Below you will find some helpful information including: things to know when a death occurs, important information to consider, and helpful terms to understand.
Things to know when a death occurs…
When a death occurs who should I notify? When a death occurs the first call depends on the circumstances of death. When someone dies in a licensed facility such as a hospital, nursing home, hospice center or other medical care facility, the staff usually will take care of contacting the funeral home of choice.
When a death occurs unexpectedly at home or work without a physician or medical personnel present, the first call should be made to 911. Emergency service and/or police will decide whether or not any further investigation needs to be made and will contact the medical examiner. When the medical examiner has concluded any necessary examination the body can then be released to the funeral home.
Deaths occurring under hospice care do not require 911 to be called. The hospice nurse, if not present, should be contacted and the hospice nurse will make contact with the funeral home.
What information should I bring to the arrangement conference? When you first call the funeral home, the staff will generally inquire about some vital statistics about the deceased and what type of services the family is considering. The service arrangements will be finalized during the arrangements conference with the funeral director. The following information and items should be brought with you to the arrangement conference:
*Vital information about the deceased (date and location of birth, parent’s names (including mother’s maiden name) *List of surviving and predeceased relatives *Social security number *Dates of marriages or divorces *Highest level of education *Occupation *Military information, if a veteran (separation or discharge/DD-214) *Pre-arrangement information, if any *Cemetery information, if already purchased *Photograph, recent if any *Clergy information, name and phone number *Clothing, including undergarments, jewelry and glasses *Life insurance policy information
What if there is a pre-arrangement? If a pre-arrangement has been previously made with the funeral home. The files will be on record at the funeral home. The arrangement conference will be the time to review the pre-arrangements on file and finalize the times, dates, and location of the service.
If the pre-arrangements were made and paid with another funeral home and you wish to transfer them to us, let us know as soon as possible. We will make contact with the other funeral home and make the arrangements to transfer the funds.
What to do if the death occurs away from home? When a death occurs away from home or in another state, contact us first! We can assist you in coordinating preparation and transportation of the deceased.
Purpose of the funeral director The funeral director serves as an assistant to the family to guide and direct them during a difficult, chaotic time. The funeral director does the following: *picks up or coordinates the pick up and transportation of the deceased to the funeral home *dresses and prepares the body for service/viewing *assist the family with planning services and selecting merchandise *notifies the cemetery of when to open and close the grave *prepares the death certificate and other official documents needed *submits the obituary to the requested newspapers *assist in processing insurance claims
What is embalming? Embalming is a process of sanitizing and delaying decomposition through the use of chemicals. Embalming is intended to delay decomposition to allow the family time to plan and prepare for services.
Embalming is not required, except in certain cases! Embalming may be necessary, however, if you select certain funeral arrangements, such as funeral with viewing. You usually have the right to choose an arrangement that does not require embalming such as direct cremation or immediate burial.
Purpose of a funeral A funeral allows family and friends an opportunity to express their feelings about the death of a person. This ritual provides comfort to love ones and allows an opportunity for love ones to share their feelings and comfort one another as they grieve the lose.
Purpose of a visitation/viewing/wake Visitation/viewing/wake are generally synonymous terms used to describe the informal gathering of family and friends. Traditionally it is held the day or night before the service but it can also be held prior to or following the service. The casket can be open for viewing, closed or not present at all. This is a time for family, friends, and colleagues of the deceased to express their condolences to the family of the deceased.
Purpose of a memorial service A memorial service is a special service, much like a traditional funeral service, with the exception that the body is not present. A memorial service can be held at the funeral home, church, or other location. A memorial service can be held at any time after the persons death. It can be held just a few days after a death or a week, months, or a year after a death. This service can be held in conjunction with other services like visitation or graveside services.
What is cremation? Cremation is the process of using intense heat and flame, that reduces human remains to bone fragments. The bone fragments are then pulverized, which leaves bone fragments reduced to unidentifiable dimensions. The unidentifiable bone fragments resulting from this are referred to as cremated remains or cremains.
Can I have a funeral service if I choose cremation? Absolutely! Choosing cremation certainly does not limit the family options when it comes to services. Many of the same services available for traditional burial can also be performed with cremation. The body can be present for an open casket viewing and funeral service through the use of a rental casket . After the cremation is performed a graveside service can be scheduled and conducted just as it would be done with traditional ground burial. Memorial services can also be conducted without the body present. Just remember cremation is a method of disposition, like burial or entombment, not the funeral service.
What is a will? A will is a legal document, describing how you wish for your assets to be distributed. After the person’s death, the will should be probated.
What if there is no will? If the deceased does not have a will, this is called dying intestate. This means a probate judge will have to appoint an administrator. The administrator is responsible to carry out the business of the estate, paying creditors, distributing assets, etc.
Many assume that all assets automatically revert to the spouse upon death but if they die intestate or without a will this is not the case. In most states the assets are equally divided among the spouse and children. Check with the probate court in your area, as laws vary from state to state.
Important information to consider…
Death certificates are filed in the county in which the death occurs.
