|When you first
receive news of a death, be it expected or unexpected, the initial reaction
is shock. Even if you have nursed a loved one through illness or
old age, it can still be numbing and distressing when they finally pass
away. If you are the next-of-kin and responsible for making the funeral
arrangements or executing the will, you can be overwhelmed with decisions
to make immediately.
Pronouncing the death
Most deaths do actually occur
at a hospital and if a loved one passed away in a hospital, hospice or
nursing home the staff will have already have had the death formerly pronounced
by a medical practioner. If a loved one happens to pass away at home
you do need to call 911. Paramedics will transport your loved one
to hospital where a doctor can formerly pronounce the death. In some
areas paramedics may pronounce a death eliminating the need to transport
the deceased to the hospital.
What needs to be done
immediately on news of the death?
The first things you will
need to do are to make a few phone calls to notify people of the death.
If your loved one passed away in a hospital or nursing facility, the staff
can usually assist you with some of the initial arrangements, such as contacting
the funeral home you have selected. If your loved one passed away
in a hospital, they may also be able to hold the body for a short period
in their morgue, whilst you make arrangements with a funeral home.
It can be helpful to make initial phone calls to immediate family and your
minister (if required) to enlist some support with communicating the news
and making arrangements.
Once you have decided upon a
funeral director to work with, the funeral firm can support you with a
number of other aspects of arrangements that need to be taken care of.
the services of a funeral professional
One of the first main tasks
to be undertaken is to enlist the services of a funeral director.
The funeral director needs to collect the deceased from the place of death
and consult with you about what kind of funeral arrangements you require.
If the deceased did not have a funeral plan and you have not already decided
upon a funeral home to employ, this can be a daunting task to have to undertake
immediately. It is a good idea to get some help from family or friends
to decide which funeral home to contact. You may need to make a few
calls to check prices and availability of schedules with more than one
What do I need to take
to the funeral home?
When you make your first
visit to the funeral home to make arrangements for the funeral there are
a number of items that you should take with you:
If the funeral home is organizing
the obituary or an online memorial for you, you may wish to take along
a photo of the deceased. Likewise, if it is planned to have a viewing,
visitation or an open-casket service, you should take along the clothes
and any jewelry for preparing your loved one.
The deceased’s personal information
– such as birth date, city, state of birth, social security number, parent’s
names, marital status and education information.
Details of the insurance company
if the deceased held life insurance or burial insurance. (It is recommended
that you do not disclose details of the policy or amount if negotiating
a funeral cost. But the funeral home will need to contact the insurance
company to verify that the policy covers the funeral price.)
Copies of any military discharge
(DD 214) paperwork for a veteran.
Any cemetery deed paperwork.
Any funeral preplan documentation.
If a funeral or memorial
service is to take place you may wish to gather together any special memorabilia
to be displayed during the service.
Notify the deceased’s
employer (if relevant)
If your loved one was working
you will need to contact your loved one’s employer to notify them.
You may also want to check about any outstanding pay and any benefits that
may transfer to surviving family, such as life or health insurance cover.
Notifying Social Security
Social Security should be
notified as soon as possible of the death. Your funeral director
will generally file a notice with Social Security as part of the process
of filing the death certificate.
certified copies of the death
certificate to be able to send multiple notifications out at the same time.
Some entities will accept photocopies of a death certificate, whereas others
require an original copy.
Banks, Utilities & Other Authorities
It can be a mammoth task
to contact all the companies and organizations that need to be notified
in terms of closing or changing accounts, claiming benefits or terminating
services. It can be a great help if the deceased had already put
their affairs in order, but if not you will need to make a list and begin
sending out written notifications. Some funeral homes will help you
organize this, and even have resources to support you, such as template
letters. You will need additional
Listed here are some of
the entities you need to notify of the death:
Life and health insurance
Social Security Administration
Department of Motor Vehicles,
US Postal Service
Voters’ registration office
Home maintenance providers
Newspaper and magazine subscriptions
It is very important to protect
the identity of your loved one from identity theft following his/her death.
This has become a growing issue today with our virtual identities and online
activities. The quicker you notify all entities about the death,
you are ensuring that you protect
your loved one’s identity.
Sorting out personal
You need to take the time
to grieve and allow yourself to adapt to your loss. The funeral and/or
memorial can help with this process, allowing you to have opportunity to
say goodbye and experience your feelings. It obviously helps if you
have a support network around you during this time. Many recently
bereaved can find that it is the time after the funeral which is the hardest,
when all the activity of arranging the funeral has gone, and there is time
to focus on your loss.
At some point you will need
to go through and organize personal belongings. How and when you
do this is all dependent on how you feel. Some people prefer to do
it as soon as possible, others prefer to take some time. Do what
is right for you, be guided by your own feelings and not those of others.
It can also help to have
a close friend or relative that can help you with sorting through personal
belongings. Sometimes the recently bereaved will even prefer to have
someone take over the whole process of sorting through personal belongings.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Reports ‘What to do when a loved one dies’
Security – The Official Website of the U.S. Security Administration
Last Revised: 06/08/2013