Death Certificates

Beginning January 1, 2020, the Washington State Department of Health has updated the requirements for obtaining a death certificate. Click here for more information about the new requirements. 


After completing the autopsy, the Medical Examiner files a death certificate with the Washington Department of Health indicating the cause and manner of death. Frequently, determining the cause and manner requires additional investigation or information beyond the autopsy. 

Copies of death certificates are often needed to make insurance claims, transfer titles, and to finish other official financial business. Most funeral homes will help you get copies or you can order copies from the Snohomish Health District Vital Statistics website or call them directly at (425) 339-5290. The Snohomish County Medical Examiner’s Office does not issue death certificates.

Pending Death Certificates

If the cause and manner are pending further study, a death certificate listing “pending” as the cause of death will be issued. Eventually the death certificate will be amended to reflect the actual cause of death. This process can take two to three months due to the complexity of toxicology and other testing and / or investigation that may be necessary to arrive at an exact cause of death.

A pending death certificate can be used as proof of death. Some institutions will consider this document sufficient to complete certain transactions, such as closing a bank account. However, many institutions (such as insurance companies) may not accept a pending death certificate and may require the actual cause and manner.