If you’ve discussed end-of-life plans with nurses and counselors who’ve encouraged you and your family to deal with arrangements, you are one of the lucky ones. Unfortunately, when grieving a loss, some folks, on top of coming to terms with a loved one’s death, face aides who can’t legally declare your parent’s death, calling 911, hosting emergency personnel and dealing with police investigating a potential crime — elder abuse. Only when paramedics arrive can the body be removed and resuscitation attempts stopped. 

Keep a sad eventuality from becoming more painful:

  1. Get a legal pronouncement of death. How to do so depends on whether the person dies at home, as opposed to an institution such as a hospital or hospice. If a doctor isn’t present, you’ll have to contact someone and may need to call 911. If your loved one has a “do not resuscitate” document, the paramedics won’t start emergency procedures. They will take your loved one to an emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration. In most situations, a doctor is needed to pronounce death.
  2. You may have to arrange for transportation of the body. If death has been pronounced and no autopsy is needed, a mortuary can pick up your loved one, and must first provide pricing over the phone. You may want transportation to a crematorium.
  3. Check the deceased’s driver’s license to see whether he or she was an organ donor. Because organs can degrade quickly, this is a priority.
  4. Make sure a doctor or county coroner has been notified.
  5. Call close family and friends and ask them to call other more far-flung relatives.
  6. You may need to have conversations with dependents. You may need to decide what to do with your loved one’s pets.
  7. If your deceased relative or friend was working, you can call the employer and request information about benefits and any pay due. Ask whether there was a life insurance policy through the company.
  8. Check in with Social Security and such other agencies as Veterans Affairs about benefits, to stop payments and to ask about applicable survivor benefits.
  9. Schedule a consultation with a Probate attorney so you have it on the calendar. This consultation will be useful as the attorney can guide you on what information to collect or look out for. After over 18 years in the field, we can confirm that oftentimes what you think you need is not always the same as what the court will want from you.
In a few days after death:
  • Arrange for the funeral and burial or cremation. This may entail a search of the decedent’s documents to see whether a prepaid burial plan exists. Go with a family member or friend to the mortuary. Prepare an obituary.
  • If your loved one served in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact the organization. It may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.
  • Ask a friend or relative to keep an eye on the person’s home, answer the phone, collect mail, throw food out and water plants.
  • Create a memorial page online — most funeral homes offer this option and can help you do this.
  • Consider the purchase of a casket or urn. Caskets can be very expensive, so it may be a good idea to have a friend along as the “voice of reason,” so the recently bereaved don’t buy a needlessly costly one in the throes of grief.

These are details we’d much rather never have to deal with, but it’s better to be informed. File this checklist to use when a sad event occurs to help it from becoming even more painful. If you are handling the estate of a loved one, we recommend scheduling a consultation. Our firm in Downtown Frederick has over 18 years in the field of Trusts and Estates and is ready to assist you. You can call our Client Relations Specialist at 301-696-0567 during regular business hours, email us at admin@lenaclarklegal.com, schedule online at lenaclarklegal.com, or speak to one of our 24-hour representatives after hours.