When a Death Occurs
When a loved one passes away, the many tasks that are necessary
can be very overwhelming. Below are some common questions that
families have when they begin the process of arranging a funeral.
If your question or concern is not addressed here, please contact
the funeral home directly.
Who should I notify?
The first phone calls made upon news of a death will
depend on the circumstances. When someone dies in a hospital or
other medical care facility, the staff will usually take care of
some of the arrangements, such as contacting your funeral home of
choice and, if necessary, arranging an autopsy.
You will need to notify family, friends and clergy. It may be
easier on you to make just a few phone calls to close relatives and
ask them to inform specific people so the burden of spreading news
does not rest entirely on you. If you are alone, don't be afraid to
ask someone to keep you company as you make the first phone calls
and cope with the first hours after the death.
If a person dies at home or at work, the first call must be made
to 911. Any unexpected death occurring without a physician or
medical personnal present must be reported to the police and an
investigation held. The coroner will examine the body then arrange
for it to be transported to the morgue for autopsy (if necessary)
or to the funeral home.
If your loved one was currently receiving medical care, be sure
to notify the doctor. If your loved one was in hospice care, it is
not necessary to call 911. You can call the hospice facility
You'll also need to notify...
- The funeral home. A funeral director can help arrange
transportation of the body to the funeral home, begin collecting
information for the death certificate and obituary, help you notify
other parties such as Social Security, and provide grief
- The employer. If the deceased was working, the employer must be
notified as soon as possible. Ask about any benefits the deceased
was receiving or will receive, including any pay due (including
vacation or sick time), disability income, etc. Ask if you or other
dependents are still elegible for benefit coverage through the
company. Determine whether there is a life insurance policy through
the employer, who the beneficiary is, and how to file a claim.
- The life insurance company. Look through the deceased's
important papers for a life policy. Call the agent or company to
determine how to file a claim. Usually the beneficiary (or the
beneficiary's guardian, if a minor) myst complete the claim forms
and related paperwork. You'll need to submit a certified death
certificate and a claimant's statement to establish proof of claim.
Ask about payment options. You may have a choice between receiving
a lump sum or having the company place the money in an
interest-bearing account from which you can write checks.
- Other organizations. Usually the funeral home will contact
Social Security and the Veterans Administration (if applicable) on
your behalf. You will want to contact any unions, professional or
service organizations, or fraternal organizations of which your
loved one was a member. He or she may have had life insurance or
other benefits through these organizations.
- The court. If you were named executor of your loved one's will,
you'll need to file a probate case with the court. An attorney is
not required, but it may help you to hire one that is experienced
in probate. As executor, you'll be responsible for carrying out
your loved one's wishes according to the will, paying creditors and
balancing the estate. There is no standard time for probate, and it
can be complicated and lengthy.
- The bank. If you have a joint account with the deceased, you
may be able to conduct business as usual depending on how the
account was opened. Otherwise, usually only the will's executor or
administrator can access the account after providing the required
paperwork to the bank. You will need to contact your bank to
determine their requirements.
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What information should I bring
to the arrangement conference?
When you first call the funeral home, you will probably
answer a few general questions about funeral plans--some vital
statistics about the deceased, whether there was a prearrangement
or a will, the decedent's or family's preference for burial or
cremation, and possibly your thoughts on what services you'd like
to hold. Plans will be finalized when you meet with the funeral
director. The following list does not include everything, but it is
a general list of things you may want to bring with you to the
- Vital information about the decedent--date and place of birth
and death, parents' names, names of pre-deceased relatives and
survivors, Social Security number, dates of marriages/divorces
- Highest level of education
- Military information including separation or discharge papers
(DD-214), if the deceased was a veteran
- Any information related to a pre-arrangement, if
- Place of burial or final disposition if a cemetery plot has
- Photographs--one or two recent photographs will be used during
the embalming and cosmetizing process
- Names and phone numbers of clergy or celebrants you wish to
involve in the ceremonies
- Clothing, including undergarments and jewelry or glasses you
would like the deceased to be viewed wearing
- Records of life insurance policies
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Who should come with me to the
If you are the only next-of-kin, do not feel like you
need to make all the arrangements alone. Families often come to the
arrangement conference in groups for moral support and to
participate in the funeral experience. back to
there was a pre-arrangement?
If your loved one made a pre-arrangement with our funeral
home, we'll have that information on file here for you. We will use
the time in the arrangement conference to go over any details that
were not yet planned for.
If your loved one pre-arranged their funeral with another
funeral home and you wish to transfer that arrangement to us,
please let us know as soon as possible. If the funeral has been
pre-paid at another funeral home, we can transfer those funds to
our funeral home to make sure your loved one's wishes are
fulfilled. back to top
the death occurred away from home?
If a death occurs away from home, contact us first. We
will find a local funeral home near the place of death and arrange
for preparation and transportation of the remains back to our
funeral home on your behalf. We can also help coordinate with
the other funeral home if you are planning to have a service prior
to having the family member returned to your home area. back to top
What if there is no
Dying intestate--dying without a will--means that a
probate judge will appoint an administrator of the deceased's
estate. If you are chosen as the administrator, your
responsibilities will be similar to those of an executor of a will:
distributing assets, paying creditors and balancing the estate.
Many people assume that upon a person's death, all assets will
immediately go to the spouse. If there is no will, this is not
always the case. Most states will divide assets between the
surviving spouse and any children, regardless of the children's
ages. If there are no children, some assets may be granted to the
parents of the deceased. In the case of a single person with
children, the entire estate will be split among them. When a person
is single with no children, the estate may be granted to the
parents (or siblings, if parents are deceased).
It is important to remember that state probate laws vary, and
individual situations may be taken into account in probate court
when decisions are made to distribute the deceased's assets. If you
have any questions or concerns, you may want to consult an attorney
that is experienced in end-of-life planning and probate. back to top
My loved one was a
veteran. What benefits can he or she receive?
Benefits are available to veterans whether they are
interred in a national cemetery or a private cemetery. If your
loved one will be laid to rest in a national cemetery, benefits
include a gravesite in any national cemetery with open space, fees
for opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone or
marker, a flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost
to the family. If the veteran will be buried in a private cemetery,
he or she is eligible for a government headstone or marker, a flag,
and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. In some circumstances, he
or she may be eligible for a burial allowance. To determine exactly
what benefits your loved one will receive, contact the Veterans
Administration directly or visit their website here. back to top