What should I do now?

Select a funeral home and inform the Funeral Director that the death is being handled by the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner. Ask them to notify us as soon as possible that they will be handling the arrangements. Our office does not select funeral homes, nor do we make arrangements. In the event someone is making the arrangements for the family, the Department of Medical Examiner must be provided with a notarized written authorization to release the deceased, signed and dated by the legal next of kin with the following information:

  1. Decedent name
  2. Medical Examiner case number
  3. Your name and phone number
  4. Your relationship to the decedent
  5. Name of selected Funeral Director
  6. Department of Medical Examiner
    1104 N. Mission Rd.
    Los Angeles, CA 90033
    FAX: 323.224.8979 or 323.222.7041

Should the designated individual reside at a distant location, they may send a fax directly to the funeral home.

If a body is to be shipped to a mortuary outside Los Angeles County, the local mortuary, as well as the distant mortuary must be specifically identified in the fax.

While all personal protective equipment should be used when handling remains and possible body fluids, accidents do occur. In the event emergency personnel, good samaritans, or family members are concerned with exposure, bloodborne pathogen testing can be requested. Click here for more information.

The Medical Examiner Forensic Science Laboratory conducts a comprehensive scientific investigation into the cause and manner of any sudden, suspicious or violent death occurring in Los Angeles County. Sometimes additional requests are made to laboratory for further testing, specimen holds, sample splits or to acquire biological samples for paternity testing. Click here for more information.

They will be taken to the Los Angeles County Department of Medical Examiner's main facility located at:

1104 N. Mission Road
Los Angeles, California 90033
(323) 343-0714

No. In the majority of cases, visual identification is not required. Should it become necessary for you to visit our office or to bring records or x-rays, a Department of Medical Examiner representative will contact you.

No. The Department of Medical Examiner's facility is not designed to accommodate viewing. Arrangements for viewing may be made at the selected funeral home.

Generally, it should not take more than two to three days. The Funeral Director of your choice will coordinate the release on your behalf.

Per California Government Code Section 27472, 54985 & Los Angeles County Code 2.22.100, the County is required to assess certain fees for transportation and handling. You will be billed by the Department of Medical Examiner for these services.

The death certificate is the official legal record of death. It includes information about the deceased and about their cause of death. Insurance companies, the United States Social Security Administration, and other agencies may request certified copies of the death certificate as proof of death.

Our Department does not maintain and/or distribute death certificates. The Department of Public Health is charged with this task for deaths that occurred up to 1 year from the date of death. Once a year has passed, they pass this duty on the to the Registrar Recorder. You may request the death certificates from the Funeral Home or from Public Health/Registrar Recorder directly. Please visit the following page for more information:

If the deceased or the legal next of kin do not have sufficient funds for burial, the alternative may be County disposition. In these circumstances, proof of indigence is required. The legal next of kin should contact the Department of Medical Examiner Identification and Notification unit at (323) 343-0755, and additional information will be provided. If County disposition is authorized, there may be substantial delays in receiving a death certificate and as a consequence, certain benefits.

Persons who have served in the United States Armed Forces, were honorably discharged, and meet other service requirements may be entitled to a Veteran's burial. For information contact the Los Angeles County Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at (213) 765-9681. For more information on Veterans or Social Security benefits, contact your funeral director.

Any of a decedent’s personal possessions in the custody of the Department of Medical Examiner may be claimed by the legal next of kin. Governmental documents (driver’s licenses, passports, military identification cards belonging to the decedent) will not be released to the next of kin. These documents will be returned to the issuing agency for disposition. To avoid any inconvenience to you, please call the Department of Medical Examiner's Personal Property Section at (323) 343-0515, before coming into the office.

The Personal Property Custodian will advise you if any documents will be needed and of any other requirements. The Personal Property Section is open from 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday and is closed weekends and holidays. Property release hours are from 10:00 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Sometimes personal possessions are taken into custody by other law enforcement agencies. You will need to contact those agencies to recover personal possessions in their custody. Clothing is not usually considered property. Unless there is a need to hold clothing as evidence, it is released to the mortuary recovering the deceased. Clothing that presents a health and safety hazard may be disposed of for the safety of all persons involved.

In order to enter you need to obtain permission from the agency listed on the door seal. If the seal indicates Public Administrator (yellow seal) involvement, call (213) 974-0460. If the seal is a Department of Medical Examiner seal (blue seal), call (323) 343-0755.

State law requires the Department of Medical Examiner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner, and cause of all sudden, violent, or unusual deaths, and those deaths where the decedent has not been seen by a physician 20 days prior to death. In such cases, the deceased will be taken to the Department of Medical Examiner's facility and for examination by a physician to determine the cause of death. A death certificate is issued after the examination is completed. Occasionally, more extensive testing is required, in which case an interim or “Deferred” death certificate is issued which will allow the family to make funeral arrangements. An amendment will later be issued to accompany the death certificate following completion of special testing.

In conjunction with OneLegacy, the Los Angeles County Medical Examiner supports the donation of organs and tissues. With consent, many types of organs and tissues may be donated to help others. If you are interested in donation, please call the Organ & Tissue Donor Referral Hotline at (800) 338-6112 as soon as possible. A representative will be available to answer your questions 24 hours a day.

Yes, if the Medical Examiner believes it will assist the inquiry into cause and manner of death, the decedent’s tissue(s)/organ(s)/body fluid(s) may be retained for analysis and/or evidentiary purposes pursuant to California Government Code Section 27491.4. Tissues/organs/body fluids retained at autopsy or as part of any Department of Medical Examiner investigative procedure will be disposed of pursuant to California Health and Safety Code Section 7054.4.

Yes. Please call the Department of Medical Examiner Records Section at (323) 343-0695 for more information.

A Proof of Death Letter is a certified letter documenting a decedent’s death. Information included is the name of the decedent, date & place of death. This letter does not substitute a Death Certificate.

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