SSA logo: link to Social Security Online home1720. Evidence of Death

1720.1 How do you prove someone's death?

You can prove death by providing any of the following evidence:

  1. A certified copy of a public record of death;

  2. A statement of death by the funeral director;

  3. A statement of death by the attending physician or the superintendent, physician, or intern of the institution where the person died;

  4. A certified copy of the coroner's report of death or the verdict of the coroner's jury;

  5. A certified copy of an official report of death or finding of death made by an agency or department of the United States (U.S.) that is authorized or required to make such a report; or

  6. If death occurred outside the United States (U.S.), an official report of death by a U.S. Consul or other employee of the State Department; or a copy of the public record of death in the foreign country.

1720.2 What other evidence is acceptable?

If you cannot obtain any of the evidence above, you can submit statements from two or more persons (preferably not related to you) who saw the body. These statements must be complete and indicate the following:

  1. Why none of the types of evidence in (A) through (F) above can be obtained;

  2. The date and place of death;

  3. The date and place of viewing the body;

  4. The cause of death, if known;

  5. The occupation, age, sex, and race of the deceased;

  6. The relationship of the deceased, if any, to the person making the statements; and

  7. The basis for identification of the body.

1720.3 Does a presumptive finding of death by an armed service department prove death?

A presumptive finding of death by an armed service department establishes the fact of death, but not the date of death. The date of death shown by the armed service department in these cases is a statutory date. It is usually a year and a day from the “missing” date, but may be later or earlier. If there is no evidence to establish a later date, the date the individual was “missing” is used as the date of death.

1720.4 How do you prove death in a disappearance case?

In a disappearance case where the body is not recovered, you must clearly prove the death of the missing person. Submit all available evidence, including:

  1. Statements of persons having knowledge of the situation;

  2. Letters or notes left by the missing person that have a bearing on the case;

  3. The results of insurance or police investigations; and

  4. The complete facts surrounding the person's disappearance.

Last Revised: Jul. 28, 2005