What should I do first when a loved one dies?

Immediately upon death, medical authorities must verify the death and the cause. If the death occurs after an illness, call the physician or nursing agency that has been in attendance. If someone is stricken unexpectedly in the home or in another non-medical setting, call 911. If the police are involved, the body may be taken to the medical examiner’s office.

Speak to the attending physician if you wish to consider donating organs (heart, kidney, liver, etc.) or tissue (skin, bone, cornea, etc.) for transplant or research purposes. After such procedures, the body still can be prepared for funeral services. For information on organ donation, visit www.organdonor.gov or www.thellf.org.

Next call the funeral establishment of your choice. (Call more than one if you wish to compare prices or services. For Rapp’s prices, click here.) Don’t feel rushed to act immediately if death occurs in a hospital; it generally will hold the body for 24 to 72 hours. If you desire a viewing or embalming, however, deciding sooner is better. If your choice is RAPP, we stand ready to assist you at any time.

Ask about any firm before you commit: How long has it been operating? Is it properly licensed? Does it have the staff, equipment and facilities to care for your loved one’s remains safely and respectfully? What facilities are used for an identification, visitation, funeral, or memorial service? What crematory is used?

Not all “alternative” or “discount” funeral and cremation providers are alike. Because it is a fully licensed funeral establishment with its own crematory, Rapp can provide a full range of service options while maintaining professional control and careful custody throughout the process. Also, unlike some of our “discount” competitors, Rapp will never delay or devalue the care of your loved one based on your spending.

What should I bring to the arrangements conference?

Bring along any written advance directives by the deceased regarding his or her disposition or memorialization. These may be in the form of a will, witnessed disposition directive, funeral pre-arrangements, or pre-need contract. If the deceased was a veteran, bring the military discharge papers (DD214). If you have cemetery property, bring that information.

In addition, you should bring with you a recent photograph of the deceased as well as clothing and any personal effects of the deceased that you wish to be used for viewing and/or burial.

The director also will need the following information about the deceased:

  • Full legal name
  • Address
  • Marital status (single, married, widowed, or divorced)
  • Social Security number
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth (city and state)
  • Number of years of schooling
  • Armed Forces service dates, serial number
  • Occupation (not just workplace)
  • Parents’ names, including mother’s maiden name
  • Next of kin and other survivors

With this information the funeral director will fill out the death certificate, obtain the necessary medical data and physician’s signature, and file the certificate with the state Division of Vital Records for processing.

The funeral director can assist you in ordering and obtaining certified copies of the death certificate. The director also will work with you to arrange for a newspaper notice or obituary and to file all necessary forms. In addition, we will complete authorization forms, a purchase agreement itemizing your choices, and determine how the account will be paid.

The director will also review with you your options and plans for memorial ceremonies, including the day, time, and location, and who will lead and participate in the events.

How many certified copies of the death certificate will we need?

You will need certified copies of the completed death certificate for settling the estate. The number of copies you need depends on how many assets are in the deceased’s name (including jointly). You’ll need certified copies to close bank and investment accounts, make life insurance claims, transfer automobile titles, and settle matters surrounding real estate, probate court, and so on. Your attorney or financial adviser can give you more guidance. You can always reorder additional copies if you need them.

To prevent identity theft and other problems, promptly report the death to all of the deceased’s creditors, banks, and credit reporting agencies. You’ll also want to contact a tax professional about the deceased’s final income tax returns and any estate tax returns.

What if death occurs, or the burial is to take place, out of town?

With your consent, the director will contact a reputable firm in the other locality to arrange for transportation and all other necessary services. If you want a direct cremation, you can reduce expenses by dealing directly with a firm in the locality where death occurs.