The first phone calls made upon news of a death will depend on the circumstances. When someone dies in a hospital or other medical care facility, the staff will usually take care of some of the arrangements, such as contacting your funeral home of choice and, if necessary, arranging an autopsy.
You will need to notify family, friends and clergy. It may be easier on you to make just a few phone calls to close relatives and ask them to inform specific people so the burden of spreading news does not rest entirely on you. If you are alone, don't be afraid to ask someone to keep you company as you make the first phone calls and cope with the first hours after the death.
If a person dies at home or at work, the first call must be made to 911. Any unexpected death occurring without a physician or medical personnel present must be reported to the police and an investigation held. The coroner will examine the body then arrange for it to be transported to the morgue for autopsy (if necessary) or to the funeral home.
If your loved one was currently receiving medical care, be sure to notify the doctor. If your loved one was in hospice care, it is not necessary to call 911. You can call the hospice facility directly.
You'll also need to notify:
What information should I bring to the arrangement conference?
- The funeral home. A funeral director can help arrange transportation of the deceased to the funeral home, begin collecting information for the death certificate and obituary, help you notify other parties such as Social Security, and provide grief support.
- The employer. If the deceased was working, the employer must be notified as soon as possible. Ask about any benefits the deceased was receiving or will receive, including any pay due (including vacation or sick time), disability income, etc. Ask if you or other dependents are still eligible for benefit coverage through the company. Determine whether there is a life insurance policy through the employer, who the beneficiary is, and how to file a claim.
- The life insurance company. Look through the deceased's important papers for a life policy. Call the agent or company to determine how to file a claim. Usually the beneficiary (or the beneficiary's guardian, if a minor) must complete the claim forms and related paperwork. You'll need to submit a certified death certificate and a claimant's statement to establish proof of claim. Ask about payment options. You may have a choice between receiving a lump sum or having the company place the money in an interest-bearing account from which you can write checks.
- Other organizations. Usually the funeral home will contact Social Security and the Veterans Administration (if applicable) on your behalf. You will want to contact any unions, professional or service organizations, or fraternal organizations of which your loved one was a member. He or she may have had life insurance or other benefits through these organizations.
- The court. If you were named executor of your loved one's will, you'll need to file a probate case with the court. An attorney is not required, but it may help you to hire one that is experienced in probate. As executor, you'll be responsible for carrying out your loved one's wishes according to the will, paying creditors and balancing the estate. There is no standard time for probate, and it can be complicated and lengthy.
- The bank. If you have a joint account with the deceased, you may be able to conduct business as usual depending on how the account was opened. Otherwise, usually only the will's executor or administrator can access the account after providing the required paperwork to the bank. You will need to contact your bank to determine their requirements.
Who should come with me to the arrangement conference?
When you first call the funeral home, you will probably answer a few general questions about funeral plans--some vital statistics about the deceased, whether there was a prearrangement or a will, the decedent's or family's preference for burial or cremation, and possibly your thoughts on what services you'd like to hold. Plans will be finalized when you meet with the funeral director. The following list does not include everything, but it is a general list of things you may want to bring with you to the arrangement conference.
- Vital information about the decedent--date and place of birth and death, parents' names, names of pre-deceased relatives and survivors, Social Security number, dates of marriages/divorces
- Highest level of education
- Military information including separation or discharge papers (DD-214), if the deceased was a veteran
- Any information related to a pre-arrangement, if applicable
- Place of burial or final disposition if a cemetery plot has been purchased
- Photographs--one or two recent photographs will be used during the embalming and cosmetizing process
- Names and phone numbers of clergy or celebrants you wish to involve in the ceremonies
- Clothing, including undergarments and jewelry or glasses you would like the deceased to be viewed wearing
If you are the only next-of-kin, do not feel as if you need to make all the arrangements alone. Families often come to the arrangement conference in groups for moral support and to participate in the funeral experience.
What if there was a pre-arrangement?
If your loved one made a pre-arrangement with our funeral home, we will have that information on file here for you. We will use the time in the arrangement conference to go over any details that were not yet planned.
What if the death occurred away from home?
If a death occurs away from home, contact us first. We will find a local funeral home near the place of death and arrange for preparation and transportation of the deceased back to our funeral home on your behalf. We can also help coordinate with the other funeral home if you are planning to have a service prior to having the family member returned to your home area.
