Article banner
Article banner author
Sharon Hunter - October 2021

Step 1: In the first 24 - 48 hours

Add to your favourites

Many early decisions involve care of the body.

1. Advising those that need to know.
Make a list of immediate family and friends. Consider breaking it into groups, calling one member of that group and asking them to share with the others. This helps share the load.

Notify the employer or employees, secure any major property, advise neighbours, arrange pet care if required

2. Confirmation of Death
A medical certificate must be issued within 48 hours. If the death occurred in a hospital or care facility a doctor will give a legal pronouncement of death. If they passed away at home or elsewhere, call 911.

3. Will and Insurance
Advise the solicitor to enact all legal requirements around the will, banking, tax and other matters with the administrator of the estate or executor of the will or to enact probate. They may also have a Digital Assets Log.

4. Decide on a Funeral Home
The doctor or medic who pronounced death will ask if you have a preferred funeral home. If you are in Portland, consider our local providers local providers here. Elsewhere, your physician, friends or family may have recommendations. Take your time to find just the right company.

If family are making many funeral arrangements themselves, they may still want a funeral home to assist with care of the body. If you wish to handle body care, this organization has helpful advice and guidance here

Funeral homes charge a fixed service fee that covers some (but not all) tasks. Read our 9 Funeral Home Facts to be clear on what is, and what is not covered.

5. Collection of the deceased
For practical reasons, this is typically done by the funeral home.

6. Presentation of the body
The funeral home will ask for the family’s decision on viewing, and how long until the service. This may (but not necessarily) influence the decision to embalm or not. Read Read Myth: You Must Embalm The Body to better understand your options. Having an open casket may affect interventions to aid presentation such as makeup, hair, skin toning and so on.

7. Disposition of the body
This is the decision on burial or cremation. Consider eco-friendly cremation and natural burial options. The funeral home can make bookings on your behalf, including burial plots if this isn’t already arranged.

Our Emerging Trends in Green Funerals article discusses latest eco practices.

8. Place a death notice in the paper or online
The funeral home may do this on your behalf (a fee is charged) or you can book direct. Set up an Honoring Page, add a death notice, and share the link digitally.

9. Select a Casket using one
Historically, most people purchased directly through a funeral home. There are now an increasing number of suppliers across the U.S. offering unique options from environmentally friendly to themed and customized. Our providers section has a great selection.

10. Start a Funeral plan
Our digital funeral planner is an interactive, user-friendly tool to get ideas and inspiration, and record important decisions about the funeral or memorial. Make a start when you are ready, and return to it regularly to record decisions, and add thoughts to build a Great Goodbye.

11. Research COVID-19 Funeral restrictions
Law and safety recommendations for funerals are constantly updated. Check online for guidance in your area.

12. Decide what kind of service
There are several options. A funeral service with the casket present, a memorial service, or a combination of the two. You may wish to have a small private service at the crematorium or cemetery and follow with a larger gathering for a memorial.

13. Financial Assistance
You may be able to get financial assistance with the funeral or burial. FEMA COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program is the government initiative for funeral assistance. Check on the VA website for veterans benefits.

It is not required to have a funeral in a funeral home. You may even decide you don’t want to have a funeral and opt instead for a memorial. There are no rules on this.

Call to action banner

Add to your plan

Add this to your plan as inspiration to share with others or just to act as a reminder

Add as favorite

You might also be interested to read

Myth: A funeral must be held within a few days

When death comes to a loved one, it can be overwhelming. Amid the grief, there is suddenly a lot to do, and many decisions to make. Most people think a funeral must be held within...

8 Ins And Outs of Funeral Transport

It’s legal for anyone to transport a casket. Get written permission from the funeral home. A hearse is a vehicle that’s been modified to carry a casket, typically removing back...

So You Want to Build A Casket

I have always been in awe of those who are handy with a hammer and nail. Be it building a deck or crafting a cabinet, watching timber transform to something functional and useful i...