Friday, 24 March 2017 07:24

What to do When Someone Dies

A few years ago I worked with an elderly client who was not well. His family lived overseas and they asked to organize the entire moving process. We had been working for a number of weeks decluttering and downscaling, getting him ready for the move to a small apartment in a retirement complex. And then he died quite suddenly just after one of our sessions! 

His family were distraught and called me to help! They couldn’t get there immediately and things had to be done. TO be honest I had never had to deal with someone dying, and had no idea of the process. With the help of his doctor and family attorney, we muddled through and got things done. I made lists and compiled a file for the family.
A few months later, I needed that list again for a friend who didn’t know where to start after her mom died. It made the process so much easier for her, and I thought it would be helpful to share the list here.

First steps

  • Call the doctor, who will probably call the coroner
  • Try not to move anything until official announcement is made
  • Make note of time of death
  • Contact family or friends for support
  • Keep a running list of people to thank

Legalities and paperwork

  • Get a copy of death certificate from attending doctor
  • Contact local home affairs office with temporary death certificate
  • Submit name, address, date of birth and death
  • You will receive a standard death certificate
  • Required to go through probate, file insurance claims, collect pensions etc.
  • You will receive a disposal certificate for burial or cremation
  • Find the will, any estate documents, and insurance policies

Making funeral arrangements

  • Decide on funeral home, talk to them about arrangements
  • Locate the person's burial instructions and last wishes
  • Determine if burial has been pre-paid
  • Choose location, date and time for services
  • Ask for itemised list of funeral costs and what they cover
  • Determine what to do with ashes
  • Let mourners know wishes regarding flowers
  • Determine if you want a viewing beforehand
  • Decide on structure of service, hymns, prayers and music
  • Preparations for wake after the service

Notifying others

  • Call friends and family - use the person's address book, or cellphone
  • Contact employer and co-workers
  • Place obituary in newspaper
  • Inform relevant government departments
  • Notify insurance agencies, financial institutions
  • Contact person's attorney, and executor of the will
  • Cancel utility services
  • Have mail re-directed
  • Cancel rental leases

Taking care of financial concerns

  • All financial decisions are made by executor of will
  • Grant of probate allows payment of any debts
  • Find out who beneficiaries are on insurance policies
  • Remainder of assets are distributed according to will

When there is no will

  • All decisions to be made by spouse or closest relative
  • Contact attorney for advice and guidance
  • Get necessary forms at probate office
  • Determine assets and liabilities of deceased
  • Return required form with death certificate to probate office
  • Get letters of administration from probate to distribute person's assets
Published in Organizing

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Email: judith@allsortednow.co.za 

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