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 What Must Be Done at Time of Death

The passing of a loved one is a most overwhelming and difficult time. Grief and sorrow make decision making all the more difficult. Whether the passing was expected or sudden, the things that must be done at the time of death does not change.

Below is a checklist of those items. There are some that can be done ahead of time, especially the locating and gathering of documents and information. They are not intended to be in any specific order but a guideline of the things that must be done.  

If the death occurred at home and the deceased was not a hospice patient, you must call your local authorities and/or emergency services. If the death was sudden, local authorities may require the presence of the coroner or medical examiner. If the deceased was a hospice patient, call the hospice agency. They will send a hospice representative to pronounce the death. They can also assist you in contacting your funeral home to make arrangements to pick up the deceased.

Contact your Funeral Director
Contact your Funeral Director and notify them of the death. They will make arrangements to pick-up the deceased and bring them back to the funeral home. Your funeral director will then contact you to come in to either review existing arrangements or start new arrangements. This is the first of extremely overwhelming tasks if starting from scratch. Emotions run paramount, it will appear that everyone that is with you will have something to say about the funeral, what type of casket, what type of vault, what type of ceremony, what to say in the obituary, etc. and your emotions and those around you could cause you to emotionally over spend. Although you are not required to pre-pay for funeral arrangements, it is prudent to pre-plan your funeral arrangements. Keep in mind that if the deceased did not have an assignable insurance policy or did not leave funds available for their funeral, this burden rests on the family. Funeral services must be paid in full at time of service.

The following are some considerations and choices while making funeral arrangements:

                            What type of casket
                            What kind of outer burial container
                            What type of service (religious, fraternal or military)
                            Clothing for the deceased
                            Location of Service (church, temple or graveside)
                            Funeral limousine list
                            Who will officiate the service
                            What scriptures or passages will be read
                            Type of flowers and music
                            Memorial Cards
                            Order Death Certificates
                            Vital Statistics of the deceased (for Death Certificate and Obituary)
                                       Name, Address and Phone Number
                                       Length of time at current address
                                       Occupation and Employer
                                       Address of Employer
                                       Social Security Number
                                       Military ID Number
                                       Date of Birth, Place of Birth
                                       Name of Father and birthplace
                                       Name of Mother, birthplace and maiden name

Contact Your Cemetery
 If you already have cemetery spaces, your funeral director will most likely contact the cemetery on your behalf and notify the counselors on duty of the pending arrangements and create an appointment for you to go to the cemetery and complete the cemetery arrangements. The cemetery staff will review your file, verify date and time of burial, coordinate with the funeral home, verify the location of cemetery property for burial, and collect any additional fees if necessary.

If you do not already have cemetery spaces, you will need to select your cemetery of choice and begin the process of selecting cemetery property. This is the second of extremely overwhelming tasks if starting from scratch. In most cases if you are selecting a cemetery that already has family interred there, your initial choice is to find a space or spaces that are near your family. In some cases the cemetery may have available spaces near your family, in many cases, they will not. Again, your emotions are running paramount. You want to select the best space, hopefully near family, and get that space for the best price. When purchasing cemetery property 'At Need' meaning a death has occurred, there are no negotiations regarding price or location. And if the deceased did not have an assignable insurance policy or did not leave funds available for their burial, this burden rests on the family. Cemetery property and services must be paid in full before burial can take place. You will have additional costs such as a memorial or monument or mark the grave.  

The following are some considerations and choices while making cemetery arrangements:

                            What type of burial (traditional in-ground, mausoleum, cremation inurnment)
                            Type of memorial with inscription
                            Give cemetery the authority to open and close grave
                            Provide original deed if cemetery property was pre-purchased
                            Provide cemetery with military papers for government issued marker
                            Determine if tent and chairs at service are wanted
                            Who will officiate the service at graveside
                            Will you have friends or family members speak at graveside
                            Will you have a military honor guard present for Taps and folding of the flag
Contact and Prepare to Meet Family Members and Close Friends
You will want to contact all family members and close friends of the deceased. Hopefully, you have access to an address book or some kind of listing. Be prepared to meet them and assist them with accommodations if from out of town.

Answer Letters, Phone Calls, Wires and Emails of Condolences
In addition to answering incoming condolences, maintain a list of callers, who sent flowers, letters, sympathy cards and/or made donations on behalf of the deceased. You will need to send thank you cards to these people and organizations a short time after the funeral.

Contact the Employer(s) of the deceased
If the deceased was still employed, you will need to contact that employer to notify them of the passing. They will contact their Human Resources department so the information can be noted and recorded. And it is also a courtesy to notify the employer so they do not worry about their employee not making it in and chances are, the co-workers will want to know about the arrangements as well.

Contact your selected Pallbearers
You will need to contact the designated Pallbearers regarding the passing and funeral arrangements. In some cases the deceased may have already expressed their wishes regarding Pallbearers.

Contact all Insurance Agents
All insurance agencies must be notified. Auto, Home, Life, etc. If the deceased did not record their insurance agencies, policy numbers and contact information, you will need to do some investigation to determine what they had. Once notified, the insurance agencies will tell you what documentation they will need such as the Death Certificate, what type and how many they will need.

Contact any Religious, Fraternal and/or Civic Organizations the deceased belonged to
You will need to think about who will officiate the burial. Also, was the deceased a veteran, or member of the police force or fire department. You will want to contact those organizations especially if you want that organizations Honor Guard at the burial. If the deceased was a veteran you will want to discuss this with your Funeral Director, and your Cemetery. You will need to locate the deceased DD214 or military separation papers in order for the Funeral Director to order the American Flag, and for the cemetery to order a military marker.

Contact Local Newspapers regarding the obituary
 Your Funeral Home can make the arrangements with your local newspaper regarding the obituary. If you or your family wants any additional obituaries perhaps in other locations, you will need to contact those newspapers directly.

Contact the Attorney, Executor or Executress of the Estate and Accountant

Contact the Social Security Administration Office
We are all entitled to a death benefit from Social Security of $225. This is not automatic and must be applied for. Also, the Social Security Administration must be notified of the death to either stop Social Security benefits or adjust Social Security benefits to the surviving spouse.

Important Documents to Locate that You Will Need

                            Cemetery Property Deed or Certificate of Ownership
                            Automobile and Recreational Vehicle Titles
                            Citizenship papers if applicable
                            Social Security Card
                            Safety Deposit Box Key and Contents
                            Birth Certificate
                            Marriage Certificate if applicable
                            Insurance Policies, Numbers and Contact Information
                            Bank Account Numbers and Contact Information
                            Prior 2 years of Tax Returns
                            Military Discharge Papers
                            Mortgage Documents (Deed(s) and Finance Documents)


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