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Northern Wyoming Mental Health Center Inc.

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After the Death

Kathryn Patricelli, MA

image by Jacob Garcia (lic)Once the final goodbyes and death have occurred, it is time to conduct the funeral ritual and handle the person's estate and last wishes.


An autopsy is a procedure that consists of a thorough medical examination of the deceased's body to determine cause of death and to evaluate any disease or injury that was present. The procedure is usually performed by a pathologist (a specialized variety of medical doctor). When a person has died from natural and known causes, an autopsy is generally not required. Elective autopsies are performed when the deceased has given permission to donate organs or serve as a volunteer for medical research.

In cases of a sudden death where a cause is not immediately known, or if there is suspicion that the cause might have been unnatural, the medical examiner or coroner has the state appointed power to mandate an autopsy. In such instances, the family is not able to decline the procedure.

Notifying Others of the Death

Once a death has occurred, there are numerous people that must be notified. Attending to such details can seem an overwhelming proposition for family members who are also freshly coping with emotions of grief and loss, but nevertheless, this communication must occur.

People that may need to be notified include:

  • Minister/spiritual advisor - in order to begin planning a funeral and burial
  • Employer - if the deceased was still working, the employer will usually help handle benefit issues, such as health and life insurance.
  • Health and Life Insurance agents - will help begin the process of terminating the policies and arrange for payouts to beneficiaries.
  • Attorney - if the person used legal counsel to set up a will, this lawyer will begin the legal steps necessary to processing the person's will and estate
  • Accountant/Executor of the Estate - an executor (the person designated to carry out the wishes of the deceased) will assist the attorney in following the will and dispersing assets to beneficiaries.
  • Social Security Office and Internal Revenue Service - the government will terminate benefits (e.g., Medicare and Social Security) and process taxes on the person's estate for the year in which he/she died.
  • Bank and Mortgage Companies - the executor of the estate will make arrangements to pay back any loans and/or close out accounts with all relevant banks and mortgage companies. Remaining assets will be distributed per the person's will.


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Funeral and Burial

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