Your Unattended Death Checklist: 8 Things to Expect

By: Diana Rodriguez-Zaba
Updated on: May 21, 2024

There are so many circumstances, and none of them are easy to face. An unattended death might be from natural causes. It could be a suicide or the aftermath of a crime scene. When it happens to someone you care for, the results can seem overwhelming.

No one is ever really ready to deal with the passing of a loved one. Can you be better prepared for the unexpected?

The process is difficult, but our unattended death checklist can make it a little easier. We’ve worked with so many families across the city, and we share our experience as Chicago’s most trusted decomposition cleanup service.

8 Things You Need to Take Care of After an Unattended Death

At first, you may be in shock. As grief sets in, you have so many questions. When you’re responsible for taking care of a property after an unattended death, it’s hard to know where to start. We offer this 8-step guide to help you navigate your course of action.

unattended death checklist

1. Contact the Local Authorities

Even if you’re certain the death resulted from natural causes, you have to contact local authorities. You can’t be sure of the circumstances, so leave this important determination to someone in an official capacity. The Cook County Medical Examiner handles unattended deaths here in Chicago.

2. Make Transportation Arrangements

If the death isn’t ruled a crime and doesn’t require further investigation by the Medical Examiner, it’s up to you to arrange transportation for the body. As you develop an unattended death checklist for your personal files, try to keep information on preferences for mortuaries or crematoriums along with current phone numbers.

3. Reach Out to Family, Friends and Associates

Begin contacting immediate family and close friends. Set a network in motion through personal contacts and social media so that everyone from the deceased’s church to his or her business associates know what’s happened. Don’t try to do everything by yourself.

4. Address Cleaning the Property

A property designated as a crime scene must be cleaned after the authorities finish investigating. If death is determined to be the result of natural causes, a body left unattended for even a few hours still creates critical cleaning issues. You need to call a professional cleaning contractor who specializes in processing this type of sensitive work.

5. Be Prepared for the Worst

The scene of an unattended death can be very disturbing. If violence was involved, you may be confronted with a property marred by blood splatters, bodily fluids and terrible odors. Even a natural death can leave behind unseen pathogens and dangerous contaminants. Be prepared to treat familiar surroundings with extreme caution.

6. Don’t Attempt Any Cleanup

Don’t try to clean up an affected property after an unattended death. Don’t handle clothing or personal belongings. The human body begins to decompose within a few hours of death. You don’t want to risk coming into contact with anything contaminated by bacteria and pathogens that can cause serious illness.

7. Trust Industry Professionals

When you hire a cleaning company with industry certification in decomposition cleanup services, you’re trusting an experienced team that can address any type of situation. Whether it’s the scene of a suicide, crime, accident or natural death, the property is sanitized, deodorized and restored as closely to its original condition as possible.

8. Get Help With the Insurance Process

Most homeowners policies cover necessary cleanup after an unattended death. Because this is a difficult time for you, ask your cleaning contractor for assistance. The claims process can be hard to deal with under any circumstances, but an established restoration company can help you navigate the paperwork.

Dealing with an Unattended Death? We’re Here to Help

It’s our hope that you’ll print this guide and keep it tucked away just in case. If it gives you a little more peace of mind, please let us know through our Comments Section. It’s never easy to face an unattended death cleanup. We want you to be better prepared to handle the unexpected.

Our teams are always here to support you regardless of the circumstances. We’re considered the leader among Chicago’s death cleaning services because we take care of every detail with the highest levels of professionalism, and we also take care of you. When you need an understanding, compassionate response, you can count on us here at ServiceMaster Restoration by Zaba.