- July 24, 1992
- All Florida Offices and Agents
- Recording of Death Certificates
Attorney General Bob Butterworth has issued an opinion to the effect that the Clerks of the Circuit Court do not have authority to accept death certificate for recording and directing Clerks not to accept death certificates.
In addition to citing that Clerks do not have authority to record death certificates, Mr. Butterworth also indicates that death certificates should not be recorded because they contain confidential information, specifically the cause of death which might reveal something like suicide or AIDS or some other matter which could be deemed to be private.
Obviously, this creates a problem for title insurers.
I am told that in one county, which I believe to be Okaloosa, a judge in the Circuit Court has directed the Clerk to record death certificates because it is necessary to establish the ownership of land titles.
I understand some Clerks are simply refusing to record death certificates in accordance with Mr. Butterworth's directive. I understand that others, more specifically Dade, are allowing the death certificate to be recorded as an exhibit to an affidavit so that they are not recording the death certificate directly but rather recording an affidavit and yet the death certificate information gets recorded.
Some Clerks, possibly all Clerks, specifically Palm Beach County, will accept for recording death certificates where the confidential information has been struck or deleted by the Bureau of Vital Statistics prior to their certification being placed on the death certificate. This is sometimes referred to as a "short form" death certificate.
The best way to address this problem is to obtain such a death certificate and record it. We understand these death certificates are issued from local offices of the Bureau of Vital Statistics, not just Jacksonville, for a cost of $8.00 each. It will probably take a week to obtain.
In the alternative, when time does not permit getting the short form death certificate, and until this matter is more definitively settled, we ask that you use the Affidavit of Surviving Spouse 1 to be completed by the surviving spouse. The affidavit is to the effect that we have a certified copy of the death certificate, that it has been deposited in our file, that we have examined it, that it reveals who passed away, that an original copy is maintained in the closing file. It also serves as an affidavit of continuous marriage. You should then annex to the affidavit the certified copy of the death certificate (long form) with the cause of death and any other apparently confidential information blanked out or covered over with tape.
However, if the Clerk in your particular county will not accept this, then we will use a modified form of the same affidavit but with the clause dealing with the attached copy being deleted. (Please use Affidavit of Surviving Spouse 2 in these situations.)
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