What to do when someone dies: The definitive list

It is always jarring and sad to get the call that someone you love has passed on. The reactions will always vary, from shock, denial, disbelief to a feeling of complete numbness. What is almost certain is that you will feel overwhelmed by all the things that need to be done for your loved one now they can no longer do it themselves. It is important to remember that the way you are feeling is normal and to acknowledge your feelings. Unfortunately, certain activities must still happen. In order to help you deal with those activities; we have prepared a definitive list of what you should do: You can watch the video in 3 minutes or read the post if you have a bit more time.

Pickup & Preparation:

Whether your loved one is in a hospital, at home or in a hospice, they will need to be picked up and their remains prepared for burial or cremation. If your loved one is an organ donor, you will need to instruct the Hospital of this immediately in order for them to follow the appropriate donation instructions before your loved one is picked up.

Procuring a Death Certificate:

The Hospital, Hospice or attending Physician needs to issue a “Notice of Death” (BI1663). This is issued before the Death Certificate. You will need this for all of the administrative forms you will fill in for the government, for funeral insurance and life insurance claims if your loved one was covered. If you are managing the funeral with Sendoff, we will take care of getting the certificate issued.

Other important documentation:

  • You will need to collect your loved one’s government issued identification. In South Africa it is the “Green ID Book or Smart ID Card”
  • You will need to find out if your loved one had a will and if so, you will need to notify the executor (if you are not named as executor) of their estate of their passing
  • You will need to find a copy of your loved one’s funeral or life insurance policy to determine if the funeral costs are covered
  • You will need to find out if your loved one had prepared special instructions related to their passing.

Family Notifications

You will need to notify at least the immediate family of your loved one. They deserve to know what has happened and usually, families support each other and decide collectively on what to do to get through this challenging time. This is also the time to notify your loved one’s Imam, Priest or Rabbi if they had one.

Early Decisions

In the absence of special instructions or religious requirements, you will need to make some decisions on behalf of your loved one:

  • Did they want a funeral or a cremation?
  • Is your loved one an organ donor? If so, you will need to follow the donation instructions.
  • Did your loved one want a religious or non denominational service?
  • If the service is religious, there are specific guidelines to follow in each case.
  • You will need to choose a cemetery and arrange a grave.
  • You will need to choose a coffin or casket.
  • If your loved one is being cremated, you will need to pick an urn.
  • At this time you’ll also need to decide whether the service will be held in a hall, Church/Mosque/Shul, at the cemetery or if there will be a service at both.
  • You will need to decide on details for the service, what format will you have? Who will deliver a Eulogy? Are there any other speakers?
  • Will you have pallbearers and if so, who?
  • What will your loved one be wearing?
  • You will need to decide on floral arrangements and any decorations such as photos of your loved one.
  • You will need to decide on the size of the service, who will be invited, what date will it be held?
  • You may want to issue an obituary in the newspapers
  • Will there be a reception afterwards? If so, where will it be held?
  • Will you be providing catering?
  • Are you having an “After tears”?
  • Will there be a live stream, photographer or videographer required?

Early Activities:

Before planning for the funeral, there are some tasks you will need to perform to make sure that all the little things are taken care of:

  • Pets or dependants need to be taken care of and eventually rehomed.
  • Your loved one’s home(s) and vehicles should be locked and secured, if possible, notify the police, neighbourhood watch or security company to “keep an eye” out.
  • Your loved one’s employer and work colleagues should be notified that they have passed on
  • Your loved one’s creditors (people they owed money to like Banks for home loans) should be notified of their passing and documentary evidence provided
  • If there are any urgent bills that cannot be pended, these must be paid.
  • This should be the time to cancel any credit or debit cards held with creditors
  • Your loved one’s debtors (people that owed money to them such as clients & employers) should be notified of their passing and requested to settle their accounts
  • You may want to contact their social media companies and request that their profiles be delisted or memorialized.

Tasks for the Funeral:

Once you have decided how everything will be managed, you need to start putting things in place. We have prepared a task list for this purpose:

  • Arrange funeral or cremation with a funeral home.
  • Choose a coffin or casket.
  • If your loved one is being cremated, choose an urn.
  • Book Church/Mosque/Shul for service.
  • Arrange transportation for your loved one and relatives.
  • Conclude specific religious guidelines.
  • Book cemetery and gravesite.
  • Select an outfit for your loved one
  • Book florist and select arrangement
  • Send out invitations
  • Issue an obituary in the relevant newspapers
  • Book reception venue
  • Book caterer
  • Book Photo/videographer
  • Book “After tears” venue

Tasks for After the Funeral:

Once the funeral is over, you can take some time to breathe. In a few days or weeks however, you will need to perform some wrapping up tasks:

  • A thank you note to all who helped out
  • If your loved one was cremated, you will need to decide what to do with their ashes
  • You may want to look into a “Living Memorial” at this stage.
  • cancelling any policies, financial instruments or contracts held by your loved one
  • You should cancel any governmental accounts or documents still held such as rates & taxes, driving licence etc
  • Create a documents file which holds all the documents, invoices, contract cancellation notices and bills related to the funeral and your loved one
  • File a notice of death with the Master of the High Court (RSA)
  • You may want to look into bereavement counselling options. Even if you think you are fine, the death of a loved one can have serious emotional impacts.

If you managed the funeral with Sendoff, we will provide you with a file which has all the details and documentation relating to the various tasks you managed with us.

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