What to do: A Checklist
If you are reading this, then you will be going through a time of sadness with a range of emotions.
If you are responsible for handling funeral arrangements, here is a checklist of things that need to be taken care of after someone passes away.
If no wishes are stated, a professional funeral director can assist you with all the arrangements. A funeral director can guide you and you can do as much as you wish to.
Read this blog first. Next blog is “How To: Arrange a Funeral Service”
- GET A LEGAL PRONOUNCEMENT OF DEATH
If your Loved One:
Had an expected death at home – call their doctor or nurse and they will decide what happens next.
This legal pronouncement is called “Medical Certificate of Cause of Death” (HP4720).
You may wish to find a funeral director, whose role is to assume responsibility for your Loved One and organise their transfer to a funeral home.
If your Loved One was in residential care, they will contact you and also take care of the medical formalities. If you have decided on cremation, let the medical team know as they will need to prepare additional paperwork.
Died unexpectedly or in an accident, call emergency services (in New Zealand, call 111)
Once they have come to you, they will decide what happens next. In some circumstances the coroner will investigate the death. If the coroner is involved, the police will organise a transfer of your Loved One to a mortuary.
- IF APPLICABLE, ARRANGE FOR ORGAN DONATION
Check your Loved One’s drivers license and or their will to see if they want to be an organ donor. Tell the doctor or the emergency services and they may be able to help.
If your Loved One is at home, call your local hospital and let them know as organ donation is time-sensitive and important to act quickly
- CONTACT THE NEXT OF KIN
First things first, contact the next of kin, especially those overseas who may have to book flights.
- LOCATE YOUR LOVED ONE’S INSTRUCTIONS AND LAST WISHES
Check if there any express wishes from you Loved One before you start. Some of these items are best managed by the executor of a person’s estate. If you are not the executor, it is a good idea work closely with the person who is.
- DECIDE ON A FUNERAL DIRECTOR
They will help you and guide you through both of these legal steps below.
Before a Loved One is buried or cremation, you need:
– A medical certificate signed by a doctor or nurse. This ‘Medical Certificate of Cause of Death’ is issued prior to the Death Certificate (which is issued after the funeral)
– a coroner to authorise the release of your Loved One.
See this link
If you are using a funeral director, they’ll register the passing of your Loved One for you. However, you can do this yourself. See this link
There are rules about where and how you can bury or cremate someone, and where you can scatter ashes. See this link
- DECIDE ON WHAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO DO WITH YOUR LOVED ONE AND ARRANGE TRANSPORTATION
Your selected funeral director can transport your Loved One to their mortuary within their premises
You can transport your Loved One yourself. You will need to fill out a “Transfer of Charge of Body: form (BDM39). You are required by law to sign this form which provides evidence that responsibility for your Loved One was transferred appropriately You need to contact Births Death and Marriage to be sent a form. See link . These should also be available at a Mortuary or on the premises of your funeral director.
- NOTIFY YOUR CLOSE FAMILY AND FRIENDS
If possible, you may wish to split up the task between other family members.
Some airlines offer ‘compassionate airfares’ for immediate family members who are flying to the funeral. See: Air New Zealand
- SEE IF YOU CAN GET FINANCIAL HELP
You might be able to get help with the cost of a funeral, burial or cremation.
Work and Income NZ: For Loved Ones on low incomes (asset tested). See link
(your funeral director will advise you on how to apply)
Accident Compensation Corporate (if an accident): See this link
Note: you can only apply for one funeral grant from either Work and Income NZ or Accident Compensation Corporation
You may wish to set up a Give A Little Page for crowdfunding the cost of the funeral. HonourThem will also place this on the online Obituary notice. People can click directly from the Obituary notice to your Give A Little Page.
If your Loved One was a veteran, you may be able to get financial assistance with the funeral or burial. Find more information on Veterans’ Affairs New Zealand.
However, this may also be under control in advance:
Your Loved One may have a Funeral Insurance Policy or a Life Insurance Policy that will fund the funeral.
Also you may wish to check with medical /health insurance policies as sometimes this covers funeral expenses.
Your Loved One may have pre-paid for their funeral arrangements. See The Funeral Trust
- TIME OFF WORK
If you are based in New Zealand and you have been at your job for at least 6 months, you can take 3 paid days off after the passing of a close family member. Here is a link
- ARRANGE CARE FOR ANY PETS
Who can care for them until you can figure out a long-term plan?
- SECURE YOUR LOVED ONE’S HOME
If they lived on their own, lock up the house and if appropriate, notify the landlord. Throw out any food and water plants.
- NOTIFY YOUR LOVED ONE’S EMPLOYER
If your Loved One was actively working, call to let them know they have passed away.
