Amending Vital Records in Tennessee

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By Rochford Law Posted on April 17, 2019 at 12:02 PM

Birth and death certificates are vital documents that we don't think too much about until we are acquiring the rights of property ownership or trying to prove identity. As crucial as these documents are, they aren't without error. Instances have presented themselves where some of the information was incorrect. False information on a birth certificate could delay access to healthcare or education. Inaccurate information on a death certificate impedes the dividing of assets bequeathed by the deceased — importantly the financial and real estate holdings. Fortunately, major and minor amendments can be made with the support of an experienced attorney.

The Role of the Birth Certificate and Why It's Important

A birth certificate is legal recognition of a child's existence. The document contains critical information including the legal name, gender, parents, and place of birth. A surprising amount of children are born every day and aren't officially logged into the system. Without it, the child won't have access to an identity, healthcare, education, nationality, and other means of assistance and protection. The document also allows a child to receive inheritance lawfully upon the parent's death. The inheritance would include any financial and real estate assets left to the child or children in the will. In the absence of a will, the Tennessee state law says property and assets go to the next of kin. The children of the recently deceased parents would most likely be the ones to inherit.

Changes You Can Make to a Birth Certificate

Birth certificates are predominantly filed by hospital personnel. It's a convenience for the new parents but can lead to some issues if they make mistakes when completing the document. It's not uncommon for there to be misspellings, inaccurate notations or incorrect labeling of the city and state of birth. In some extreme instances, one or both parents might be coerced into noting incorrect information at the time of filing the birth certificate. As a vital document, Tennessee laws allow you to make amendments, but some of the changes require assistance from a litigation attorney.

Death Certificates and Why They are Considered a Vital Document

While the birth certificate allows for a child to integrate lawfully into society and obtain access to basic life necessities, the death certificate is the conclusion of these life events. Also considered a vital document, the death certificate plays a crucial role in the settling of accounts, financial affairs, and any real estate holdings. Thorough records of the deceased are relatively new. Only in the past 100 or so years have these documents come to fruition. On the certificate is the:

  • Date of death
  • Full name
  • Gender
  • Marital status
  • Employment status
  • Address at time of death
  • Parent birth/death information
  • Cause of death
  • A doctor/coroner/medical examiner signature

You might ask yourself why all of this information is important?  Upon receiving a copy of the certificate, the deceased will no longer receive pensions, social security benefits, or other government benefits. There is also the matter of rightful legal ownership of inherited assets.

Making Amendments to a Death Certificate

As we mentioned, the death certificate is a vital document notating information about the deceased's assets. The marriage status, parents, and any children listed on the document factor into who will inherit assets in the event a will has not been left behind. Major errors include the cause of death, but minor is completeness and misspellings. Any outstanding issues with the death certificate may delay proceedings while dividing the assets.  

Tennessee Laws on Amending Vital Documents

Considering how critical these documents play into our lives, it's good to know what Tennessee laws allow us to change and how we can go about making those changes. Both the birth and death certificate are amended in similar manners.

Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs 1200-07-.10(1) states as follows:

1200-07-.10 Amendment of Vital Records.  (1) Amendment of Minor Errors on Certificates During the First Year.  (a) Amendment of obvious errors, transposition of letters in words of common knowledge, or the addition of omitted information may be made by the State Registrar within the first year (emphasis supplied).

With respect to “[a]ll other amendments,” the Department allows a party to submit to the Registrar in support of an application for an amendment “an affidavit” or other “documentary” evidence as “the State Registrar may at his discretion require.” See Tenn. Comp. R. & Regs 1200-07-.10(2)(a)(1) through (4) (emphasis supplied).   

Making Amendments to Birth and Death Certificates in Tennessee

Longstanding Tennessee case law supports the Department and permits anyone under a variety of circumstances to seek a court order. In doing so, you'll need the support of a trusted litigation lawyer to help.

If you need to make amendments to vital documents and want to learn how, contact Rochford Law & Real Estate for more information.

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Topics: Residential Real Estate, Vital Records