How to begin

When someone close to you dies, it can feel devastating and overwhelming, especially when there is a list of tasks to complete. Make sure you have support from friends or family to assist you through this time. This information is designed to help you to keep track of who to notify and what documents you need.

These are some of the key people you will need to contact as soon as possible after your loved one dies:

  • The funeral home
  • Relatives
  • Personal representative (executor if there is a Will)
  • If the deceased had a religious affiliation, the priest, minister, rabbi or imam as applicable
  • Friends and members of any affiliations the Deceased belonged to (e.g. Rotary, Lions Club, etc.)
  • Employer
  • Lawyer
  • Accountant

If available, review the Deceased’s Will and determine:

  • Who the personal representative will be (it is not always the first person named)
  • If there are any special wishes in the Will with respect to the funeral arrangements and other matters (e.g. donating the body)

If you find the Will, It is very important that you not remove any staples that are holding the pages together, as doing so may invalidate the Will. If you need to make copies, leave the staples in place.

Get Organized

The "After a Death Checklist” from the BC Government will help you determine who to notify and what paperwork you need.

see checklist

The funeral home will require certain information and documents.

The following information is required to register the death with Vital Statistics:

The Deceased's:

  • Full legal name and any aliases (this might be a short form of their name that the Deceased used, for example)
  • Home address
  • Occupation
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of death
  • Social Insurance Number

The Deceased’s father’s:

  • Full legal name
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of death if applicable

The Deceased’s mother’s:

  • Full legal name; maiden
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date and place of death if applicable

Documents to be assembled:

  • Will
  • Birth Certificate or other legal proof of age
  • Marriage certificate
  • Insurance Policies
  • Financial institutions’ statements
  • Copies of Land Title searches or other documents proving land ownership
  • Copies of motor vehicle ownership documents

Addresses and contact information for the following (if applicable):

  • Spouse
  • Children
  • Beneficiaries under the Will
  • Heirs at law (even if there is a Will and the heirs are not beneficiaries)

Items to discuss with the funeral home:

The main issue to decide is whether the body is to be buried or cremated. There are many other issues, for example:

  • what type of funeral
  • selection of casket/urn
  • if a memorial service or celebration of life is planned

If arrangements were not settled before the death, it may take some time to discuss all the details.  It is recommended to contact the funeral home in advance of death (if possible) to make as many decisions as is appropriate and ensure that all necessary information is available after the death, not when emotions are at their highest.

The province of British Columbia developed the Joint Protocol For Expected/Planned Home Deaths in British Columbia to support individuals to die at home with their families or caregivers.

If you wish to plan an expected natural home death, you should review "Expected/Planned Home Deaths" for a detailed explanation.

Ask the patient’s physician to complete the "Notification of Expected Death in the Home" form  and send it to the funeral home before the death.  This form will allow a Funeral Director to remove a body from a home without pronouncement of death.  Note that pronouncement of death is not required by BC law, but is a sound clinical and ethical practice for nurses and physicians. There may be circumstances when pronouncement is difficult or families choose to waive pronouncement.

A Medical Certificate of Death form must be completed by the physician within 48 hours after death and forwarded to the funeral director who will register the death with Vital Statistics Agency.

What's next?

Estate Administration is the process in which the estate executor (or administrator) handles and eventually distributes the assets of the person who has died. This is often a difficult and time-consuming task, which makes the executor or administrator’s role a daunting one. Executors and administrators have certain legal duties and obligations, and they must handle the assets solely for the benefit of the estate, not for the benefit of the beneficiaries who will be receiving gifts from the Will-maker. For this reason, executors or administrators must tread very carefully, and should seek legal advice on how to carry out this important role in order to limit the executor or administrator’s legal liability. We can help with this process - feel free to reach out to one of our Estate Planning and Administration lawyers.

How we can help

At KZEL, we work together as a team to achieve better outcomes. In each case, we use our collective experience, wisdom, and practical advice to support you through this difficult and emotional process.

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