Who To Call First

A death can occur suddenly, or it can come after a long period of illness and hospitalization. Whether you’re getting a phone call at 2 A.M., or you’ve spoken with a loved one during their final moments while in medical care, death is almost always going to be a shock. It doesn’t give you a lot of time to consider your feelings, or your options, much less what your plan of action should be once reality has really sunken in.

News of death can leave you feeling numb, bewildered, and overwhelmed. When you’re the person responsible for making funeral arrangements or executing a will, it can be an even heavier series of thoughts, expectations, and fears, giving you little time to actually grieve and reflect on what’s happened. Even the most simple actions, such as who to call and notify, can seem to be too much.

Making the First Phone Call

What happens next? That depends on the circumstances of the death, and the wishes of a loved one.

If the death occurred while in medical care, staff can typically help with some of the arrangements, including emergency contact information given for relatives and other important people. Staff can also help to speak with a funeral home of your choice, and will give details if and when an autopsy is recommended.

If the death occurs in a private residence, then it is recommended that you call a funeral home directly. Funeral home directors can guide you through the process of what to do, who else to call, and whether or not any other plans were made if the funeral is pre-arranged. In fact, with pre-arrangement, the funeral home may be one of the only required calls that you need to make, beyond those made to relatives, friends, and other people. 

In both instances, much of the burden of handling arrangements after a death can and should be handled with the assistance of professionals that can provide you with important contact details and support. In the case of a medical care facility, which can include a hospital or care home, you can actually coordinate efforts through your funeral home of choice as well, providing even greater support in a difficult time.

Contacting a Funeral Director

Even in the event that a loved one has passed while in medical care, it’s always a good idea to speak with a licensed funeral director as one of your first contacts. They can assist you with:

  • The transportation of the body.
  • Obtaining a death certificate.
  • Selection of funeral details, such as caskets, urns, etc.
  • Arrangement of funeral services and an obituary.
  • Important legal notifications that must be made to employers, attorneys, insurance companies, and banks.
  • Supportive resources for grief management.

Contacting a funeral director may be helpful to you, but it can also help those in your family who are having difficulty coping with deaht. It’s not uncommon for a death to present us with feelings of sadness or hopelessness that we may not have otherwise been aware of, which is why grief counseling services are often at the forefront of what funeral directors can connect families with.

Contacting an Employer or Employees

If your loved one was working for another business, then you should call his or her employer as soon as possible to make arrangements regarding their benefits, any pay due, which includes vacation and sick time, and disability income. You should inquire about dependants and whether or not they are eligible for benefit coverage through the company, as well as ask about any life insurance policy that may have been provided through that business.

If your loved one owned their own business, you may need to speak with an attorney, and with co-owners if there are any present. A business, or part ownership of a business, may be included in the last will and testament of the deceased depending on that company’s legal status. Again, an initial consultation with an attorney may help you to understand what your next move should be. 

Contacting a Life Insurance Provider

The deceased should have paperwork for a life insurance policy if one was taken out. Speak with an agent from that company and learn more about how to file a claim through them. Typically, a beneficiary, or a beneficiary’s guardian if they are a minor, must complete claim forms and related paperwork in order to receive benefits. You will be required to submit a death certificate, as well as a claimaint’s statement to establish proof of claim.

Be sure to review the payment options that are available through the life insurance policy. Most policies will provide either a lump sum payment, or the option of placing the money in an interest-bearing account from which you can write checks. If the beneficiary is a minor, there may be instructions on how the life insurance policy will be handled in the deceased’s last will and testament.

Contacting Friends and Family

Finally, it goes without saying that you will want to contact the friends and relatives of the deceased to let them know what’s happened. Thanks to the popularity of the internet, it may be tempting to simply send out an online notification, but people are more likely to appreciate a phone call if you have that contact information available. You will often find that contacting a core group of friends and family will help you to spread the information quickly, as they communicate with other people who may have known the deceased.

When contacting them, it’s also important to let them know what funeral arrangements have been made, such as the time and location of a funeral if it is known. The general order of contact typically goes from adult children, to siblings, to any living relatives; immediate family should always be notified first, as they will most likely be involved in the funeral arrangements and estate.