What if there is no will?
Dying intestate--dying without a will--means that a probate judge will appoint an administrator of the deceased's estate. If you are chosen as the administrator, your responsibilities will be similar to those of an executor of a will: distributing assets, paying creditors and balancing the estate.
My loved one was a veteran. What benefits can he or she receive?
Many people assume that upon a person's death, all assets will immediately go to the spouse. If there is no will, this is not always the case. Most states will divide assets between the surviving spouse and any children, regardless of the children's ages. If there are no children, some assets may be granted to the parents of the deceased. In the case of a single person with children, the entire estate will be split among them. When a person is single with no children, the estate may be granted to the parents (or siblings, if parents are deceased).
It is important to remember that state probate laws vary, and individual situations may be taken into account in probate court when decisions are made to distribute the deceased's assets. If you have any questions or concerns, you may want to consult an attorney that is experienced in end-of-life planning and probate.
What do we do if our family death occurs away from home?
Benefits are available to veterans whether they are interred in a national cemetery or a private cemetery. If your loved one will be laid to rest in a national cemetery, benefits include a gravesite in any national cemetery with open space, fees for opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone or marker, a flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost to the family. If the veteran will be buried in a private cemetery, he or she is eligible for a government headstone or marker, a flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. In some circumstances, he or she may be eligible for a burial allowance. To determine exactly what benefits your loved one will receive, contact the Veterans Administration directly or visit their website here
Our funeral home staff will arrange with another funeral home or mortuary, where the death occurred, to have preparation and transportation made back to our funeral home. We can also help you if you are planning to have a service prior to having the family member returned to your home area.
Why is a funeral important?
For thousands of years, funerals have allowed survivors to express their feelings about the death of someone they love. The rituals provide comfort when things seem chaotic and out of control. For many, a visitation followed by a funeral or memorial service is the first step in the grieving process. It is a time when friends, family and other guests can come together to grieve openly and to support one another in a community environment. It is also a time to say good-bye. Viewing the deceased can bring a sense of closure to the bereaved who may be in shock and denial.
What does a funeral director do?
What is embalming?
- Pick up the deceased and transport them to the funeral home (anytime day or night)
- Notify proper authorities, family and/or relatives
- Arrange and prepare death certificates
- Provide certified copies of death certificates for insurance and benefit processing
- Work with Social Security or Veterans Administration to ensure that necessary paperwork is filed for receipt of benefits
- Prepare and submit obituary to the newspapers of your choice
- Bathe and embalm the deceased, if necessary
- Prepare the deceased for viewing including dressing and cosmetizing
- Assist the family with funeral arrangements and purchase of casket, urn and burial vault
- Schedule the opening and closing of the grave with cemetery personnel if a burial is to be performed
- Coordinate with clergy if a funeral or memorial service is to be held
- Order funeral sprays and other flower arrangements as the family wishes
It is a process that sanitizes and preserves the deceased's body. It delays the decomposition process and allows time for viewing and services by the family prior to burial or cremation. It restores a life-like appearance to the deceased and can enhance the appearance of a loved one that has undergone a traumatic death or illness. This process can take anywhere from one to three hours to perform. The time spent embalming depends upon the severity of damage to the body, whether it be from traumatic injuries and or by not being able to perform it immediately after notification of the death.
Is embalming required when a person dies?
No. However, most states insist on embalming under certain circumstances such as when the death is caused by a contagious disease or if final disposition isn't made within a certain time frame. Embalming preserves the deceased's body, often allowing more time for arrangements. It is required if there will be a visitation. If the deceased is to be directly buried or cremated, embalming is not necessary.
How can I personalize a funeral service?
A funeral service can be personalized in a number of ways. Every funeral should be as unique as the life being celebrated. Ideas for a special service are always welcome in our funeral home.
What is a viewing/visitation/wake?
Many families add a personal touch to the funeral service by incorporating memorabilia that represent a loved one's hobbies or passions. For the avid sports fan, a few of his or her collector's items could be displayed. For the artist, a display of recent works or even the artist's tools can provide a personal touch. Some families take it a step further, such as providing homemade chocolate chip cookies for funeral attendees who knew the deceased as a skilled cook. These unique touches can help family and friends remember the deceased's personality and relive the traditions that meant so much. Photo albums and memorial tribute DVDs are also great ways to remember the past.
