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Funeral FAQs #5

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Questions and Answers

Q1.Once a death occurs, what happens next? Who must determine that a death has actually occurred? What happens if it is an unattended death?

A1.Chris and Stephanie Goes, Goes Funeral Care & Crematory:

There are many potential scenarios to consider, but, generally speaking, when a death occurs it is time to call a funeral provider or crematory so someone looks after and begins the care of the body as well as beginning the desired procedures for the funeral. If for example, the funeral director cannot legally transfer the deceased, he/she will give direction as to the proper next step(s). In an institutional death, the medical doctor pronounces death, then the hospital staff will call the funeral home of one’s choosing. The funeral home begins, at this time, to transfer the deceased and determine the specific type of service to be rendered. The specific planning could be put off for a day or so, but at least someone is looking after the body. If the death is unattended and/or suspicious in nature, the police and coroner get involved and the Coroner verifies the death. When someone dies at home then the question is, was it anticipated? If a person had been under the care of a doctor and/or hospice, death is fairly certain to have been anticipated. In this case the funeral director (who is, in Larimer County, deputized by the Coroner’s office) can be called to pronounce the death and begin to attend to the body and the desires of the surviving family.

Once the pronouncement of death is made and the funeral provider has taken the body, there are just a few immediate questions and thoughts to consider.

    • Is there to be a public visitation? Will the person be transported across state lines and via a common carrier? Are there religious beliefs or green burial ideas to consider?  It is wise to have a general idea of what is going to be the final disposition, i.e. burial or cremation.
    • There will be vital statistical questions to answer, i.e. full legal name, social security number, birth date and place, parents names (and mother’s maiden), work/career, military activity and proof of honorable discharge and eventually/possibly more biographical information for the purpose of newspaper notification.

There will be more to consider, but since the death has just occurred, that’s enough for now. An appointment with the funeral director and subsequent visit will attend to the details. It is best to resolve first two items right away.

Regarding the Death Certification: In most cases, the funeral director is responsible for expediting the death certificate by taking it to the attending physician for cause of death and signature. After completing the original document, with all of the vital statistical information and needed signatures, it is submitted to the Health Department for Authority for Final Disposition as well as for Certified Copies of the Death Certificate.

Following a death, the best thing to do is to take care of survivors. Consider nourishment/food. Rest is important, as energy will be needed for the next several days. Everything does not have to be done right away. Contact family, or at least begin a list of who needs to be contacted. Be with family and close friends. Remember positive things and acknowledge that life is changed. Grief work is hard work, but can be very meaningful and a growth opportunity when given the right tools.

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4821 South County Road 13
Loveland, CO 80537

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