What do I do when a loved one dies?
The first thing you need to do is take care of yourself. You will need to make several decisions. Here are a few suggestions to help guide you and your loved ones through the process.
- Involve your family, friends and clergy for support and comfort. They will assist you in making sense of this tragic and sometimes sudden news.
- Select a funeral home to help you make funeral arrangements and coordinate final disposition of your loved one’s remains. If you do not know where to turn, you can call a variety of funeral homes, ask questions and obtain pricing. Any funeral home can assist with cremation.
- Once you have chosen a funeral home, the funeral director will make arrangements to pick up and transport your loved one’s remains back to the funeral home after the investigation.
- Keep track of all business cards given to you by law enforcement, the county coroner, ambulance and funeral home personnel.
- Start a file or folder to correlate all paperwork and information that will be shared with you as a result of your loved one’s death.
- Finally – remember to check in on yourself. Stress can occur quickly and unexpectedly. Do not be afraid to use the resources available in our community.
Why is the Coroner involved in the death of my loved one?
Kentucky law requires that the Coroner’s Office investigate any death of a sudden, violent, or suspicious nature. Any death that occurs outside of a hospital setting, or within 36 hours of admission to the hospital, requires notification of the Coroner’s Office.
The principal responsibility of the Coroner is to assure that a death did not occur as a result of foul play. To help determine the manner and cause of death, the investigator may use a variety of investigative techniques including interviews with family members and physicians, scene analysis and photography, and physical examination of the decedent. Oftentimes, these aspects of the investigation will provide the information needed to close the death investigation. It is possible that the family physician will be allowed to certify the death certificate.
Sometimes, family members feel as if they are under suspicion, or being asked overly personal questions. The investigation is meant to bring forth enough information to explain why your loved one died. What may seem like very personal or trivial information to you may be a wealth of knowledge for the Coroner’s Office. Please remember that it our job to speak for the dead, and assure that justice prevails among society.
Will there be an autopsy?
That depends on a number of factors. Age, medical history, and the circumstances surrounding the death are the major considerations. The Coroner’s Office may defer an autopsy if enough facts concerning the events leading up to the death are known, verified, and supported by pre-existing medical conditions. Deaths involving the possibility of criminal activity, children and those in good health prior to death will most likely be autopsied. Likewise, deaths in which the scene investigation suggests an external event (electrocution, drowning, etc.) will probably undergo an autopsy.
If the Coroner’s Office orders an autopsy, there is no fee charged to the family.
When will I know the cause of death?
The cause and manner of death information can be provided to the legal next of kin when the Coroner completes the death certificate after the investigation is complete and all reports are final.
How and when can personal property/possessions be claimed?
Generally, items can be retrieved by the legal next of kin from the Coroner’s Office, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM to 3:30 PM. Please make contact with the Coroner’s Office at (270) 685-8428 for more information.
Who is considered the next of kin?
The legal next of kin is the closest living relative in the following order; spouse (unless divorced), adult child, parent, adult brother or sister, adult grandchild.
How do I obtain copies of Coroner’s records and reports?
Coroner’s records and reports will be available after the death certificate is issued. The following reports are available from the office: Coroner’s report, autopsy report and toxicology report. To obtain these copies, an Open Records Request Form must be completed and state issued identification card must be shown before records will be released.
Where do I obtain certified copies of the death certificate?
Once the determination is made regarding the cause and manner of death, a death certificate is generated and provided to the responsible funeral home. The original certificate is filed with the Department of Vital Statistics. The funeral director you have chosen to handle final arrangements for your loved one can assist you in getting certified copies of the death certificate.
We strive to investigate cases as expeditiously as possible, but a competent death investigation requires time with attention to detail, thus delaying the process several weeks. A properly completed death certificate is necessary to claim insurance, receive government benefits, settle the decedent’s estate, and pursue any civil or criminal legal action.
Also, a copy can be obtained from:
Department of Vital Statistics
275 E Main Street 1EA
Frankfort, KY 40621