Why You Can’t Photocopy Pennsylvania Death Certificates

Pennsylvania Death Certificate
Pennsylvania Death Certificate

An example of a Pennsylvania Death Certificate

When a loved one passes away, one of the first steps in the estate administration process is the issuance of death certificates. Death certificates are required for many things, including opening probate and obtaining a short certificate. At the top of the death certificate is a notice that you are not permitted to photocopy the death cert. Why is this?

Death certificates are one of a very small number of documents that, under Pennsylvania law, you are not legally allowed to photocopy. The reason for this is allegedly to prevent fraud. Of course, like many things, it also means more money for the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. By restricting the photocopying of death certificates, more of them have to be purchased, which means more money for the state.

However, beyond the economic benefits to the state, the practical benefit of not photo-copying death certificates is to prevent fraud. Because it is sometimes difficult to tell if a scan or photocopy has been doctored, the state requires originals to be used.

Today, however, because so much work is done by email, many of the entities that will ask for death certs—such as banks, life insurances companies, creditors and others—will ask for them as attachments to emails. This means that by virtue of scanning and emailing them, some of the benefits of requiring original certificates are being bypassed in practice.

Technically, this is still illegal, and we recommend only using originals to be safe. When it comes to probating an estate, you may have many questions about how the process works and the best way to avoid costs and maximize the recovery for everyone involved in the estate. If that’s you, call Cornerstone Law Firm so that we may help you through the estate process, including probate, obtaining short certificates, and more.