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When Death Occurs

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General Guidelines A Beginning Overview

If the decedent is at a RESIDENCE, BOARD AND CARE FACILITY or ASSISTED LIVING FACILITY, there are two general scenarios:

1.) If the decedent IS under hospice care, call the hospice company 24/7. The nurse will come out to pronounce the loved one passed away. Then, let hospice notify the funeral home. You do not need to contact us yourself, please allow hospice to do so. The nurse is trained to provide the funeral home with critical information for transport. Lafferty & Smith can be reached 24/7, as well. We will generally be out to the residence within 1-3 hours, depending on traffic and distance from transport staff.

2.) If the decedent is NOT under hospice care (in Sonoma County), you would need to call COUNTY DISPATCH. This number will allow the proper medical authorities in the form of ambulance to come out to the residence. They can be reached at (707) 576-1365. They can ensure that 911 ambulance emergency services is reserved for the living. Wait for instructions from the medical authorities as to when you can contact the funeral home. The funeral home cannot take possession of the loved one's remains until a proper medical authority has established death and the coroner has released the decedent from any hold. Once you are given permission to contact the funeral home, call Lafferty & Smith at (707) 539-2921. From that point, we would gather name and location information from you and we would generally be out to the residence within 1-3 hours from when we are contacted.

If the decedent is at a SKILLED NURSING FACILITY (also known as a nursing home, post-acute facility or simply SNF):

1.) Advise the nurse of the funeral home name and phone number. Let the nurse contact the funeral home. They are trained to provide the funeral home with critical information for transport.

If the decedent is at an acute-care HOSPITAL (Kaiser, Memorial, Sutter, etc.):

1.) Advise the nurse of the funeral home name and phone number and ask them to contact Lafferty & Smith for you. However, it is a good idea to contact the funeral home yourself, as well, particularly in circumstances when the loved one is in their holding facility (morgue). This will ensure there is minimized delay in retrieving the loved one from the facility.

If the decedent is at a CORONER or MEDICAL EXAMINER'S holding facility:

1.) Please notify us of the death and remember that Sonoma County Coroner and most coroner or medical examiner's facilities do not release decedents over the weekend or holidays. They also generally have limited weekday access hours during which they release decedents. 

Our telephones are always answered to respond to a death call. If a death occurs at night or on the weekend, we can generally transport the decedent from a residence, board and care facility, assisted living facility, skilled nursing facility or acute care hospital 24/7. Remember that coroner or medical examiner's facilities coordinate with funeral homes during the holding facility's routine business or release hours. When deaths occur overnight or on the weekend, to schedule a follow-up appointment to finalize funeral arrangements, you will generally hear back from our funeral director when we return to our office hours. Oftentimes, by that point, the loved one is already in our care, and we will help to facilitate the next steps and answer any questions you may have. If the decedent is at a holding facility with standardized release hours, we will estimate when the transport can occur.

Meet the Funeral Director and Staff

On your first in-person or distance meeting with us, we will discuss the arrangements for your loved one’s care. You will be offered a list of our packages/services so you can decide what suits your family’s preferences and budget. You will be asked whether you’d prefer burial or cremation arrangements and optionally you would select a casket or cremation urn, schedule a time and date for the services if you choose to have them, decide on the location of the resting place, draft an obituary notice if you prefer, arrange for vehicle services, and select pallbearers. You can have anywhere from very simple to more elaborate arrangements, and we know that each family honors their loved one uniquely. We would also use this opportunity to inquire about your loved one for us to have a better understanding of the person the services will honor. If choosing ceremonies, it will be extremely helpful if you can bring some memorabilia — photos, videos, treasured items, letters — that would give your guests a clearer picture on how you envision paying tribute to your loved one.

Can't Visit Us In Person? - Authenticating Remotely

Under most circumstances, a Notary Public is not required in order to submit signed paperwork to us when you are away from our office. However, we must still verify the identity of the informant using either a driver's license (current or not) or passport, which will generally suffice. A snapshot of this driver's license or passport can alternatively be "texted" to Lafferty & Smith at our landline (which doubles as a texting line): (707) 539-2921.

Forms To Facilitate Arrangements

Authority for Release of Remains (when NOT at a coroner or medical examiner's facility)

Click on the graphic on the left to download the file.

Sonoma County Coroner Release of Custody Certificate

Click on the graphic on the left to download the file.

Vital Statistics Information Form

Click on the graphic on the left to download the file.

Cremation Arrangements Packet

Click on the graphic on the left to download the file.

Burial/Entombment Arrangements Packet

Click on the graphic on the left to download the file.

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