Losing someone close to you can be difficult, and if you are responsible for handling funeral arrangements and personal matters, the experience is often daunting. If this applies to you, here is a checklist of issues that need to be taken care of after someone that you love passes away. Remember that some of these things can only be handled by the executor of a person’s assets, so if you do not have this responsibility, it is generally a good idea to work closely with the person who is.
Get a legal notification of death
This is something that needs to be dealt with as soon as possible after they have died. If your loved one died in a hospital, this is usually taken care of by a doctor. However, if your loved one has died home or in another place, you will need to know whom to call and notify. If he or she has died while in hospice care, call the nurse. If your family member has not been to a hospice or a hospital, you may need to call 911.
Arrange organ donation, if appropriate
Check your loved one’s driver’s licence and/or advance directive to see if they intended to be an organ donor. If they were, let hospital staff know immediately (or call a nearby hospital if your loved one died at home). Organ donation is time-sensitive, so this is one area where it is crucial to act quickly.
Let their family and friends know
This is never an easy one to do. Each family is different, and there’s no right or wrong way to do it. Some families need to share news in person or over the phone. An email or text message may be okay for others. If possible, split up the task between several family members to take the pressure off you.
Decide what you want to do with their body and organize transport
First of all, check to see if your loved one has shared any wishes for what they want to happen to their body after their passing, or if they have made any prepayments or plans with any specific funeral home or cemetery. If they haven’t expressed any preferences or made any plans, you have three main options to consider:
- Call your funeral home. A funeral home will help you arrange a cremation or burial. We recommend checking reviews and rates for a few different funeral homes, as both can vary widely. A couple of minutes of work can save you thousands of dollars and any unwelcome surprises.
- A cremation service. While you can arrange cremation through a funeral home, there are also cremation-specific firms that will deal with you directly if you are not interested in the additional services of a funeral director. Direct cremation through a cremation service can be a lot cheaper than the cost of cremation through a funeral home.
- Call a full-body donation company. Your loved one may have already registered to be a body donor, so check their paperwork. If they haven’t, there are still many programs that accept donations, such as university medical programs.
Decide on funeral plans
If you have decided to work with a funeral home, talk to the` the funeral director to see what you can do. If you have chosen for an immediate burial (burial without any ceremony), cremation or donation to science, you may also want to hold a memorial service or a celebration of life at a later date.
Write an obituary
Draft an obituary for your loved one and get input from your friends and family. When it is complete, decide if you would like to pay for it to be published in your local newspaper. You can also post your obituary online for free.
Set the schedule for the funeral
Determine the time and place for any event, and for formal occasions, write down a detailed list of all that will happen.
Order any printed materials and flowers
If you want programs, prayer cards, or flowers at the service, order them a couple of days in advance. You can often order them directly through the funeral home, which will minimize effort on your part. However, you will usually be able to find a better deal by shopping around.
Organize food and drink
If you are having a wake after the burial or cremation, you may need to think about the catering. You can choose to provide your own food, coordinate with a caterer, have a potluck, or hold an event in a venue where guests can purchase their own food and drink. Any of these choices are entirely acceptable and depend on your personal preferences and budget.
Order a headstone
Because headstones are rarely ready for in time for the burial, you can save this job until you have a little more time after the funeral. There are some beautiful headstones in granite or bronze available – spend a little time looking through them and finding the right one to represent your loved one.
Order copies of the death certificate
You may need as many as ten copies of the death certificate – maybe even more – depending on how many accounts your loved one had and how many places you need to notify. Your funeral director may be able to help you to order them. Or you can do it yourself from your city hall or local records office.
Start the probate process
If the estate is relatively small, it does not contain unusual assets and is unlikely to be contested by family members, you might be able to handle it on your own. However, it is worth considering whether you should hire a probate lawyer to help navigate the process if it looks more complicated.
Spend some time grieving and coming to terms
The initial period after a death can be busy and can take your mind off what has happened. However, once that phase has passed, it is important to allow yourself time to grieve and come to terms with the death. Reach out to family and friends. If it feels like it is too much, don’t be afraid to talk to the professionals.