For Families:

What should I do now?

Select a local funeral home.  Please notify our office as soon as possible which funeral home you have selected to handle the arrangements.  Our office does not select funeral homes, nor do we make arrangements.

Where will my relative/friend be taken?

He/She will be taken to a funeral home of your choosing, unless other special testing (autopsy) is required by the Office of the Coroner. 

Is it necessary for me to come to the Office of the Coroner to identify the body?

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, the Coroner or Deputy Coroner will contact you.

Is viewing allowed?

No. The Office of the Coroner’s facility is not designed to accommodate viewing. Arrangements for viewing may be made at the selected funeral home.

How long will it take before my relative/friend is released from your office?

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

Will I be charged for other Coroner services?


Why do I need a death certificate?

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.

Where can I obtain a death certificate?

Our office does not maintain and/or distribute death certificates. You can request a death certificate at the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Vital Records and the Lewis and Clark County Clerk and Recorder.

Is there financial assistance available to me?

There is no financial assistance through the County at this time. In these circumstances, the legal next of kin should contact the selected funeral home and discuss additional options with them.

My relative/friend was in the military, who can I contact for burial information?

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 Fort Harrison Department of Military and Veterans Affairs at 406-442-6410 or online  For more information on Veterans or Social Security benefits, contact your funeral director.

How and when can personal possessions be claimed?

Any of a decedent’s personal possessions in the custody of the Office of the Coroner 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 Office of the Coroner before coming into the office.

The Property Officer will advise you if any documents will be needed and of any other requirements. 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 will be disposed of for the safety of all persons involved.

I need to enter my relative/friend's residence, but it is sealed. What can I do?

In order to enter you need to obtain permission from the agency listed on the door seal.

Why is the Office of the Coroner involved?

State law requires the Office of the Coroner to inquire into and determine the circumstances, manner, and cause of all sudden, violent, or unusual deaths and those deaths where the decedent poses a health hazard. In such cases the deceased will be taken to the Office of the Coroner’s facility and examined to determine the cause of death.  Occasionally, more extensive testing is required such as an autopsy, in which case the decedent will be transported to the Medical Examiner's Office in Missoula Montana.  An interim or “Pending” 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 (autopsy, toxicology).

What about tissue/organ donation?

The Office of the Coroner 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 let our office know and we can assist in notifying the appropriate agency. 

Are tissues, organs, blood and/or body fluids retained after the autopsy and the release of the body?

Yes, if the Coroner and Medical Examiner believe 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 MCA 46-4-110. Tissues/organs/body fluids retained at autopsy or as part of any Medical Examiner investigative procedure will be disposed of pursuant to MCA 46-4-103 (2).

Will an autopsy report be available to me?

Yes, upon request.