Who to Call at the Time of Death?

Nothing adequately prepares us for the initial shock of losing a loved one. Feelings of panic and helplessness may be overwhelming, but it’s important to know you are not alone. It is important to reach out to close relatives, friends, and professionals for the help, support, and comfort you need. Notifying family and friends is always an important consideration in the initial tasks to be completed. Call immediate family members first, parents, children, brothers, sisters and grandparents of the deceased. Again, do not worry about waking others. Grief researchers say those close to the deceased feel left out if they aren’t told about a death immediately. Rely on others to assist you in notifying everyone: do not attempt to do this yourself. It not only helps others through the grieving process to have some responsibility, but also allows you to carry on with other tasks. Although it may be difficult, telling others of a death it is therapeutic. Saying aloud that a loved one has died, the death is confirmed in your mind – an important step in the grief process.

So much is to be done in what seems like so little time. The emotional impact of death understandably makes it difficult to focus on the details that go into organizing a funeral. The following “Q & A” will help you with making decisions about who to contact after death has occurred.

Question #1 When death occurs at home, what should we do?

  • Answer: If the death has been expected, the physician caring for the deceased will be able to pronounce the death and this is the person you should first contact. You can then call the funeral home of your choice to remove the body and follow the personal wishes of the deceased.

If the death is unexpected, the police should be notified. They will dispatch an officer and contact a local coroner or medical examiner who will then decide the level of investigation necessary to determine the cause of death. They will arrange to have the body transferred to either a hospital or examination office if an autopsy is required (at their cost). You may suggest to the coroner or medical examiner which funeral home you would like to make this transfer, however if you do not or they wish to use their own personnel, you are under no obligation to use the funeral home they choose. If, after a preliminary examination and investigation, it is determined no further inquiry is necessary, you may then call the funeral home of your choice to remove the body and carry out the deceased’s final wishes.

Question #2 If we are on vacation and a death occurs, what should we do?

  • Answer: If a death were to occur away from the home, i.e. during a vacation or a business trip, then Lake Shore Funeral Home and Cremation Services suggests that you do the following..

Contact the local police department and they will dispatch an officer to your location immediately so you will not be alone. If the death was sudden and unexplained, the local authorities will make the necessary call to the local coroner to attend to the place of death. A county medical examiner or coroner may be called.

If you have not called your own local funeral director, you will have to consider doing so, as the body will have to be removed by them or an authorized agent. Regrettably, there have been circumstances where police and or coroners have called a funeral home of their choice. While we will not speculate on the motives, often families find themselves being pressured by a funeral home that was called to the scene.

If you call Lake Shore Funeral Home and Cremation Services, we will take care of making the necessary contact with a reputable firm in the area where the death occurred.

This action will avoid any possibility of becoming involved with a funeral home outside of your residential area that may care little about matters because they feel they will not ever deal with the family again. When calling Lake Shore Funeral Home and Cremation Services, we can act as your agent, monitoring and avoiding any possibility of excessive, unnecessary or double-billing issues.

Question #3 A death of a loved one has died at the hospital, where do we turn?

  • Answer: The hospital personnel will be able to assist you. Whether or not you are present when the death occurs a health care professional will contact you and ask a few questions. Two of the questions you may be asked, you should be prepared to answer.

1. To which funeral service provider will you be releasing the body for transfer from the hospital?

2. Would you like an autopsy performed? Unless the deceased has died unexpectedly, you may make that decision yourself. An autopsy is the thorough examination of the deceased body, to understand and determine the cause of death or any factors that may have contributed towards the cause of death. The information resulting from an autopsy can help researchers in developing cures and medications to assist in the prevention of diseases. Autopsies are generally performed quickly, as to not interfere with the funeral process. However, you may experience some short delays. Your health care professional will be able to keep you informed about the timing of the autopsy process..

Question #4 A loved one has died in the nursing home, what should we do first?

  • Answer: The nursing home personnel will be able to assist you. If you have not called your funeral director, you will have to consider doing so as the body will have to be removed by them or an authorized agent.


Question #5 Are there any additional calls we need to make?

  • Answer: Call the employer of the deceased.

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.

Also, contact the life insurance company with whom the deceased had a policy. 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 death. 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.