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 personnal 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...
- The funeral home. A funeral director can help arrange transportation of the body 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 elegible 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) myst 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.