When a Loved One Dies

What Do I Do When A Loved One Dies?

Where does one begin when a loved one passes?

What is the process?

Who do you call?

What needs do be done?


These pertinent questions come up for family members when a loved one passes away.  A sense of being overwhelmed can take over as a family or friends are never fully prepared for a loss. My role is to journey with you to help design a funeral, memorial service, Celebration of Life or graveside service that will honor your loved ones.

I will schedule a time to meet with your family to share memories, anecdotes and special moments in your loved one’s life. The essence of the service will be based upon the remembrances of the family.  I will consult with you to prepare a service that reflects and memorializes the life of the person who has passed. That might be through special music, songs, ceremonies, poems or visual tributes. I will also compose a eulogy that will reflect who your loved one was, their gifts, strengths, and what they meant to others. It will be a sharing of the heart.  We will work in partnership to make the service a memorable one.

When a loved one dies, you might face the overwhelming responsibility of 
closing out the persons life. There are many things to attend to, from providing a proper tribute to closing bank accounts to cancelling a golf
membership. Many of the tasks require attention to detail — adding stress to what is already a pretty emotional time.

Documents Needed to Complete Checklist
 Death certificates (maybe a dozen)
 Social Security card
 Marriage certificate
 Birth certificate
 Birth certificates for any children
 Insurance policies
 Deeds and titles to property
 Automobile title and registration papers
 Stock certificates
 Bank books
 Recent income tax forms
 Loan and installment payment books and contracts

1. Arrange for organ donation. It may be the last detail you want to think about, but arrangements need to be made almost immediately at death so the organs can be harvested as promptly as possible. Not certain about the persons wishes? Two sources to check: the drivers license and an advance health care directive, such as a living will or health care proxy. If the answer is yes, the hospital where the person died will have a coordinator to guide you through the process. If your loved one died outside of a hospital — that includes in hospice or a nursing home — contact the nearest hospital. Staff will be on hand to answer questions about what’s next. There is no cost.

2. Contact immediate family. Of course you want to update key family members. Bringing them together in person, by phone or electronically (via mass email, Skype or Facebook Family page), is an opportunity not only to comfort one another but also to share information about important decisions that must be made — some of them immediately. Do any of you, for example, know of an arrangement for the funeral or other source for burial wishes?

3. Make funeral arrangements. It’s up to the executor named in the will to make funeral arrangements even if that executor isn’t the next of kin. Most of the time this isn’t a problem, as we know who our loved one has appointed to look after the estate.

4. Look at immediate money issues. This might include paying for the funeral, or paying urgent bills such as a heating bill for the deceased’s house in the middle of winter. If the funeral bill (and some other bills) are taken to the deceased’s bank, the bank will likely pay the bill from the deceased’s account, providing of course there is enough money in the account. Make sure that if the deceased had joint bank accounts with his or her spouse, you talk to the bank to ensure that joint accounts aren’t frozen.

5. If the deceased’s home is vacant, secure it and notify the insurer. Make sure that insurance is kept in place on the home. Later on during the administration of the estate, you can worry about discontinuing insurance, but for right now, make sure it stays in place.

6. Check the safety deposit box. This is a good place to look for the original will, but you might also find letters written to loved ones to be opened on death, valuables, or important papers. Make sure nobody takes any of this except for the executor named in the will! If you aren’t the executor, don’t touch it. If you are applying to the court to be an administrator because there is no will, don’t touch anything until you have that court order in your hands.

7. Find the original will. Assuming that the deceased had a will, you will need the original to apply for probate. Even if you don’t plan to apply for probate because all assets were joint with the deceased’s spouse, it’s a good idea to find the will. Anyone who finds the original will MUST give it to the executor named in the will.

8. Get copies of the Death Certificate. There are two types of certificates. One is issued by the provincial government and is called a Death Certificate. This is available through registries, but you have to wait a few days until the registry receives proof of the death and registers it. The other type of certificate is called a
Funeral Directors Statement of Death. Because you get this from the funeral home, you can get it very quickly.

9. Have the deceased’s mail redirected to the executor. This is more important when the deceased lived alone than when the deceased was living with a spouse.

10. Place an obituary in the local newspaper. Most families like to place a notice to let friends, clients, neighbours etc. know of the death in time to attend the funeral. Notify various parties of the death and cancel coverages. Some of these must be done fairly quickly, such as notifying the federal and provincial governments when the deceased was receiving benefits. Notifying them has the effect of stopping monthly payments such as CPP and OAS. You should also notify the deceased’s bank quickly. Other notifications you should consider are (depending on the circumstances) the deceased’s employer, life insurance company, provincial health care plan, private health care plan, landlord, motor vehicle registry, credit card companies, Veteran’s Affairs, doctor’s office, and all utilities in the deceased’s name such as telephone,
cell phone, electricity, internet etc.

Apply for the CPP death benefit. Forms for this are usually supplied by the funeral home. This benefit is available to anyone who was eligible for CPP retirement or disability benefits. It isn’t a huge amount of money but it was designed to help pay for funeral costs. The application should be made by the executor, if you know who that is going to be. Otherwise next of kin can apply.

This list was condensed and adapted from Chapter 1 of Lynne Butlers, Alberta Probate Kit.  10 things to do following the death of a loved one and I added a few more.

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