Who to Call When Someone Dies
A family member has just died and no pre-arrangements have been made. What do I need to do?
When someone dies various parties must be immediately notified, including:
- The attending physician, a coroner or medical examiner to officially pronounce the death. If the deceased was in a hospital or other care facility, this is typically arranged by the staff.
- A Funeral Director to transfer the body from the place of death to a funeral home or comparable care facility. Funeral directors are available through funeral homes and other funeral service organizations.
- Local law enforcement should be contacted first if the death was not attended or due to unknown circumstances. See Coroner
Your Funeral Director will help you make all the necessary funeral arrangements. Go to Find A Funeral Home / Cemetery to search for a funeral director, funeral home or other funeral provider.
For additional information, see Funeral Planning > Arranging a Funeral Now.
A loved one has died; how do I arrange for the body to be transferred away from the place of death?
How to arrange the initial transfer of the deceased depends upon your particular circumstances. Do you know which funeral home or other funeral service provider will be handling the funeral arrangements? If so, immediately contact them to transfer the deceased from the place of death to their facility. They will ensure that the death has been properly "certified" and that the appropriate authorities are notified.
Since time is of the essence in transporting the deceased from the place of death, it may not be possible to determine which funeral service will be handling the funeral arrangements. In this case, any funeral home can be used to make the initial transfer to their facility. Be aware that an additional transportation charge may apply if the deceased must subsequently be moved to another funeral service provider's facility.
What happens if death occurs while residing in or visiting a city other than the one chosen as the final resting place?
Transporting a deceased person to another city for a funeral and/or interment is a fairly common situation that can be routinely handled by funeral directors. The body is initially transferred from the place of death to a local funeral home or funeral service provider (i.e., the "first call" service) and then subsequently transported to a second funeral home or funeral service provider in the destination city.
Obviously, the first call service is needed immediately. However, the most expedient approach may be to select a primary service provider and rely on them to make all the transportation arrangements. For example, the primary service provider may be a funeral home in the final destination city. They would arrange for a "first call" service to transport the deceased from the place of death to a local site for care and preparation prior to inter-city transportation. The two funeral service providers will then coordinate the arrangements to transport the remains to the destination city.
How will the deceased be transported between cities (if necessary) and how will the body be preserved during transportation?
Depending upon the distance involved, human remains may be transported by air, rail or simply in a van. The primary funeral home will determine the appropriate mode of transportation. When the distance is beyond their travel range, the primary service provider will hire a carrier that specializes in transporting human remains.
If the deceased will be embalmed in the destination city, or will not be embalmed at all, an appropriate method of refrigeration will be necessary during transportation. The remains may be packed in ice or placed in a refrigerated container. Refrigeration should not be necessary if the body has been embalmed prior to transportation.
What is the cost of transporting human remains between cities?
Like other "shipping" arrangements, weight, distance and mode of transportation will determine the cost.
What legal filings are required when a death occurs? Who will handle them?
The death must be officially recorded in the local jurisdiction and a death certificate issued. Certification of death must be made by a licensed physician usually the attending physician unless the Coroner is investigating the death. Your Funeral Director will verify that the required paperwork has been submitted.
See Obtaining Death Certificates to find out how to get copies of death certificates for purposes of filing death benefit claims, title transfers and other legal matters.
When Do You Call the Coroner?
When does the Coroner get involved in a death?
Generally, the local Coroner will investigate a death under the following circumstances:
- Unattended deaths no licensed physician was in attendance at the time of death or for a continued period prior to death.
- A physician is unable to state the cause of death.
- Suspected homicide.
- Suspected suicide.
- Accidental death.
- Suspicious or unusual circumstances are involved.
- Death occuring during medical procedures.
- Death due to food, chemicals or drug poisoning.
- Death suspected to be due to occupational causes.
- Death suspected to be due to known contagious diseases constituting a public health hazard.
- Death by drowning, fire, etc.
- Deaths occuring while in prison or in police custody.
- Suspected sudden infant death syndrome.