The First Call: Who to Call When Someone Dies
When someone dies it may fall to you to make the “first calls.” Exactly who you need to contact will depend on the particular circumstances of the death. If you don’t know where to start, a local funeral director can help walk you through the steps.
Who To Call When Someone Dies
- Local law enforcement should be contacted when someone dies and the death was not attended or due to unknown circumstances.
- The attending physician, a coroner, or medical examiner will be needed to officially pronounce the death. If the deceased was in a hospital or other care facility, this is typically arranged by the staff.
- Family members or a legal representative of the deceased should be contacted first if you think the deceased had a pre-arranged funeral plan. If a plan exists it will provide you with direction on how to proceed with funeral arrangements.
- A Funeral Director can help you make arrangements to transfer the body from the place of death to a funeral home or comparable care facility. If there has been no advanced planning, you can consult with a nearby funeral home, cremation service, or other service providers. If the deceased has not specified a particular funeral service provider, it is usually best to contact the funeral home that you expect to handle the final arrangements. You may incur an additional transportation charge if it is necessary to move the deceased to another service provider. A local Funeral Director will need to make the arrangements if the deceased is to be transferred to another city for funeral ceremonies and/or burial. See also Deceased Transportation.
Information You Will Need When Making First Calls
Information you need to provide to the first call Funeral Director and other parties:
- Name of the deceased.
- Deceased’s residence — Address / City / State / Zip / Phone #.
- Deceased’s Social Security Number.
- Time of death.
- Current location of the body — Facility name / Address / City / State / Zip / Phone #.
- Attending physician name and phone #.
- Your name.
- Your residence — Address / City / State / Zip.
- Your telephone #’s — Daytime / Evening.
- Your relationship to the deceased.
When it comes time to make the funeral arrangements, there is other information you will need. For a detailed checklist of the information you will need you can request a copy of our Funeral Planning Checklist and Questionnaire. Our Wise Planning System is a comprehensive interactive tool that can help you learn more about the information you need to gather and your options. The planning system also includes estimated funeral costs. Get started with the free Quick Plan.
See our Collection of Memorial Programs and Other Printed Funeral Items.
When Do You Call the Coroner?
Generally, the local Coroner is required to investigate a death that takes place 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 occurring 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 occurring while in prison or in police custody.
- Suspected sudden infant death syndrome.