What Needs to Be Done When Someone Dies?

Top view of businessman planning the future - open notebook with word Plan on his desk surrounded by two curves of dominos, one standing and the other falling.

I had three calls this week from colleagues asking me to guide them through the process of what has to happen when a loved one dies.  Unfortunately in each case there was no preplanning nor had the families had any conversations about what type of funeral the deceased wanted.  Imagine their total bewilderment and shock at having to make important once in a life time decisions – all while they are in a state of total emotional overwhelm.

I think we could all agree that this is not the optimal state of mind to be in to have to make funeral decisions.  Especially when there are so many steps involved that haven’t been thought about.  To give you an idea of this comprehensive list, I have prepared a short list of just a few of the many steps involved in what needs to be done when someone dies.

The first thing that has to happen is to call the funeral home of your choice.  The funeral home calls this a First Call and will ask for many details including:

  • Name of the deceased?
  • Where is the deceased?
  • Has the deceased been released yet? This question is asking if the hospital has finished their paperwork and if the attending physician has signed a Medical Certificate of Death. Often the informant will not know this and, with the family’s permission, the funeral home will call the facility where the deceased died and confirm if the paperwork has been signed.  Once the body is released, the funeral home will send two people to transfer the deceased from the place of death to the funeral home.  The transfer of the deceased must be done by a licensed funeral director who brings the medical certificate of death with the deceased on the transfer to the funeral home.
  • The name of the contact person and their contact information.
  • Their relationship to the deceased.
  • Is there a valid will and who is the Estate Trustee?

The funeral home will ask for verbal permission from the authorized person to transfer the deceased and do the embalming work if wanted or required.

An appointment time will be set for later that day or the next day – depending on the family’s situation.  The funeral home will then outline the information and items the informant will need to bring in, or have thought about for the upcoming appointment, including and not limited to the following:

Vital Statistics required to register the death include:

  • Date and place of birth.
  • The date and place of death.
  • Social insurance number.
  • Marital status.
  • Spouse’s name/maiden name as appropriate.
  • Occupation.
  • Father’s name and birth place.
  • Mother’s maiden name and birth place.
  • Usual address.
  • Informant contact information.
  • Disposition information.
  • Executor information.

Other considerations as applicable include:

  • Clothing.
  • Type of Funeral or Celebration of Life.
  • Time and place of visiting and Funeral or Celebration of Life.
  • Family members including spouse, children and their spouse’s/partner’s, grandchildren and great grandchildren.
  • Person(s) conducting the service.
  • Final disposition – burial or cremation?
  • Flowers.
  • Memorial Donations.
  • Personal Tributes and personalization of the funeral.

Are you overwhelmed yet just reading this list?  Can you imagine having to answer all of these questions and more and have to make these decisions when you are upset?  Also consider that without a preplanned and ideally prepaid funeral plan, the surviving family members are not likely to agree on exactly what to do and how much money to spend.

One man, whom I had helped set up his prepaid funeral plan, mentioned that he was doing this because when his dad died twenty-six years ago he and his brother made the funeral plans for their father together.  The brother promised to pay his half of their father’s funeral arrangements but never did pay his share.  Consequently, the brothers stopped talking.  Imagine twenty-six years of not speaking or associating with his brother and family.  Ask yourself is it worth that kind of emotional pain?

Is there a solution to this potential chaos?  Absolutely!

If you would like the list of 62 things you can do ahead of time to mitigate this issue, please connect with me.  You can connect with me via email or telephone, leave a comment here on the site or click the contact tab at the bottom of the screen if you are reading this post on the website. Don’t forget to join in the conversation on Facebook and Twitter too!

Until next time,


Katherine Downey is the #1 Funeral Preplanning Professional in Canada for the fourth time. She is a professional educator, author, radio host, licensed funeral director and insurance advisor. To set an appointment or have your questions answered, please contact Kat directly.

The Unexpected Tax Incentive Canadians Don’t Necessarily Want to Think About

A coffin with a flower arrangement in a morgue

My article “The Unexpected Tax Incentive Canadians Don’t Necessarily Want to Think About” was recently published by Gail Johnson in Yahoo Finance Canada.  I would like to share this article with you here.

There’s a tax incentive that some Canadians are dying to get.

