A listing of Documents and Activities Relating to Funeral and Other Necessary Arrangements.
If the person is very ill or terminal is there a DNR in place? (A Do Not Resuscitate order) If not have the staff or a social worker talk to the patient about one.
Does the patient have a Living Will or Advanced Directive? Is one needed? What about a person with Power or Attorney for Medical decisions?
Does the person wish to be buried or cremated?
Have they already made arrangements with an institution for donation of organs or cadaver?
Is a plot, or group of plots, already in the family’s possession? Has the patient already purchased a plot or niche – even if they have do they still wish to be interred there?
Are there religious observations and customs to take into consideration?
Are there children or animals that must be tended to before, during and after the death?
Is there a surviving spouse who has the mental capacity to take over as executor of the Estate? If not, is there an Executor? Does anyone have a Durable Power of Attorney?
If the answer to the above is “No” this must be done immediately or all assets will be frozen and no funds will be available for final arrangements.
If possible before the death, gather all the paperwork together you can and begin sorting it by category. In cases of accident or sudden death this should be completed as soon as possible. Some important documents to locate are:
o A Will
o Birth and marriage certificates
o Property deeds and mortgage papers
o Home loan details (latest statement of loan account containing details about finance for the deceased person's property)
o Lease (setting out legal entitlements for a rented property)
o Taxation records (with details of income and assets)
o Insurance policies (for example, home, contents and car)
o Life insurance policies
o Savings account details (showing where the savings are kept)
o Any documents about prepaid funeral arrangements or burial plots.
Make a list of all agencies/companies etc. that will need to be notified:
o Social Security Administration (800-772-1213)
o Insurance Companies
o Former employers that might be holding pensions
o Office of Veteran’s Affairs for any military branch they served with
§ Defense Finance & Accounting Service (800-269-5170) If a veteran and receiving benefits
o Office of Personnel Management (888-767-6738) If they were retired or a former federal worker
o Office of Homeland Security – if person was not a US Citizen, AND to cancel their passport if they had one.
o State Department of Motor Vehicles – if they had a driver’s license or state ID
o State office of Worker’s Comp – if they were receiving disability pay
o Investment companies [401(k), IRA, Mutual Fund etc) ]
o Medical / Dental / Health insurance company
o Bank (accounts, safety deposit boxes, mortgage etc)
o Magazine and paper subscriptions
o Clubs, memberships, alumni associations
o Church or synagogue they attended
o Creditors: Credit card companies, car loan, condo association, student loans
o Any special interest or e-mail accounts
o Public library if they had a card
o Credit Reporting Agencies. Instruct them to list all accounts as “Closed. Account Holder Deceased” this makes it harder to have her identity stolen. You also have the right to request a credit report to obtain a list of all creditors and recent activity. [See Attachment B]
§ Experian (888-397-3742)
§ Equifax (800-525-6285)
§ TransUnion (800-680-7289)
Have the funeral home get you at least 20 copies of the death certificate. It may seem like a lot but you would be surprised at how many copies you will need to send out.
If the person had an attorney or accountant they should be notified to begin executing any will or trust documents.
Even if the accounts are jointly held in another’s name you will need to notify the above in order to get account names changed, or benefits paid.
Draft letter(s). Most of the companies and agencies listed above require a letter and copy of the death certificate to stop service, pay out benefits etc. [See Attachment A]
Direct Marketing Association (www.ims-dm.com/cgi/ddnc) For a $1 fee they will list the deceased on their “Deceased Do Not Contact List” so you do not get telemarketers continuing to call and hassle the family.
Obtain a copy of the coroner’s report if one is performed.
Contact the local papers regarding cost and format for publishing an obituary. Many funeral homes can take care of this for you if you ask.
Determine if the deceased indicated their wish for donations to a favorite charity in lieu of flowers. Include this information in the death notice/obit.
Funeral Home and Cemetery
You can meet with your local, or chosen, funeral home director from 6 months prior to anytime after the death.
Pre-planning is recommended, as families are often much too overwhelmed if they wait until after the death. They also tend to overpay for services as well when making all decisions under duress.
It helps if the family, or the deceased, has made some decisions prior to meeting with the funeral director:
o Burial or cremation?
o Even if choosing cremation will there be a Wake or viewing with visiting hours before hand?
o Even when cremation is chosen you can “rent” the use of a nice casket for the viewing. Seriously consider the least costly alternative for a cremation itself. Does it really make sense to spend several thousand dollars on a fancy wooden box you are only going to incinerate?
o Church service, service performed at the funeral home, or graveside?
o They can also help you prepare the notices for the newspaper. For and elderly or terminally ill patient consider writing the obituary in advance, leaving it with the funeral director, just needing the date of death and dates of the services open.
