Ok, I know this sounds really weird. I just don't know where to ask. Anyway, one of my characters sneaks into the woods and gets bitten by an insect (it's a long story). She has a severe allergic reaction and dies before her family finds her the next morning. What exactly would happen after? Like would her parents have to fill out a lot of paperwork? Would there be a whole police investigation? I have no idea how this works, so anything helps. Thanks in advance!

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    Hi yum_kat23. You'll have to do your own research; this question is off-topic. Please refer to the help center and tour. Aug 24, 2020 at 5:19
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    The answer (which you will need to research yourself) will be dependent not only on jurisdiction – Yorkshire? Kuwait? Alabama? Papua New Guinea? Norway? A fantasy place like Lake-town in Middle Earth? – and time – now, or 1920, or 2050, or 1200 CE? – but also characters and context – e.g. is the family high nobility or common criminals or undocumented immigrants? Best advice: look up some questions on this site about how to research your story. :-) Aug 25, 2020 at 6:42

2 Answers 2


Don't forget the endless details outside of the legal ones:

If you've ever seen the unexpected death of a close relation, there's more to the story there. People are stunned and disoriented. Reality seems broken and it's hard to focus. Some launch themselves into the details of planning the burial and funeral; ordering flowers, arranging meals, paying organists, etc. Often this is to avoid dealing with feelings. Others wander in a fog. Families under the best of conditions are conflicted about things. Aunt X only cares if the funeral is Lutheran, while cousin Y is convinced it's their fault because they didn't go with the person.

If the body is found by strangers, then the identity of the body needs to be established. This may mean the stereotypical viewing or confirmation by some more extensive method like dental records. A person with an injury or whose body was disfigured by what killed them may be problematic (I don't know how much the swelling from anaphylactic shock goes down after death).

From a legal standpoint, the question becomes, "Is there doubt that this was an accident?" If there is any doubt, the body is held by the coroner until a ruling can be made. If questions arise then the body may be held indefinitely until it is no longer evidence. Generally, once an autopsy is done, they try to release the body to the family for burial. If a charge is brought, the body may be held longer because the defence may request a second autopsy by their own experts.

If the body needs to be transferred, this is usually taken care of by undertakers. Interstate burials can be a little more complex, but a good mortician will make a lot of problems melt away.

After the service, if the person has any assets there are endless poorly coordinated appointments even for those who arranged everything carefully. Few unexpected deaths are well orchestrated. These are frequently young people with relatively few assets, but almost no planning. Older folks often have detailed plans with burial sites, churches, music, and carefully written wills. The real awkward folks are those old enough to have jobs and kids, but not old enough to think they'll die.


When my brother died of a drug overdose all my parents had to do was identify the body and make funeral arrangements. I don't think they will have to do much more than that.

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