I’ve realized through being on the other end of the phone a lot, that people seem to kind of bumble their way through the process of making death arrangements. It seems to me that a lot of people don’t really know what they’re doing or what’s happening and instead, they just let themselves be instructed through the process. No one likes to feel helpless or out-of-the-loop of information, especially when it comes to death of a loved one so I’d like to shed some light on the process of making arrangements with a funeral home.
There are two general conditions to consider that have slightly different timelines so we’ll take them separately.
A. The person died in a hospital or at home under the care of hospice.
1. Notify the funeral home.
a. Information to have on hand:
– date of death
– time of death
– date of birth
– social security number
– next of kin’s name and phone number
– whether you’re choosing burial or cremation
Even though you’ve made the call, someone from the hospital/hospice will have to obtain to legal ‘release’ of the body from a doctor before we can pick them up. We’ll wait to hear from a nurse/chaplain/doctor before we do anything so feel free to take your time saying goodbye.
Once notified and when you’re ready, the funeral home will send out a removal team to collect the body and bring it back to our facility.
2. Set a meeting time with the funeral home to fill out paperwork.
This can either be done when they come to pick up the body or by calling them the next day. Just don’t wait too long… we get antsy when we have a body but don’t know what to do with it.
Protip: even if you’re not having any kind of ceremony, you still need to contact the funeral home for “arrangements.” We still need you to come in and fill out paperwork.
b. Info you’ll need:
– decedent’s last address
– city/state of birth
– highest education level
– father and mother’s full names with mother’s maiden name
We use all of the vital statistic information you provide to generate a death certificate. We try to fill out as much of this form as we possibly can.
B. The person died unexpectedly outside of a hospital.
1. Call the police emergency line (911).
If the person dies under these circumstances the coroner will, more than likely, want to do an autopsy to find the cause of death. If they do, the person will be taken to the coroner’s office in the county in which they died. During that time, you should start taking steps to find a funeral home.
2. Notify the funeral home and set up a meeting time.
Some county morgues may require the next of kin to sign a release form before the body can go to the funeral home. If this is the case, you need to set up a meeting with the funeral home as soon as possible. The body will not be picked up or taken care of until you sign that release form.
Keep in mind that the person may be autopsied. If you’re opting for an open-casket visitation (viewing/wake/service, etc.) be aware that some funeral homes may have an extra charge to embalm an autopsied body (it’s a lot of work!).
The steps from here are the same as the prior scenario with the exception of filling out the release form in addition to the rest.
So, granted, this is an extremely over-simplified explanation of the process and there’s roughly one bajillion ways this can go wrong, be delayed, or otherwise be screwed up. But this is just the gist of it. At a later time, I’ll delve further into the process of death certificates and cremation, since those seem to be things I’m asked about a lot.