Words to Know

A lot of us haven’t dealt with a death of a family member or friend before. Many of the terms commonly used during this time may be new, so we’ve put together this list of definitions to help you understand more about what these words mean and how things work. We hope you find it helpful.

Death Certificate

A document issued by a medical practitioner certifying the deceased state of a person or to a document issued by a person such as a registrar of vital statistics that declares the date, location and cause of a person’s death as later entered in an official register.

Legal Declaration of Death

A government’s official recognition that a person has died. Normally this is done by issuing a death certificate. In most cases, such a certificate is only issued either by a doctor’s declaration of death or upon the identification of a dead person.

Medical Declaration of Death

Most legal determinations of death in the developed world are made by medical professionals who pronounce death when specific criteria are met.


The legal process whereby a will is “proved” in a court and accepted as the true last testament of a deceased person, and that it is a valid public document.