For those who choose cremation there are a few questions that arise which can sound morbid if you are not prepared for them. However the funeral director has to ask for safety reasons:
o Does the deceased have any prosthetic limbs?
o Does the deceased have implanted mechanical assistance aides (i.e. hearing implants, hearing aides, pace maker, bone screws etc.). They need to be aware of these as such items must be removed before cremation due to explosive or pollution issues.
o Does the family wish to donate any such aides? There are programs in place for low-income people, and third world nations, where a fairly new pacemaker can be removed, re-programmed, sterilized and then recycled for a new patient.
If there is already a plot or family cemetery purchased, contact their office to advise them of the upcoming need for interment and ask how many days notice they need to open a vault, dig a grave, set up for a graveside service etc.
If there is no plot or niche call at least 2-3 local cemeteries to get price quotes ahead of time if possible. Ask about a package deal if more than one space is purchased now (i.e. one now for grandparent A, with a second adjoining for grandparent B)
You can also contact headstone and grave marker producers in advance and pre-order the item, leaving only the date of death unfinished. Financially it may make sense to have their spouses name and date of birth added at the same time as it will save money since the company will not have to remove the headstone entirely at a later time to add a second name. Most companies will hold the item for you until you call to have them complete the work and install it.
Check with the cemetery to see if they have parameters or restrictions on what type of marker they allow in what areas of the property.
Sometimes the terminally ill person will have made the decision as to what they would like to be dressed in for a wake or viewing – check with them if you can.
Special Considerations: Military / Veteran
VA burial allowances are partial reimbursements of an eligible veteran's burial and funeral costs. When the cause of death is not service-related, the reimbursements are generally described as two payments: (1) a burial and funeral expense allowance, and (2) a plot interment allowance.
VA provides an American flag for services, and a flag to be given to the next of kin or a close associate of the deceased, at no cost, to drape the casket or accompany the urn of a deceased veteran who served honorably in the U. S. Armed Forces. It is furnished to honor the memory of a veteran's military service to his or her country.
The Department of Veterans Affairs provides headstones and markers for the graves of veterans anywhere in the world and for eligible dependents of veterans buried in national, state veteran or federal cemeteries. Flat bronze, flat granite, flat marble and upright marble types are available to mark the grave of a veteran or dependent in the style consistent with existing monuments at the place of burial. Niche markers also are available to mark columbaria used for the inurnment of cremated remains.
This is a very good resource site for finding out what benefits may be applicable to your veteran or active serviceman/woman: http://www.military.com/benefits/burial-and-memorial
Did the deceased, or the family, have strong feelings regarding any final services or memorials? It could be as elaborate as a full mass with incense, or as informal as a get together at someone’s house to share stories.
Elderly and terminally ill patients often have already considered what they would like in the way of a final service. Don’t be afraid to ask.
Keep in mind that while the person who died may have indicated they wanted no service of any kind, that services are for those still here who want/need a formal or ritualized method of honoring the deceased.
Are there songs/scriptures/poems/readings that had special meaning or significance to the deceased? They should be incorporated into the service.
Select 3-4 specific people, no more, to speak at the service. Not that others cannot add a comment if they wish, but any more than four and the service gets unruly and cumbersome.
Does the family want flyers printed for the service?
During a wake or viewing it is nice to have a few displays that speak to who the deceased was, what they enjoyed doing or had a passion for. More and more families are combining photos onto poster boards showing their loved one in different phases, ages and lights. Giving a deeper appreciation to those who come to pay their respects who may have only met the deceased in recent years.
Add personal objects that are meaningful. Did he fish? Display his rod and reel and perhaps a favorite picture of his greatest “catch”. Did she quilt, drape some of her favorites over a banister or the back of a chair. Perhaps that avid biker’s Harley would be sitting in the lobby of the funeral home. Display their favorite saddle, blanket and riding boots near the casket. Whatever feels right for the family IS right.
Don’t automatically dismiss offers of help from friends, family and neighbors. You will find many people wish to do something to assist the family in the first hard weeks. Don’t be afraid to accept their assistance, and don’t hesitate to ask for help with some specific items such as:
o Answering the phone and taking messages for the family.
o Making lists or keeping track of who brought food or performed tasks so the family can write thank you notes to them later.
o Helping with housework in preparation for visitors or a reception after the funeral
o Running errands for the family.
o Bringing meals for the family
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