Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Medical Examiner's Office

What to Expect From the Medical Examiner's Office

The following information should help you make some decisions and hopefully make the process a little easier.

Friends, Family, Funeral Home

  • Involve your family and friends so that they can help you deal with the tragic and sometimes sudden news.
  • Start thinking about the selection of a funeral home.  If necessary and you do not have pre-arranged plans, call several funeral homes and ask questions. Once a funeral home selection has been made, they will make arrangements to bring your loved one into their care. Please contact our office with your funeral home choice. We cannot move forward without notification from the family regarding the funeral home that you have selected and we also cannot recommend a funeral home.


  • The medicolegal investigator that responded to your call will be in touch with you after autopsy to inform you of the results.  They will also be in contact with your funeral home of choice to let them know when to start arranging transport. 

Death Certificates

  • Depending upon the results of the autopsy, a "pending" death certificate may be issued.  Pending death certificates can be used for several of the decedent's estate matters but do not necessarily work for everything.  Copies of pending death certificates can be obtained from the Register of Deeds Office.  In most cases, your funeral home will ask you how many copies you would like of the final death certificate (which shows manner and cause).  They will file that order with the Register of Deeds (608-266-4141) and you will receive them in the mail once the death certificate is finalized.  Clarify with your funeral home what their procedure is.  Note there is a charge for each copy of a death certificate.

Autopsy Report

  • Four to six months after the autopsy date, the final report will be completed.  Again, the medicolegal investigator assigned to your loved one's case will be in contact with you to advise on cause and manner of death.  At that time, the pathologist will amend the death certificate to reflect this change.

Questions? Call Us...

  • Please talk to your funeral home regarding when to purchase death certificates.  If a "pending" death certificate was issued, the death certificate will be amended.  You will likely want to limit the amount of "pending" death certificates purchased.
  • If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call the main office at (608) 284-6000.