If an unmarried person dies in their house, how is their death discovered?

Assume that they don’t have a live-in-boyfriend/girlfriend. And also that they don’t have any kids that live with them. (Either because their kids are grown or they never had any kids in the first place.)

Since nobody else lives with them, it seems like a mystery how anybody would discover their death.

How is such a person’s death discovered? And how long does discovering the death usually take?

If they are working, the job will probably check on them when they didn’t show up or answer thr phone. And the neighs might notice they haven’t seen them in a while.

The police will do a “wellness check” upon request, breaking the lock on the door if necessary.

Here’s a story from a few years ago.

I can answer this from a law enforcement point of view, as I have been unfortunate enough to been the discoverer a few times over the years.

The main thing that happens is people all of a sudden don’t show up for work for a week. After numerous telephone calls and even a visit to their home somebody calls the police. Mail piling up in the box and a report from utilities that bills haven’t been paid along with grass not being mowed may prompt a welfare check entry. (Yes, there are steps and processes that have to be done before we go forcing ourselves inside a home).

Finding someone dead from natural causes after a few weeks is bad enough. When they opted out voluntarily via a shotgun blast is when it really gets nasty.

For older/retired people substitute not showing up for work with not contacting friends/family for a long time, or not paying certain bills for a while. Utility companies will contact the police if bills haven’t been paid and there is no indication that the person has moved.

I could go on. Eventually someone notices someone not being around. The time period can be a few days to months. It depends on the individual and their life style.

Eventually someone would miss them out in the world. A friend would keep calling and getting no answer and inquire. You hope.
I have thought of this quite a bit. I am alone alot. Don’t work. An insulin dependant T1. No neighbors. My kids would eventually decide I wasn’t answering the phone. Might take a week or so. Mr.Wrekker would come in sometime.
I think this is exactly how I will die.

People overwhelmingly have other people in contact with them regularly or irregularly.

  1. Job
  2. Friends
  3. Relatives
  4. Neighbors
    When they can’t repeatedly get in touch with them they may either come check themselves or contact the police.

In a smaller town when the mailbox fills up the mail delivery person may do some checking.

When I was in high school I regularly helped an elderly neighbor with some chores and discovered his dead body when going over to do those chores.

Happened to 3 people I’ve worked with. This over the course of nearly 3 decades.

Their unexplained absences, even more so considering they’ve always had good attendance records.

In one case, the guy died in a house fire in a relatively remote area.

I posted somewhere in this forum that I joked with my family about wondered how long it would take for someone to check up on me if I died since I live alone. Since I don’t keep in regular contact with anyone, rarely see my apartment neighbors and if I’m between jobs, I guess a few weeks at least before the smell seeps under my door, probably longer since my air-con is always on which slows the decaying process. I worked and did “removals” after hours and it’s surprising how long it takes a body to smell if kept inside. Since my exterior door is very sound and smell proof, multiple months would likely pass until my savings can’t cover the auto transfer to my checking account tor my autopay rent. I’ve taken it off, but I used to have my electric bill (water is included in the rent), so again, until my checking account ran out of money.

When I lived in the family home, the children of my neighbor (who was retired) would visit every couple of weeks or so. Once when they tried calling her (I heard the phone ringing continuously) and only when she didn’t after 50+ rings did they call my Mom to check if she saw their mother recently. Only when my Mom replied no, did they visit her house and found her missing. Turns out she had gone on a trip and purposely didn’t tell anyone.

I worked with Michelle Jones. She had a Sex and the City type friendship with her girlfriends…talking to them at least once a day.

She didn’t show up at work. She didn’t meet her friends for a planned dinner. They stopped by the house and knocked on the door. When there was no answer, they went around to the garage and saw Charles Brandt’s body. They were the ones who called the police.

This reminds me of Grandma’s House by Wall of Voodoo: Instrumental music, with a continuously ringing telephone.

This is a particular concern for me as I am retired, live alone, and have become perforce solitary by nature. Here in the UK the post workers notice if your mail is piling up.

As I get older and like to live alone it’s something I think about myself. In Australia there are a number of organisations who can arrange a daily phone call to ensure you are still alive and well, I would hope most countries have similar schemes. It can be free such as the Red Cross or subsidised by welfare.

For those of you that worry about this, I’ve recently started to use Dead Man’s Switch, a website solution that holds a (final) email message in storage until preset queries from the site go unanswered.

It makes me crazy to think that if I die, my pets might suffer too.

Here’s the email message that I composed:
*This message was sent from an internet software program that I set up called “Dead Man’s Switch.”
This software is designed to notify you in case I am incapacitated (or worse). The software requires that I check in daily. If I miss a check in, the software will send this message.
If you have received this message, there’s a good chance that I AM incapacitated (or worse), and that (Pet 1) and (Pet 2) are alone and in danger.
PLEASE make an effort to contact me ASAP.


A Lifetime Premium Upgrade of $20 allows up to 100 recipients, 100 messages and custom interval setting.

I’m not alone very often, but when I am, this gives me a little peace of mind.

Only partially related, since the detection part was pretty quick, but there was a good NYT piece following the full path of someone dying alone at


I believe there home monitors that track your vital signs. Stop breathing or you heart stops and an alert is transmitted to the company who in turn alerts emergency services. I thought of getting one, but kind of like the idea of someone finding me months later! :smiley:

My oldest sister (who lives alone), said one time she took some pills and thought she was choking. When she told me she planned to drive to herself to the hospital, I laughed and said that long before she got there, she’d have passed out and likely died anyway!:smack:

-Delete- Double post

My friend lives three hours from her elderly dad so they had a daily phone call ritual. When she couldn’t reach him, she arranged a welfare check. Actually, the first time that happened, it turned out his phone was out of order. The second time, he’d passed away.

My grandfather’s elderly, widowed, childless neighbor who had no friends, no visitors and habitually never opened his curtains was found within a couple of days when the local shop keeper noticed he didn’t come in for his daily newspaper and called the police to do a welfare check.

I worry about my pets too. I am afraid if I did the deadman switch thing it would send the message when I got myself locked in the laundry room, again. I just had to climb out of a shed window 2 days ago. I am a master at locking myself in or out of places. It’s the bain of my existence.

When I was a kid, a solitary retiree passed away of a heart attack a couple of houses away. The postal carrier called police when the mail wasn’t touched for a week but his car was in the driveway. He’d always been good about stopping the mail when out of town, and the carrier knew he typically drove when he left.

A cousin of mine had a stroke last year and died, and it was only a couple of days before he was found. He lived alone but was active online, and people on Facebook contacted his brother when they noticed he hadn’t replied to posts as promptly as usual. (He was actually at his computer when they found him, and was writing a post).

An uncle was found by his daughter after a week, when his job finally contacted her to find out why he hadn’t shown up all week.