When Death Occurs

No matter if a death is sudden, or if it something that was a long time coming, the loss of a loved one makes us feel emotional and overwhelmed.  No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  When you are in a heightened emotional state, even the most basic decisions can seem staggering.  The following is a rough guideline of what needs to be done within the first 24 hours after death.

When death occurs at home or a place of business

If the person was not under hospice care, the police will have to be notified immediately.  The police will be dispatched to the home and place the call to the coroner/medical examiner.  From there the coroner/medical examiner will take the body and determine whether further action is necessary.  The coroner/medical examiner must release the body before a funeral home can do anything.   If the person was under hospice care, contact the hospice representative if they were not present and they will notify family members what the proper procedures are to follow.

When a death occurs out of state

If the deceased died out of state this will require the coordination of a funeral home in each city.  Most funeral homes have relationships with world-wide agencies that specialize in shipping bodies home. Call the funeral home at 814.237.2712.

When a death occurs at a hospital/nursing home/hospice facility

The staff of a care facility such as a hospital or a nursing home will notify you and the necessary authorities immediately after a death has occurred.  If a funeral home has been provided to the hospital or nursing home, they will be notified at the time of death.  If you are present at the hospital when the funeral director arrives, they will ask a few questions about the deceased wishes and set up a time to come into the funeral home to make arrangements, however, if you are not present a funeral director will contact you by telephone to discuss these arrangements.

Informing a Funeral Director

Once everything has been cleared with the proper authorities, the next call you place should be to a licensed funeral director.  Funeral directors are here to help you obtain a death certificate, transport the body, and in the event preplanning was not done, select a casket/urn and arrange the funeral/memorial service.  The funeral director will also help you notify the employer and insurance company of the deceased to assist with those arrangements.  Funeral directors are here to help and advise you and will work very hard to relieve the stress and logistics involved in funeral planning.

Meeting a Funeral Director

You should meet with a funeral director within 24 hours of a death to begin to make final arrangements for your loved one.  Deciding on these final arrangements may seem like a very daunting task, especially when you are in heightened emotional state, but, funeral home staff have years of experience dealing with these issues, and strive to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible.

Making Arrangements

A funeral director will guide you through the following steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to create a memorable funeral for your loved one. From here the funeral services can be personalized.  Did your loved one have a favorite sports team?  What was their favorite type of music?  What activity was your loved one known best for?  Recalling fond memories assists with the grieving process and will help honor the life of your loved one.

First the Funeral Director will gather information required for the death certificate and service arrangements. 

This will include gathering the following information:

  • Full legal name
  • Current mailing address including township, borough, and county
  • Social Security Number
  • Date and city of birth including county of birthplace
  • Race/ethnicity
  • Citizenship status
  • Father’s name, mother’s name (including maiden name)
  • Informants full name, address, phone, email, Social Security Number and relationship to deceased
  • Executors full name, address, phone, email, Social Security Number and relationship to deceased
  • Marital status
  • Name of spouse (if married or widowed)
  • Name, town and city of children, grandchildren and siblings living and deceased
  • Military service (branch/rank/dates of years served)
  • Highest level of education
  • Occupation and employer
  • Memberships
  • Church
  • Memorial contributions
  • Preplanning information (if applicable)

The funeral director may require pertinent documents for preplanning or for legal paperwork. 

This may include gathering the following information:

  • Beneficiary designations
  • Life insurance policies
  • Pre-Financial Trust Agreements

If no preplanning has been done, necessary arrangements need to be made for the funeral service. 

This will include gathering the following information:

  • Scheduling the location, date and time of the visitation and funeral service
  • Selecting burial or cremation
  • Choosing Funeral Products
  • Arranging a cemetery plot
  • Preparing an obituary notice
  • Scheduling transportation arrangements