Income earned on contributions made to an “Eligible Funeral Arrangement” is allowed to grow tax-free under Canada’s Income Tax Act. Continue reading

Do I need a Casket, a Container, a Coffin…?

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Have you asked the question – do I need a casket, a container or a coffin? Did you know that when an individual wants to be cremated, buried or entombed, by law the body must be in a casket or container?

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A coffin is rarely used in Ontario and differs from a casket. A coffin is 8 sided and usually made of wood (see right). It is more common to see coffins used in Europe rather than Canada.

For earth burial many people are familiar with the casket (pictured above) being lowered into the ground. A casket is a 6 sided container made of particle wood with a felt cloth covering, a mix of particle wood and solid woods, soft woods, hard woods or metal. The range in price of a casket can vary widely from $500.00 to over $10,000.00. Continue reading

Taking Care of Business Executor Workbook – 2nd Edition

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click to enlarge

At this time of year many of us turn our thoughts to holiday preparation. What will the menu be, how will I find the time to do all the shopping and how can we juggle our time to visit among various families? Then before we know it, all the preparations and festivities are over. Between Christmas and the New Year many of us take time to reflect on the holiday season and put thought into getting more organized for the coming year. In preparation for that reflective time, I am thrilled to announce the launch of the 2nd edition of Taking Care of Business – Executor’s Workbook! Continue reading

Is that Really my Loved One’s Cremated Remains?

prepaid funerals Mississauga Oakville

A concern that people have shared with me is “How do I know that it is really my loved one’s cremated remains that I am getting back?” The answer to this is that our full circle of care of loved one’s cremated remains starts from the initial transfer and there is a very detailed and organized method of identifying your loved one.

When someone dies and they are to be cremated, the deceased is transferred from the place of death to the funeral home. At the place of death the identification of the deceased is checked before the body is transferred to the funeral home. Once the deceased is at the funeral home, a cremation application is filled out and signed by the Estate Trustee. Each cremation application has a unique number. This number identifies the deceased and the coroner that signed the cremation application. The Estate Trustee is given copies of these forms. Continue reading

Remembrance Day – What Coin Will You Leave Today?

Canadian Soldier WW2

During the time of the Roman Empire, as a way of leaving money for the deceased in the hereafter, people would place a coin on the headstone to indicate they had visited. The tradition continued after the Vietnam War on Remembrance Day as a popular way to pay one’s respects to fallen soldiers.

The coin denomination indicated your relationship to the deceased. For example, if you left a: Continue reading

Snowbirds – What Happens if you Die Away from Home?

Travel Protection Insurance Plan

Snowbirds, have you stopped to consider what happens if you die away from home? This is not a very pleasant topic to think about, but it does happen. How would your family deal with this? If you have not made your funeral arrangements in advance including the Secure Return Travel Assurance coverage, then your family will have a lot of work to do to get you home. Continue reading

Snowbird Traveler’s Check List – 15 Things to Consider

secure return travel assurance plan Are you a snowbird? How wonderful it is to be able to travel south to warmer weather over the winter. Before you fly or drive away, peruse the checklist of 15 items below to be sure you have your health and hearth protected. Continue reading

Process for Assessing & Collecting Ontario Estate Administration Tax

Ontario Estate Administration Tax

In the 2011 Ontario budget, the Ontario government indicated that they would tighten the probate filing rules to enhance compliance by transferring administration of the Estate Administration Tax from the Ministry of the Attorney General to the Ministry of Revenue and Finance. This change received royal assent in 2011 and was announced in force January 1st, 2015. Effective January 1st, 2015, the Ministry of Finance now has a more defined process for assessing and collecting the Estate Administration Tax (EAT). Continue reading

Ontario Estate Administration Tax Filing Rules

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In our last blog we spoke about Ontario Probate becoming the Estate Administration Tax, the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee and the importance of this certificate to confirm the appointment of an Estate Trustee. This certificate authorizes the Estate Trustee to work on behalf of the deceased and start the process of closing the estate. Further to this, effective January 1, 2015, the Ontario Ministry of Finance implemented new Estate Filing Rules for people acting as an Estate Trustee in Ontario, for estates valued at greater than $1,000.00. Continue reading