When someone close to you passes away, it can be difficult to see through the fog of grief. You know there are arrangements to be made and affairs to attend to, but it’s hard to be practical when you’re in pain. This guide is designed to help navigate some of the steps to consider taking following a loved one’s death. We hope that having a list of logistical items in front of you will help to free up a little more of your time to heal.
1. Formally Report the Death & Obtain a Death Certificate
When someone passes away, one of the first things to do is contact the proper authorities to begin the process of obtaining a death certificate. Death certification is completed by a doctor or coroner in conjunction with a funeral director, and while the requirements may vary from state to state, the form may look something like this.
If a death occurs in a hospital or in hospice care, the attending staff may be able to help with the process. If it occurs at home without a hospice nurse, you may call 911 to request that someone legally pronounce death. Keep in mind that if a Do Not Resuscitate order exists, you will need to present it to the paramedics. Otherwise, they may be required to perform emergency procedures, including potentially transporting the body to an emergency room.
If the deceased is an organ donor, make that known so appropriate steps can be taken. Although there’s a very small window to donate vital organs, tissue donation (such as skin, bone, corneas, and heart valves) may be possible for up to 24 hours.
2. Inform Family & Close Friends
This can be a hard phone call to receive, and possibly an even harder one to make, but it’s important. It’s ok to ask for help…once family members have been informed, consider contacting just a few of the departed person’s closest friends and colleagues and asking them to help deliver the sad news within their circles.
As difficult as it may be, sharing with others can help to create a support network and may be a first step toward healing for everyone involved. However, it may be a good idea to keep that network fairly close-knit initially. If you are among the first to know, it’s courteous to refrain from posting about the death on social media until you’re certain that everyone closest to the deceased is made aware.
3. Get in Touch with the Funeral Director & Begin Making Arrangements
If you’ve already established a connection with a funeral director prior to your loved one’s passing, contact them at the time of death. If a funeral home hasn’t been chosen, you may want to find one to work with pretty quickly to arrange for transportation of the body and completion of the death certificate.
When discussing cremation and burial costs, confirm whether any funeral pre-planning and/or pre-payment took place to ensure that you honor the wishes of the deceased and don't pay for anything previously covered.
As you begin the process of planning the funeral, you’ll typically be asked to provide the following information:
How will your loved one be laid to rest, what will they be dressed in, and what products to purchase?
• Traditional burial - you’ll want to choose a casket and decide whether it will be open or closed during the ceremony and/or viewing
• Cremation - you’ll want to choose an urn or other appropriate receptacle
• Green burial - you’ll want to ensure that the funeral home you’re working with offers this option and choose an approved alternative casket or shroud
What type of service(s) will you have, and what location(s) will you use?
• Funeral service - happens before the body is buried, cremated, etc., generally in a place of worship or at the funeral home
• Memorial service - happens after the body has been buried, cremated, etc., sometimes at a funeral home or place of worship, but often at a family member’s residence, a park, a restaurant, or other more casual gathering place
• Graveside service - a funeral service that occurs at the cemetery prior to burial
• Celebration of life - similar to a memorial service, but typically less somber
4. Contact the Cemetery and Arrange Transportation (if Applicable)
If your loved one will be laid to rest via burial, you’ll want to contact the cemetery to purchase a plot or mausoleum space (if one hasn’t been pre-purchased) and discuss headstone/memorial options (again, if that hasn’t already been taken care of).
If a cemetery hasn’t been pre-selected, and you’re not sure where to start, ask the funeral director or the church, synagogue, etc. for assistance.
The funeral home will typically provide a hearse to transport the remains. You might consider arranging transportation for other family members as well. It’s not required, but it may be a welcome convenience to not have to drive during such an emotional time, and it could help streamline the funeral procession as well.
5. Determine How Funeral Expenses will be Paid For
If there are any final expenses that haven’t been prepaid (as there often are), you’ll need to figure out how those will be funded. If the person who passed away had life insurance, of which you are the beneficiary, contact the appropriate policy provider or financial advisor to start the claim process.
It’s important to note that even if you had access to the bank accounts of the deceased via power of attorney, that typically ends at the time of death, so unless you are joint holder of an account, you may not be able to use those funds until the estate has been settled in court.
If you think you may need to pay funeral expenses in installments, be sure to mention this to the funeral director up front so you can talk about what options may be available.
6. Write an Obituary or Death Notice
An obituary is a way to communicate the news of someone’s death and also a way to honor their memory. Depending on where you plan to publish the obituary, it will need to be fairly brief, but some forums, especially online, may provide more space and flexibility.
Ideally, the obituary should reflect the personality of the person who’s passed away, so there are no specific rules for writing it, but there are some key elements to include:
• Announcement of death
• Biographical sketch
• Service times
• Special messages
7. Coordinate and Personalize the Service, Reception, etc.
Once all of the big things are taken care of, you can focus on the details for the day you’ll say goodbye. Of course it may vary depending on your unique plans, but here are some common checklist items:
• Choose an officiant
• Select readings and music
• Invite speakers to share readings and eulogies
• Create programs
• Order flowers
• Create photo slideshows/albums to display
• Obtain a guest book or other commemorative item to sign
Losing someone you love is never easy, but having a plan may allow you to move through a devastating time with a little more peace and grace. As we discuss all that goes into the process of saying goodbye, it’s a good time to consider the ways that final expense life insurance could help. Concern about how to cover the costs associated with death can add stress to an already overwhelming situation, and final expense life insurance may help cover some of those costs.
Getting a no obligation quote at finalwishescovered.com could put you one step closer to increased financial protection for your family when the time comes to pay for your final expenses. Let us help you leave a stronger legacy!