Depending on the area of the country in which you live or your religious tradition, viewing, visitation and wake are generally synonymous terms for an informal gathering that precedes the funeral. Often, the deceased is embalmed and in an open casket, but the casket may be closed or not present at all. This ceremony is an informal time for family, friends and colleagues of the deceased to stop by and offer condolences to the bereaved and socialize with others.
What is a memorial service?
A visitation typically lasts for several hours, allowing people to drop in and depart as they wish. It is not necessary to remain for the entire time, and guests may feel comfortable leaving after offering words of support to the bereaved. It is customary, upon arriving at the visitation, to offer your condolences to the family first. Remember to introduce yourself if you are not well-known to the family. It is acceptable to talk about the deceased and offer a fond memory or a few kind words about him or her to the grieving family. You may also wish to send flowers to the family. If you order them ahead of time, the florist will deliver your gift directly to the funeral home and it will be on display during visitation hours.
A memorial service is a special service that takes place without the body of the deceased present. Memorials are often held in a church, fraternal hall, or other location. A memorial service can take place just days after the death of a loved one, or even weeks or months, allowing the family to make time for distant relatives to travel or reserve space at a special venue of their choice. A memorial service can even become an annual event if the family chooses.
What is Cremation?
As cremation has increased in popularity, so has the idea of a memorial service. Often, a memorial service will take place after cremation has occurred. Sometimes the cremated remains will be present in a decorative urn. However, memorial services are not exclusive to cremation--many families will hold a memorial service after burial has taken place. A memorial service can be held in conjunction with other services like a visitation and funeral, or it can be the only service held to honor the life of the deceased.
Cremation is a process by which the body is reduced to its basic elements, bone fragments. The cremation process usually includes mechanically pulverizing the bone fragments, with the final result being a quantity of cremated remains.
Are traditional services and cremation services different?
Cremation is not a final disposition process. It is another step in the memorialization process. After cremation takes place, families must make a choice for the final disposition of cremated remains. Final disposition options include placing the cremated remains in a decorative urn to be displayed in the home or in a niche or columbarium, burying the cremated remains in the family's preferred cemetery, or scattering the cremated remains.
No, they don't have to be. If your preference is cremation, you may be surprised to learn that choosing cremation does not mean that you cannot also hold traditional services such as a viewing and a funeral. Whether you choose cremation or burial, the same services are available to you, including formal services that include music, prayers and other rites. A viewing with an open casket may precede the cremation. In fact, it is important to still hold some type of special service to assist the bereaved in the grieving process.
Is a casket required?
Most crematories require that the body be encased in a combustible, rigid container. Any wood casket will satisfy this requirement. Some wood caskets are designed specifically for cremation. You can also choose to use alternative containers of cardboard, particle board, etc. Generally, a cremation container must be strong enough to assure the safety of the crematory operator as well as provide proper covering and meet reasonable standards of respect and dignity for the deceased. Ask your funeral director what options are available.
How can we personalize a cremation?
Even if your preference is cremation, you can choose to hold many different types of services--a visitation, funeral service, graveside service, or a memorial service. Any of these can be personalized in a number of ways. Each ceremony should be as unique as the life being celebrated. Ideas for a special service are always welcome in our funeral home.
Can we take cremated remains on a plane?
Many families add a personal touch to funeral services by incorporating memorabilia that represent a loved one's hobbies or passions. For the avid sports fan, a few of his or her collector's items could be displayed. For the artist, a display of recent works or even the artist's tools can provide a personal touch. Some families take it a step further, such as providing homemade chocolate chip cookies for funeral attendees who knew the deceased as a skilled cook. These unique touches can help family and friends remember the deceased's personality and relive the traditions that meant so much. Photo albums and memorial tribute DVDs are also great ways to remember the past.
Yes, you can carry cremated remains with you on an airline. Some airlines do not accept cremated remains as checked luggage. You must contact the airline directly to verify their policy. If you plan to transport an urn as a carry-on item, the urn must be able to pass through the x-ray scanner. You'll also need to carry proper documentation with you (certified death certificate, certificate of cremation, etc.). If the urn cannot be scanned, it will not be permitted on the flight. Under no circumstances will a TSA employee open an urn to inspect its contents, even if the family insists. Click here
for the TSA's official guidelines regarding the transport of cremated remains.