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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
• 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
• 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
• 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
• 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)