When an Unexpected Death Occurs
Much of the information you’ll find online (and here at our blog) has to do with funeral pre-planning. We always encourage people to look ahead to those difficult times, since making financial and physical arrangements can greatly reduce the burden on loved ones. This is especially true for those in the retirement planning stages of their life.
Unfortunately, death isn’t always something we can plan for. Many times, the loss of a loved one occurs out of the blue or when they are at an age when such a thing shouldn’t be possible. If this is the case, and you haven’t had any time to prepare or learn about funeral planning, you can expect to follow a timeline similar to this:
- Death is pronounced: A formal death pronouncement is performed by a medical professional at the location of the death. This professional can officially declare the date and time of death. This information is required for the death certificate.
- The body is moved: Depending on your situation, this might mean transporting the body to your chosen funeral home, preparing the deceased for organ transplantation, or even moving the body on to a coroner’s office. The most you will need to do is make a decision about final plans (such as which funeral home you’d like to use or whether or not you are willing to consider organ donation). The organizations involved will handle the actual handling of the deceased.
- An autopsy is performed: In instances where the cause of death is unknown, there will be additional steps taken. The body will be collected by the Coroner or Medical Examiner, who will perform an autopsy to determine the probable cause of death.
- Talk to the funeral home: Due to health codes, the body of the deceased is processed soon after death occurs. This means that decisions related to burial vs. cremation or whether or not to embalm are typically made within the first 24 to 48 hours. Your funeral director will help guide you through these steps.
- Gather information on the deceased: In order to process the death certificate and plan the funeral, you’ll need quite a bit of paperwork on the deceased (including things like Social Security numbers, birth date and place, legal names, funeral or life insurance policies, and military discharge information, among others). These should be brought to the funeral home with you.
- Funeral Planning: The real decision making begins now. Issues like burial plots, headstones, caskets, memorial service plans, what clothes to bury the deceased in, and who you want to oversee the service are all brought into play here. For more information on what’s involved in this step, you may want to consult a funeral planning checklist.
Although nothing will ease the passing of your loved one, knowing what to expect from the funeral planning process can make things a little easier. Always be willing to rely on those who are there to help you, and don’t be afraid to ask questions.