Once someone dies, a designated family member or someone else who is responsible must claim the remains or make arrangements to remove the remains within 72 hours. The order of who can claim the remains of a deceased person is as follows:
- Anyone designated in writing
- An executor of the deceased person's estate
- The person's spouse at the time of death
- A surviving adult child
- A surviving parent
- Other adult next of kin
- A recognized religious or community organization
If the family does not have enough money to pay for burial costs, whoever is responsible for the remains can apply for General Assistance at a local township to help pay for the funeral. The township will give the deceased person's family a choice to donate the remains to be used for medical science. If the family decides to donate the remains to science, the family is responsible for making sure the remains are used according to the procedures of the medical institution that receives the deceased. The medical institution will be responsible for moving the remains.
If no one claims the remains or makes arrangements to remove the remains within 72 hours, the state will have custody of the deceased. The director of any state facility that holds the remains must make reasonable efforts to contact a family member or someone else responsible for the body. If successful, the person responsible for the remains has 72 hours to claim the body or make arrangements to remove it from the facility.
If the family of the deceased cannot be found or does not remove the body within 72 hours, the facility will donate the remains to be used for medical science unless any of the following is true:
- The remains are part of a criminal investigation, or
- The person who died said in writing not to donate the remains.
As soon as possible after the 72 hours, the facility must do what it can to verify the identity of the deceased, including the person's race and religion. This information must be given to the Illinois Department of Public Health. The facility must also keep records of how and when family members were contacted and any documents about the deceased. Medical institutions that receive donated remains must also get the information about the deceased from the facility.
Once remains are donated to science, the medical institution must hold the body for 30 days before using it. Then the remains will be cremated after the body is used. The medical facility will try to give the cremated remains to a responsible family member. If that person is not available or is unwilling to accept them, the remains will be buried in a cemetary and the family member will be notified. The medical facility cannot transfer or sell the remains once it has finished using them.
A family member or responsible party can ask, in writing, the medical institution to return the remains at any time. The medical facility must return the remains at its own expense within a reasonable amount of time.
Updated: March 2018