This may also be a time to ask about pay owed that will go to your Loved One’s estate.
- SHOULD WE HAVE A FUNERAL?
Funeral is a name for a gathering to remember your Loved One. Funerals are about “good grief” and gets the grief journey moving along. There are no rules for funerals and they can be held anywhere.
Traditionally funerals are seen as the opportunity to gather, support and acknowledge a life lived and to begin to accept the loss.
- DECIDE ON FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS
Meet with your professional funeral director to go through your options. Go to “How to: Arrange a Funeral Service” for all details.
- ONCE YOUR FUNERAL HAS TAKEN PLACE
You will register the funeral to receive the Death Certificate
Your funeral home can do this for you or you can do this yourself. See: Get a death certificate
If you wish to do this yourself, you must register the death with Births, Death and Marriages within three days of the cremation or burial. You will need a notification of death registration form (BDM28). See link
It is recommended that you may need a number of copies, depending on the accounts that your Loved One had open.
- FIND THESE DOCUMENTS
Along with the will that you will have already found (or no will):
– Trust documents
– Home and Contents Policy
– Vehicle Policy
– Pension benefit
– Other benefits
– Superannuation / KiwiSaver details
– Bank Accounts
– Credit Card Accounts
– Business Agreements
– Evidence of assets and liabilities
– Birth Certificate
– Marriage Certificate
– Title deeds for assets – house, vehicles
– Any leases
– Health Insurance
– Any unpaid bills
– Last tax return
- REDIRECT THE MAIL
Have the mail redirected and this may also help you identify bills that need to be paid and account that should be closed. You will need to file a request with the NZ Post and show proof that you are an appointed executor and authorised to manage their mail.
- WHO DEALS WITH SETTLING THE ESTATE AND STARTING THE PROBATE PROCESS?
Probate is whereby a will is recognised by the courts as being authentic.
Probate is granted after receiving an application from the executors.
In most instances, your solicitor will apply for probate for you.
If your Loved One had a will, it will specify who is to serve as the executor (personal representative). The person named is responsible for make sure credits are paid, assets are distributed and tax returns are filed. You may need the services of a lawyer to assist you through this process.
If your Loved One passed without a will (intestate), the law typically indicates who is in charge.
- WORK WITH AN ACCOUNTANT
You’ll need to file a return for both your Loved One and the estate.
- CONTACT THE RELEVANT GOVERNMENT DEPARTMENTS
If your Loved One received any benefits or pensions, the relevant government departments will need to be advised.
MyTrove Notify is a free service for you to finalise tax affairs with Inland Revenue and cancel a passport with the Passports Office. There are some banks and insurance companies also involved.
See blog: Government Departments and Legal Documents
- NOTIFY LIFE INSURANCE COMPANIES
Complete any claim form for any life insurance policies that your Loved One had. Also, suggest that friends and family who may have listed your Loved One on their own life insurance policies to update theirs.
- CANCEL INSURANCE POLICIES
This could be health insurance, car insurance, home and contents insurance or anything else.
- NOTIFY ANY BANKS OR MORTGAGE COMPANIES
Use your Loved One’s mail and any online accounts you have access to in order to identify accounts that need to be closed. You will need to supply copies of the death certificate to make any changes.
- CLOSE CREDIT CARDS
Call customers service and then email them a copy of the death certificate.
- NOTIFY ANY OTHER FINANCIAL ADVISORS OR BROKERS
Work out if any additional financial and investment accounts that were held. You’ll need a death certificate to transfer ownership of each account. If your Loved One had a KiwiSaver account, you will need to notify the KiwiSaver provider.
- ONGOING SERVICES MAY NEED TO BE CANCELLED
– Newspaper or magazine subscriptions
– Gas bottle deliveries
– Telephone and internet connection
– Mobile Phone
– Garden bin collection
- CANCEL DRIVER’S LICENSE, PASSPORTS, REGISTRATION OF MOTOR VEHICLE.
- CLOSE EMAIL ACCOUNTS
Once you are confident that you have all the accounts, you may want to permanently close email accounts.
- JOBS AROUND THE HOUSE
– Cleaning the house
– Taking care of pets
– Watering the plants
- MAKE AN INVENTORY OF BELONGINGS
Make a list of household goods, personal belongings, valuable so that they can be accounted for and property distributed.
- PICK UP YOUR LOVED ONE’S ASHES
The ashes can be collected approximately two days after the service.
There are no rules to when a headstone needs to installed. Many families unveil the headstone one year after the passing and this in turn becomes a one year anniversary gathering.
HonourThem can recommend a Monumental Mason within your area.
- GRIEF SUPPORT
This is 100% hardest thing you will ever have to deal with. We have a list of Grief Support services here. Your family doctor can also recommend bereavement support services in your area.