above) by social security, or (3) if the deceased is intestate (without a will), or (4) if there is uncertainty as to who the personal representative is, and (5) if funeral payments have not been properly assured with the funeral home. (6) There can also be delays while the responsible physician or coroner makes up his or her mind (possibly delayed while awaiting results of toxicology testing) about the correct cause and manner of death. Making up their mind may be held up awaiting completion of (7) an official autopsy report or (8) coroner's inquest into the circumstances of the death. (9) Finally, there can be a delay in the responsible physicians office in the physician or designated personell remembering to make the final electronic entries and completing the loop back to DHEC. (10) At that point, DHEC may rarely quibble with the terminology or other final details & request clarification (and working that quibble out can cause delay).

    Death certificates on deaths many years ago: Should you have an interest in a death certificate from years ago (non-current certificate), don't try getting one by standing in line at the the main Columbia office or a county office if you do not have precise, complete information about the name of the deceased and his/her birth and death dates. You may be able to do a web search that finds a genealogy site having a copy of the certificate.


    1. Myrtle Beach Funeral Home web file on-line...excellent!
    2. DHEC Vital Records on-line web file.
    3. About "cause" and "manner" of death, HERE.
    4. Lexington County Coroner: ABOUT...official here & here.

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    [posted 25 June  2014; adjustment 8 August 2016]