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WHO TO CALL FIRST?
Whether you received a 2 a.m. phone call with news of an unexpected death or shared your loved one’s
final moments of a long illness, your initial reaction to the death was likely shock. It doesn’t seem to
matter how prepared we are – or aren’t – a loved one’s death often leaves us feeling numb and
bewildered. If you’re responsible for making the funeral arrangements or executing the will, shock and
grief can be immobilizing. Even simple decisions can be overwhelming.
Making the first phone calls
Death at a Hospital or Care Facility or under Hospice care
What to do first depends on the circumstances of the death. When someone dies in a hospital or similar
care facility, the staff will usually take care of some arrangements, such as contacting the funeral home
you choose. If your loved one is under Hospice care, the Hospice nurse will assist you in calling the
funeral home. You will need to notify family, friends and clergy. It may be easier on you to make a few
phone calls to other relatives or friends and ask each of them to make a phone call or two to specific
people, so the burden of spreading the news isn’t all on you. If you are alone, ask someone to keep you
company while you make these calls and try to cope with the first hours after the death.
Unexpected deaths (or unattended) at home or an accident
If death has occurred at home or an accident and you are unsure do call 911. The authorities will send
Emergency Staff and Police Officers to the scene. Otherwise, call the non emergency number for your
local town or county to request Authorities to come assess the situation. In most cases, if the deceased
person has been under a Doctor’s care there is no reason for an autopsy.
Call a Funeral Director
Whatever the circumstances of death, one of your first calls should be to a licensed funeral
director. We are here to help you:
- transport the body
- obtain a death certificate
- arrange the funeral, memorial and/or burial service
- prepare the obituary
- help you notify certain authorities, insurance companies and banks
- offer grief support or direct you to other resources
Call the employer
If your loved one was working, you’ll need to call his or her employer immediately. Ask about the
deceased’s benefits and any pay due, including vacation or sick time, disability income, etc. Ask if you or
other dependents are still eligible for benefit coverage through the company. Ask whether there is a life
insurance policy through the employer, who the beneficiary is and how to file a claim.
Call the life insurance company
Look through the deceased’s paperwork for the life policy. Call the agent or the company and ask how to
file a claim. Usually the beneficiary (or the beneficiary’s guardian, if a minor) must complete the claim
forms and related paperwork. You’ll need to submit the death certificate and a claimant’s statement to
establish proof of claim. Remember to ask about payment options. You may have a choice between
receiving a lump sum or the having the insurance company place the money in an interest-bearing
account from which you can write checks.