Documenting a plan is best completed prior to a death so the loved one can share what they desire, even if no action is taken at the time. Simply documenting wishes are so important. Many may broach this topic, and some will not. However, it brings much relief to the survivors if a loved one does provide their wishes beforehand. Trying to decide what “He or She” would have wanted can be a quite heavy burden. Even harder when multiple survivors are placed in the position to determine what was desired. So PLEASE tell someone what is desired and put it in writing while you are able.

Planning ahead allows you to lock in the current burial and service rates.

Pre-Planning or After a Death Occurs:

Determine if there are any pre-planned directions. What Funeral Home, Cemetery, and Clergy will be utilized? One of these should be contacted immediately to guide you through the planning process.

The first thing that needs to be taken care of is the transportation of the body to a funeral home or morgue.

If a loved one dies in a nursing home or hospital, the process of transportation is very straightforward. These facilities will almost always have set procedures to handle a body. Most commonly, the facility will first call you to notify you of the death and will ask you to which funeral home to transport the body.

If the loved one has passed away in their own home or outside a healthcare facility, without medical support, your first call should be to 911.

If a death occurs under the care of a medical plan, such as Hospice or a Doctor, follow their direction.

You will want to contact all other immediate family members of the decedent first as they deserve to know about the death as soon as possible. These are difficult phone calls to make, so take your time. You do not need to call every single family and friend immediately. It is advisable to have another close family member help contact some of the family and friends along with you.

You will also want to notify other relevant parties.

This includes:

  • Clergy
  • Doctor
  • Employer, if they had one
  • Fraternal
  • Health and life insurance companies
  • Banks & financial institutions
  • Credit card reporting agencies - send a letter to each of the three major credit reporting agencies, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, letting them know that the person has passed away
  • Family Responsibility Office if they paid child support
  • Gyms, clubs, or organizations they participated in

This step is about as difficult as you make it and really depends on how elaborate you want the funeral service to be.

The process of organizing the actual funeral service mainly consists of:

  • Choosing a venue and date/time for the funeral
  • Determine if an affiliation, such as the military or other fraternal organization, should be included
  • Notify Family and Friends
  • If the venue allows, consider providing food and refreshments

You might want to specifically ask certain guests if they would like to prepare a eulogy for the funeral service. You should not worry as much about trying to plan a memorable funeral with all the bells and whistles. What is more important is making sure the people who were close to the decedent are made aware of the death.

Click Here for an online funeral planning guide.

  • Get multiple copies of the death certificate. The executor and funeral home director will need to contact the following agencies, most of which will request at least one copy of the death certificate:
  • Social Security (800-772-1213; to discuss ceasing benefits, obtaining survivor benefits and Medicare. Veterans Affairs may also be necessary for the cessation of benefits (800-827-1000;
  • Health, life, homeowner, automobile, and other insurance companies to cease or transfer benefits.
  • Utility companies to change or stop services.
  • Employer for pension plans or employment benefits; each separate claim will require a separate copy of the death certificate.
  • Probate attorney for asset, trust, and estate inventory.
  • Tax preparer to determine if an estate tax return or final income tax return should be filed.
  • State department of motor vehicle services to cancel driver’s license.
  • Bank for safe deposits and remaining accounts; you may be advised to open a new account for the estate.
  • Deliver the will to the appropriate office for probate.
  • Notify the post office of the death and the location to which mail should be forwarded. (Going through your loved one’s mail can help you become aware of bills, subscriptions or other accounts or services that should be canceled.)
  • Notify the police if your loved one left behind a house that will sit vacant, so that they can periodically monitor the home against suspicious activity.