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How to Find a Death Record in Kentucky?

What Are Death Records in Kentucky?

A Kentucky death record is an official document that contains details about a person's death. A death record serves as official evidence of a person's death. Details contained in a Kentucky death record include:

  • Biodata of the deceased
  • Birthdate of the deceased
  • Date of death
  • County of death
  • Attending physician
  • Funeral service provided

The Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics issues only certified copies of death records. These certified copies of death records are used for insurance claims, social security notifications, and various other legal purposes. Kentucky death records are also useful for various medical and research purposes. For example, Kentucky death records are useful in measuring population growth for better planning, management, and evaluation of public health in the state.

How are Death Records Created in Kentucky?

The 2015 Revised Statutes of the Commonwealth of Kentucky mandates that for every death, a death certificate must be filed with the Cabinet of Health and Family Services, or as otherwise directed by the state registrar before the final interment of the body. Note that only death certificates filed and completed per the Statutes shall be registered.

The process of creating a death record begins when a funeral director accepts responsibility for a dead body. The funeral director initiates the creation of a death record by obtaining details of the deceased and filing a death certificate. The details of the deceased shall be provided by the best available source at the time of death. It includes personal, statistical, and military service records of the deceased, if any. The informant providing these details will also provide their contact details and sign on the death certificate. For a deceased person with military service records, a fact sheet containing military burial rights is given to the informant by the Kentucky Department of Veteran affairs.

Within 5 days, the funeral director presents the death certificate to the attending physician or coroner to perform a medical certification on the cause of death. The medical certification on the cause of death is to be completed within another 5 days. The death certificate is then returned to the funeral director, who files the certificate with the Office of Vital Statistics (OVS) using the Kentucky Electronic Death Registration System.

The corpse will remain in the morgue until the funeral director has completed and filed a provisional certificate of death with the local registrar. The registrar then signs the provisional certificate of death. A signed copy of this certificate provides the authority for the possession, transportation, and disposition of the body.

How to Find Death Records Online in Kentucky?

Registered parties can look up death records online through the Kentucky Electronic Death Registration System (KY-EDRS). However, access to KY-EDRS is restricted to funeral homes, hospitals, nursing homes, physicians, coroners, advanced practice registered nurses, physician assistants, dentists, chiropractors, and the OVS. The KY-EDRS provides a system through which medical professionals, funeral home directors, and coroners can collaborate to speed up the death record creation process and improve the accuracy of death records that are created.

The University of Kentucky provides access to a limited database of death records. This database is obtained from the Office of Vital Statistics and is known as the Kentucky Vital Records Index. The database only provides death records that date from 1911 to 1992.

Kentucky death records may also be searched through the National Death Index Portal (NDI). However, access to this portal is restricted and would require the requester to submit a completed National Death Index Application form and meet all eligibility requirements. Note that information obtained from the NDI is only available for research purposes.

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

How to Find Death Records for Free in Kentucky

The University of Kentucky’s Vital Records Index provides limited access to death records for deaths that occurred between 1911 and 1992. The portal is open for public access free of charge and is not to be used for commercial purposes. All the data on this portal are from the Office of Vital Statistics. However, the Commonwealth of Kentucky mandates a fee be paid for any death record inspected or obtained in the state.

The Commonwealth of Kentucky restricts access to death records to only the deceased parents, grandparents, siblings, and adult children and grandchildren. Individuals with a legal interest in the death certificate also have access to death certificates via a court order.

Requesters can obtain Kentucky death records from the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services, Office of Vital Statistics(OVS).

Steps required to obtain a Kentucky death record include:

  • Obtain the Application for a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate from the Health Departments Local County Health Centers.
  • Fill in the form with appropriate details, including:
  • The full name of the deceased
  • The date of death
  • The county of death
  • The attending physician’s name
  • Funeral service provided,
  • The requester's relationship to the deceased,
  • The requester's address
  • Phone number.
  • Provide a full mailing address where the certificate would be mailed together with a contact phone number.
  • Specify the number of copies needed.
  • Finally, send the required fee by money order or a check made payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer together with a completed application form and a valid photo ID.

It is important to note that the fees paid for death certificates are search fees and are not refundable. Furthermore, the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics provides only certified copies of death certificates issued after the application form has been completed and the required fees paid. The Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics does not issue non-certified copies, electronic copies, or photocopies of death certificates.

