Dealing with an Unattended Death in another State

Handling the death of a family member is never easy. In this blog post, we will address a specific situation; when a family member’s death is unattended, and you don’t live in their area. This can be a stressful, confusing, and emotional situation that requires a lot of decision-making in a short period.

Dealing with an unattended death of a parent or grandparent in a different state happens a lot. Spaulding Decon sees this a lot in states like Florida and Arizona, where older adults go to retire. When you find yourself in this situation, you need qualified advice to help you handle the various obligations you’re faced with after a family member’s death.

If you reverently endured the unattended death of a close friend or family member, this blog should help you deal with it tangibly and emotionally. Regardless of if you’re remote or in town, the same advice should be followed. If you’re remote, it may be advised that you relay to a friend or family member while you do your best to be present ASAP.

This blog post is the first of a series we’re calling, Getting Life Back In Order After an Unattended Death.


Contact the Police

The first thing someone should do when receiving word or witnessing someone who’s passed away is call the police. Explain what you’ve found and your relationship to the deceased. Wait outside until they arrive and be ready to answer questions.

In the case of an unattended death, an autopsy and investigation is required to determine the exact cause of death and if the death was due to a criminal act, a contagious airborne illness, or rare circumstances. Autopsies are usually completed within 48 hours, where the body is released to a next of kin after a death certificate is signed. The coroner/medical examiner must authorize the release of the body before a funeral home can receive the deceased into their care.

Next of kin is defined as the closest living relative by blood, usually excluding spouses and instead focusing on children, parents, and siblings. If there is no legal document designating someone as the responsible party to make decisions after their death, the legal next-of-kin is defined as the person responsible.


Make Arrangements for the Body

After the autopsy, your family can begin arranging for the deceased with a funeral home to transport the remains to its facility for preparation. Coroner’s offices typically give families up to 72 hours to have the remains transported upon release of the body.

If the deceased was in the military, a fraternal group, or a religious group, contact that organization to see if they have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.


Hire Biohazard Cleanup Services

Preparing for a funeral, handling the deceased’s financial affairs, and notifying friends and family may feel like a full-time occupation. 80% of deaths in America happen in a hospital, but in the case of an unattended death, the home may have become a biohazard.

Let us make this very clear. In this situation, cleaning up a home after an unattended death is not something you can do with just household cleaning supplies. It can be both dangerous to yourself and anyone who inhabits the space afterward. Instead, you should immediately contact a professional remediation or biohazard company to ensure the job gets done right. Even if the home looks clean, there may be health risks beyond the scope of the human eye.

Examples of possible health risks after an unattended death, include:

  • Death Smell: The smell of a decomposing body can linger long after the deceased has been removed. Experienced technicians can help remove the odor. 
  • Bodily Fluids: Unfortunately, deaths like suicides can leave bodily fluids like blood, bile, urine, fecal matter, and vomit.
  • Airborne Pathogens: HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and MRSA can make humans and pets sick. These types of scenes can be contaminated with these harmful pathogens until they’re cleaned, disinfected, and deodorized.
  • Pets: If pets are left indoors after an unattended death, they may relieve themselves on the carpet and floor. It’s sad to say this, but it’s not uncommon to find pets dead from hunger or other causes after their owner’s death.


Secure Certified Copies Of Death Certificates

In addition to preparing the body for burial or cremation, the funeral home is also responsible for death certificates. Obtain multiple copies of the death certificate because you’ll need them for financial institutions, insurers, and government agencies. A death certificate is required to close bank accounts, file insurance claims, collect life insurance, transfer titles, filing final tax returns, etc.

One can obtain a death certificate from the vital statistics office in the state or the funeral home you’re working with.


Seek Professional Counseling

We all deal with the loss of a loved one differently. If you’re having a difficult time coping with the death of a loved one, consider speaking with a grief counselor. If you live far away, you more than likely aren’t close to the rest of your family, either. Being left to cope with the emotions of a death can be frightening and traumatic.

You and your family don’t have to cope with the aftermath of an unattended death alone. Our compassionate specialists are sensitive and discreet in regards to the cleanup and restoration of the scene.


Final Thoughts

Unfortunately, we avoid talking about unsavory things and events like unattended deaths. This leaves the majority of people dealing with unattended deaths wildly unprepared. Hopefully, this blog post, and the other blogs in our series, ​​Getting Life Back In Order After an Unattended Death, will help you or someone who needs this information.

eBook - What To Do When Police Leave

There are so many misconceptions about law enforcement’s role when it comes to crime scenes and investigations. When law enforcement is called their sole responsibility is to collect evidence, interview witnesses, and solve a crime. There is no thought whatsoever to the cleanup or restoration to your home. Learn more in this free eBook by Spaulding Decon.

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