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What Needs to Be Done When Someone Dies?

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.

4 replies
  1. Susan says:

    I can attest to the value of pre-planning. My Mom died a few weeks ago at home and thankfully we pre-planned everything with Kat just a week before. After she passed, one simple phone call was all that was needed. We were mentally and physically exhausted at that point. What a sense of peace for my Dad and our family.
    We have everything pre-arranged for my Dad’s passing now too.
    Thank you Kat for the important work you do.

    • Kat says:

      Dear Sue,
      It was my absolute pleasure to work with you and set up the prepaid funeral plans for your parents. Your kind comments are what help me stay motivated to talk about end of life planning on a daily basis. It is certainly a relief that you have total peace of mind in knowing that literally with one phone call, everything starts into motion for you. It is an emotionally and physically exhausting time and I really feel sorry for the families that have to learn about funeral planning options in this state of mind. There is only one chance to do a loved one’s funeral and people have shared with me that when the type of funeral is not preplanned and paid for, the family is often at a loss as to what to do to celebrate their loved one’s life. How unfortunate when the solution is one call or e-mail away.
      Sue if you have any questions about closing your mom’s estate please reach out to me.
      Kindest Regards, Kat


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