Where Can I Get Death Records in Kentucky?

The Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics (OVS) is the primary custodian of death records in Kentucky. To access death records, requesters are expected to fill the Application for a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate. This form can also be picked up in person from any of the Health Department’s Local County Health Centers in the state. Complete the form accurately and submit either in person or via mail with the required fees, and a valid ID.

For in-person requests, visit the Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics at:

275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621
Office hours: 8:00 a.m to 4.30 p.m Eastern time, Monday through Friday.

Note that due to the recent Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, in-person services are no longer available. In-person services have been replaced with the dropbox request services option. The dropbox is located at:

The Visitors Entrance
Kentucky Office of Vital Statistics
275 East Main Street
Frankfort, KY 40621

The dropbox is equipped with blank copies of the Application for a Certified Copy of a Death Certificate form.

Mail-in requests are to be mailed to:

Office of Vital Statistics
275 East Main Street, 1E-A
Frankfort, KY 40621

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

The Commonwealth of Kentucky restricts access to death records for up to 50 years after the time of death. After which the records become available to the public. Whilst still under restrictions, the death record can only be accessed by the deceased’s immediate family members. Individuals with access to the death record of a deceased include the parents, grandparents, spouse, children, grandchildren, and siblings of the deceased. The funeral director and anyone with a legal interest in the certificate also have access to these records.

How Much Does a Death Certificate Cost in Kentucky?

Kentucky only offers certified copies of death records. The death certificate costs only $6 for the first copy of the death certificate and each additional record costs an extra $6. These fees are standard across the different channels through which death certificate requests are submitted. It should be noted that these fees are not refundable.

The state provides only three methods of payment for all death certificate requests, including cash, check, and money order. All checks and money orders are to be made payable to the Kentucky State Treasurer and are acceptable for all types of requests. Cash payment is only acceptable for in-person requests. However, this method of request is currently not available due to Covid-19 restrictions.

Delivery charges may also apply, depending on the delivery option used. Be sure to contact the OSV at (502) 564-4212, between 8:00 a.m. and 4.30 p.m. to verify the current fees.

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

The processing time for death records in Kentucky varies, depending on the method through which the request came. Orders received by mail or the OSV dropbox would usually take about 5 to 7 business days to be processed.

For walk-in orders where the request is for 10 or fewer certificates, the order may be processed the same day. However, orders received after 3.30 p.m would be processed the following day. The timeline varies, depending on the available staff and workloads. It may be extended to 5 business days.

On the other hand, mail-in requests will take about 30 business days to be processed.

How Long to Keep Records After Death in Kentucky

Typically a decedent has three types of records that need to be preserved for reference purposes after their demise. These records include their financial, vital, and medical records. These three classes of documents play a role in the settlement of the deceased’s estate and affairs.

Vital records, including birth certificates, death certificates, divorce decrees, marriage certificates, legal wills, and social security cards should all be kept indefinitely. These records are not only crucial in settling the deceased’s wills, but they are also useful for genealogy purposes both now and in the future.

Financial records, which include bank statements, tax returns, share certificates, receipts, and pension certificates are to be preserved till after the settlement of the deceased estate. The state of Kentucky allows a 6-month month window for all creditors of the decedents to file claims. These financial records are to be preserved for at least two years. In extenuating circumstances, where the estate is yet to be settled, the records are to be kept till the final settlement of the estate.

Kentucky medical records are often kept with the physician or medical facility that was responsible for the decedent’s health care. It is the responsibility of the medical facility to preserve these records for a minimum of 5 years after the demise. However, immediate family members or legal representatives can obtain these records.

How to Expunge Death Records in Kentucky

Kentucky death records can not be expunged. Expungement of records is a process that involves the deletion of specific records, making them inaccessible to anyone.

How to Seal Your Death Records in Kentucky?

Death records can not be sealed in Kentucky. However, the state restricts access to death records that are less than 50 years to the immediate family of the decedent or anyone with a legal interest in the certificate. Sealing is the process of restricting access to a record and generally removing it from public view. However, it does not imply the destruction of the records. This restriction only hides the details of the record.

How to Unseal Your Death Records in Kentucky?

The Commonwealth of Kentucky does not unseal death records.