A death certificate shall be filed with the local registrar in the county in which the death occurs with in five days of death. (However, this rarely occurs due to several factors, delay in receiving needed information, locating and contacting the physician, and the numerous steps in the filing process.)
The Social Security benefit is now a survivor’s benefit! To see if you are entitled to receive benefits visit the following site: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10008.pdf. The funeral home notifies Social Security of each death.
In the state of North Carolina, hospitals are required to be report all deaths occurring in their facility to a organ and tissue donor service. The body can be denied due to age or health conditions. Otherwise, the body cannot be released until the donor service makes contact with the next of kin or authorized representative to either receive permission or refusal to procure tissue/organs.
Organ and tissue donors should be aware that the donation process may possibly delay the arrangements of service and should prepare accordingly.
Individuals that decide to donate their bodies to science, should also make an alternative plan. The body could be denied at the time of death due to medical conditions or medical treatments received before death.
A body cannot be cremated for 24 hours from the time of death, except in certain cases.
Cremation authorization forms must be signed by family members or authorized persons before the cremation can occur.
Cremated remains can be buried. Service can be setup and conducted much the same way as with a ground burial.
Everyone should have a will, regardless of the amount of assets. It is not necessary to have a lawyer prepare your will. A will can be a hand written declaration of your wishes, signed, notarized, and witnessed by two disinterested parties. The will must be in the individual’s own handwriting.
Important information and documents: These items should be stored in a location that is readily accessible to the person you designate to handle your affairs. It is also a good idea to have copies of these items stored in a separate location in case of fire, flood, tornado, etc. The following list are documents your survivors will need to locate:
*Birth Certificate *Marriage Certificate *Deeds and Titles *Mortgage and Note Information *Automobile Records/Titles/Registration *Income Tax Records/W-2 *Insurance Information (Name of Company and type of policy) *Bank Account Information (Name of bank and account types) *Safety Deposit Box (Name of bank and location of key/combination) *Will
If you choose a safety deposit box as the location to store these items, check with your bank concerning the regulations regarding removal of these items at the time of death. (NOTE: If a death certificate is required before these items can be removed, be aware that a death certificate can take up to two weeks or more to process, depending on ability to reach the doctor, location of death, and circumstances of the death.)
Helpful terms to understand…
Autopsy - a surgical examination of the body in order to help determine cause of death and evaluate disease or injury.
Casket - a rigid container that is designed for the encasement of human remains and that is usually constructed of wood, metal, or other materials. The container usually has ornamental corners and handles, also refer to as hardware and is usually lined in material such as crepe or velvet.
Cremation - reduction of the body to inorganic bone fragments by intense heat in a specifically designed chamber.
Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) - or no code, is a legal order written either in the hospital or on a legal form to withhold cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS), in respect of the wishes of a patient in case their heart were to stop or they were to stop breathing. The original order with the original doctor’s signature must be present for the order to be honored, a copy will not suffice.
Embalming - refers to the disinfection and preservation of a body through the use of chemicals both internally and/or externally to delay decomposition. Embalming is not required by law, except in certain cases.
Irrevocable - meaning that neither party included in the contract can retrieve the fund until the time of death, at that time the money can only be applied to funeral expenses or refunded to the deceased estate.
Outer Burial Container - a container that surrounds the casket in the grave, this includes but not limited to, burial vaults, grave boxes, and grave liners. An outer burial container is not required by law, but may be required by the cemetery.
Power Of Attorney - is a document that allows you to appoint a person or organization to handle your affairs while you're unavailable or unable to do so. Careful consideration should be given when choosing a power of attorney. You are giving this person rights to act in your place, which usually includes spending of monies and possibly liquidation of assets. In most cases, power of attorney ends at death. Powers can be given that will supersede death but you must request they be included, as they are not usually.
Prefunded / Preneed - This means a contract has been made with a funeral home and either insurance or money has changed hands. Preneeds must be registered with the NC Board of Funeral Service (or similar board in the state in which the contract was formed) and can be transferred or used at any funeral home. There are two types of preneed contracts: Standard and Inflation-Proof
A standard contract refers to a contract where funds or insurance are applied toward the cost of services. If the amount applied does not cover the cost of service the family will be expected to cover the difference. If there is more money than is needed to cover the cost of services, the remaining amount will be paid to the estate of the deceased. An inflation-proof contract refers to a contract where goods and service are selected and paid for in full. Prices for the goods and services are locked in at the price on the date of the contract, with the exception of cash advance items. At the time of need the only additional charges will be any increases in the cash advance items, such as florist charges, cemetery charges, death certificates, newspaper charges, taxes, etc. *Funds held in an irrevocable preneed cannot be held against the individual when applying for government assistance.
Preselected / Prearrangement - This term refers to a prior discussion with a funeral home about goods and services. At such time the funeral home makes a record and keeps on file your selections and wishes. No money or funds are exchanged at that time.
Vault - a type of outer burial container. A vault is an outer enclosure that offers protection from the earth’s load and also possesses sealing qualities.