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Frequently Asked Questions

Time Frames and Expectations

  • How long before a body is released to a funeral home or cremation service?

    A body is typically available for release to a funeral home or cremation service within 24 – 48 hours, unless there are extenuating circumstances requiring additional examination or investigative process.

  • How long does it take to receive a final report?

    The timeline for obtaining reports can take up to three or four months. Reports will be made available through the State's Chief Medical Examiner's Office.

  • What does a "Pending" Cause of Death mean?

    This means that the initial examination does not reveal enough information to provide an adequate cause of death and additional laboratory studies or investigations are required. An exact time frame for when a case will be completed cannot be given as circumstances vary from case to case. Some cases can take 12 weeks or more to complete.

  • How long does it take to receive a Supplemental Death Certificate?

    It can take 2 – 3 weeks to obtain a Supplemental Death Certificate after it has been completed

Insurance Claims Assistance​​

  • Can you assist with insurance claims?

    When an insurance company will not accept a death certificate with a "Pending" cause, the MCMEO may be able to provide a letter satisfying the insurance requirements.

Unclaimed Bodies

  • What happens when a body remains unclaimed due to a family not being able to pay for burial or cremation services?

    The legal next-of-kin can release the body to OCME/State of NC for disposition, and relieve family members of any legal access to the remains.

  • What happens if the body is unclaimed after a Medical Examiner case?

    It will be transported to Raleigh for cremation, where the cremains will then be delivered to the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office. After a period of time, the cremains will be transported to the NC Coast for a burial at sea.

  • What happens if the decedent is a Storage Case?

    The Mecklenburg County Department of Social Services will designate a local funeral home that will either cremate the body or provide a “paupers burial”. 

  • What happens if a decedent is unidentified or legal next of kin CANNOT be located?

    The remains will be held by the Chief Medical Examiner’s Office for an indefinite period of time.

Family Wishes and Viewings

  • Can I view my loved one at the Medical Examiner’s Office?

    No, the office is not designed to accommodate family viewings except in rare circumstances involving questions about the identification of the body.

  • What if my family objects to an autopsy?

    Not everyone who is examined is autopsied. While the final decision to perform an autopsy is determined by the Pathologists on staff, family wishes or religious beliefs are taken into consideration whenever possible. The next-of-kin should contact the office in order to make the family’s wishes known, but should be aware that the Medical Examiner’s Office must follow legal requirements as mandated by State Law.


  • Do I have to pay for the Medical Examiner examination?

    No. Cases accepted under Medical Examiner jurisdiction are paid for by the County or State. The MCMEO does not perform private autopsies.

Personal Property

  • What happens to personal property on the decedent?

    In most cases, the personal property is removed at the place of death and turned over to family or law enforcement. In Homicide cases, personal effects that are considered to be evidence are turned over to the investigating law enforcement agency. Personal property transported to the Medical Examiner’s Office along with the body is inventoried and secured in our office until time that the body is released to the funeral home or cremation service so they can transfer these items to family members.

  • Can personal property be released directly to family?

    Yes. Items can be released to the legal next-of-kin with proper identification (current State Driver’s License or State ID Card). Arrangements should be made prior to the body’s release to the funeral home or cremation service otherwise the personal items will be sent with the body.