Discovering the exact date when someone passed away has a great deal to do with where the person lived and when. If your interest in the date a person died is related to genealogical research you're conducting, chances are the person you're researching passed on a number of years, or even decades or centuries ago. On the other hand, if you need to determine the exact date of someone's death in modern times for some legal purpose, the information is usually easier to locate.
Determining when someone died
Check with family friends, coworkers and former employers. If you have contact information for someone who knew the individual in question, the easiest way to determine the date is to call or write requesting the information. Check newspaper obituaries. You can also check with mortuaries and hospitals. Even if they won't give you specific information from their records, they might be willing to give you contact information for next of kin.
Check with the city or county records office where the person died. A copy of a death certificate is usually obtainable by a private citizen even if you aren't a close relative of the deceased. However, if you want a certified copy of the record, you'll have to show a relationship.
For genealogical researchers, try checking old newspapers, even those that are no longer published (many are now on microfilm). Also, check family bibles and other family records such as wills, family histories and diaries for the information you seek.
If the person died in a country that conducts a census, like the U.S., get the approximate date by checking this source. However, the census is only relevant when conducting genealogical research going back more than 72 years, since you can't get access to the records after that.. On the other hand, if the person died in a country that doesn't maintain such records, you can check with local officials to determine the proper channels to gain access to the information. If all else fails, get help from a private investigator.
Check a national index such as the Social Security Administration in the U.S. Its Social Security Death Index lists all people whose death was reported to the SSA. These records are available online at sites such as Ancestry.com. Keep in mind, the Social Security Administration only started keeping such records in 1932. Conduct other online research; there are a variety of online resources that might give you the date of someone's death. One such source is the Mormon church, which maintains an extensive database of information including births, marriages and death records.