Funerals: First Steps

A handy checklist in your time of need

Funeral planning can be overwhelming, especially if you're dealing with the loss of a loved one at the same time. Here are some of the basic first steps you'll need to take in order to begin the process.

At Time of Death (Disposition)

The death of a loved one is a stressful experience, but to be on hand at the time of occurrence is even more so. You probably don't have to deal with this situation on a regular basis, so it can be difficult to know exactly what to do. The best way to get through those first moments is to stay calm and remember that there is a basic process you should follow:

  1. Phone 911 and report that someone has passed away.

  2. When the police arrive , they will make inquiries concerning the circumstances of the death, and then the body will be transferred to a funeral home. The body may go to a medical examiner if there are any questions or problems. In either event, you will require a physician to determine the cause of death and sign a death certificate.

  3. Begin contacting close relatives at this point. Some of them may want to say their last goodbyes to the decedent in their home or be involved in the funeral planning process. Plan what you're going to say before you make the phone call - you can never be sure of how each person will react to news of a death.

  4. Get copies of the death certificate to make other legal arrangements easier. You'll need to go to banks and credit card companies to freeze accounts and assets until they can be dealt with at a later time.

  5. After the body goes to the funeral home , the family will be asked what is to be done concerning disposition of the remains. Consult the decedent's will when possible, or close family members, if you're unsure of the departed's wishes regarding burial or cremation.

  6. Stay on top of all decisions so you don't fall into many of the difficulties involved in funeral planning.

After Immediate Disposition

Things will move quickly after the immediate circumstances of death have been dealt with. Funeral planning is a detailed process and there will be a lot of people involved. You need to make sure that a few important details are taken care of:

  1. Notify relatives and friends , employers and coworkers, and clubs or organizations with which the decedent was involved.

  2. Obtain a copy of the decedent's will to find out if the departed had any special requests concerning funeral arrangements or other issues that you'll need to consider when funeral planning.
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