What To Do Immediately After Someone Dies
Whether it was sudden or expected, losing someone you love is hard. And suppose you happen to be the person in charge of planning the funeral or handling the legal details. In that case, you need to manage a mound of paperwork while grieving your loved one.
From locating the birth certificate to gaining access to the will, potentially rehoming a pet, closing bank accounts, and planning a funeral is a big responsibility. And completing all the paperwork can take years.
It’s impossible to do it alone. You’ll need a team of people to help you, from someone to hand off the funeral arrangements to professional help such as a lawyer and accountant.
If the death was expected, there might have been some advanced planning which might lessen the workload. But if it was sudden, you might be left with a lot to sort through.
Where do you even start?
Legal pronouncement of death
Once you recover from the immediate shock that someone in your life has died, you’ll need to do a few things.
The first few steps will determine where and how your loved one died.
First, you need a pronouncement of death. If the death occurs in a hospital, a doctor or nurse will pronounce the death based on a physical assessment. You and your family and friends will have some time with the body until it is taken to the hospital morgue. Either the hospital can arrange a transfer to a funeral home, or you can arrange this yourself.
If the death was expected and your loved one planned to die at home, you can pre-plan with a notification of expected death in the home. A doctor must sign the document before the removal of the body.
If there was no pre-planning and the notification wasn’t signed, you will need a health care professional to come and pronounce the death. If the form is completed ahead of time, no pronouncement of death is required.
Even with the form completed ahead of time, some families prefer the peace of mind and closure they get from having the death pronounced by a health care professional.
Not all deaths that occur at home are planned. Unexpected deaths due to an accident or acute trauma like a heart attack can leave you feeling helpless and unsure of what to do.
Calling 911 is usually the best course of action in the case of an accident or other trauma. But suppose an older person dies of natural causes or is found deceased after several days, or you live in a rural area without emergency services. In that case, you can also call the Coroners Service.
All deaths must be pronounced by a health care professional regardless of how the death occurred. Before the body can be removed from the home, this is a legal requirement. Unless it was pre-planned and a family member completed the notification of expected death in the home.
When someone has died, reporting the death as soon as possible is especially important if the person who passed was an organ donor. The window to harvest organs for donation is up to 72 hours.
You can do this by contacting the hospital’s organ donation coordinator (or equivalent). This person will help guide you and your family in the process of organ donation.
If the deceased did not make plans for organ donation ahead of time, family members could still give consent. One study found that most families who did not give permission to donate their loved one’s organs and tissues when appropriate ended up regretting their decision.
Notify Friends And Family
Sharing the news of someone’s passing to close family and friends is no easy task. Not only do you have to relive the experience over and over, but sharing sad news is emotionally exhausting.
Close friends of the deceased deserve to learn about the death first in a personal call. This can give them time to say their final good-byes, and you don’t want them to hear about it from a third party. Also, if the death was expected, they’ll be anticipating the news.
And if the death was unexpected, it’s important to include anyone who may be waiting on the deceased, like an employer.
Once close family and friends have been contacted, you can spread the news via:
- A group text or email.
- Announcement on social media.
- Ask the people you contacted personally to help spread the word.
- Call their employer, who can share the news with coworkers.
- If they were part of a club or religious group, notify a member and ask them to share the news.
- And if they were a prominent person in their community, you may want to share the news with the local newspaper.
Take Care Of The Home
Whether or not your loved one passed in the hospital or at home, there will be some additional items to take care of before you start thinking about funeral preparations.
If they have a pet, their furry companion will need to be cared for. Once the will is located, the person may have had specific instructions for their pet, but they will need to be cared for in the interim.
Ensure the property is secured, and empty any items from the fridge that could rot within five to seven days.
Gather Important Documents
Figuring out which documents you need after someone dies can be overwhelming – especially as you’re attempting to gather everything you need while still processing your loss.
And the stage of life your loved one was at will influence the amount of documentation you need. To gain access to many of these documents, you’ll first need a death certificate, and how you obtain one will vary by province.
Locate the will
Next, you will need to locate the will if you haven’t already. The will is a legal document that names a person (executor) responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased.
If there is no will
If there is no will, or you’re unable to locate a will, the process is much the same as if there were a will. The only difference you may encounter is if there was a large estate left behind. In this case, as the person tasked with managing the deceased’s estate, you may experience emotional claims from family members. This will make your job of distributing the assets much harder.
But, if the estate is relatively small and uncomplicated, it should be standard procedure.
This step isn’t always required and varies by province. If the estate is relatively small, probate isn’t necessary. But, if there is any question about the will’s validity, the executor has died or the estate is large, you will most likely need to go this route.
Most financial institutions will require a grant of probate so it’s a good idea to assume you’ll need one. Another benefit of probate is that it shields you from unhappy heirs. If any of them feels like they weren’t properly awarded their piece of the estate, you have the law on your side.
When a death is expected, and you know ahead of time that you’re the executor, it’s a good idea to start collecting the documents you’ll need early. Staying organized will pay off when it comes time to sell off properties, close down bank accounts, and dole out inheritance.
This is a non-exhaustive list of documents you might need:
- Death certificate
- Identification cards such as Social Insurance Card, driver’s license, Provincial services card, health card, or others
- Birth certificate
- Letters of probate or administration – documents that give someone to act on behalf of the deceased estate
- Property documents
- Tax and lease information
- Mortgage statements
- Vehicle ownership and registration
- Financial information
- Bank cards or statements
- Tax information
- Line of credit or loan statements
- Investments and shareholder agreements
- Stock and bond certificates
- Insurance policies, group benefits coverage
- Citizenship, residency, or immigration documentation
- Marriage certificate, divorce, or separation papers
- Retirement accounts and pension statements
Are Expenses Adding Up?
Lawyer fees, accountant bills, court proceedings, time off work to manage everything, plus grief counseling can add up quickly.
If you find yourself in a position where you have been charged with covering the costs while managing a loved one’s estate, First Inheritance is here to help. We can offer probate loans and even give you an advance on your inheritance.
It’s a stressful time. You deserve to take care of your loved one’s wishes without worrying about your finances. Your peace of mind is our top priority.
Reach out today and learn how First Inheritance can help you through this difficult time.
Probate Advance Loans
Apply for a loan to cover the costs of the provincial probate fee. First Inheritance will finance loans for these expenses and fees up to $75,000.