April 28, 2022

Funeral Planning & Beyond

We’ve put together some simple checklists to help you get through the immediate needs, and also plan for the paperwork that follows the service itself. 

When someone you love dies, planning a funeral is just one of the many tasks that may fall on you. We understand how stressful this can be, navigating unfamiliar territory while also working through the emotions that come with any loss.

Important Tip: surround yourself with the right people. Planning a funeral and settling affairs is not something we recommend you do alone. We suggest you contact a funeral director, plus a lawyer and/or accountant to help with financial matters and probate, plus a network of friends and relatives, to help with various tasks, and to offer emotional support. 

Most Important: Days 1-2

  1. Get a legal pronouncement of death: This is the first step to getting a death certificate. Without that, you can’t plan a funeral, or handle the deceased’s legal affairs.
  2. Tell friends and family: Make a list of immediate family and friends and inform them in person, via phone, or with a group email. Ask each of them to help pass the word. Include work contacts, and other groups the deceased belonged to. If you have access to the deceased’s social media accounts, you can also post there.
  3. If the deceased was living at home, check their property: Water plants, gather mail, throw out any food in the fridge, ensure any pets have care - remember pets grieve too. Secure the property, and any vehicles.
  4. Find out if there are existing funeral and burial plans: If you don’t know what the deceased wanted for a funeral, gather their closest family and decide together what is appropriate, and what you can afford. A funeral director can help here

Days 2-4

  1. Make funeral, burial or cremation arrangements: A funeral director can help you with options, and pricing. Secure a date, ask relatives and friends to be pallbearers, to speak at the service, to write thank-you notes, and to help arrange a post-funeral gathering. Also, write an obituary or have a friend or family member help, and submit to your local paper.
  2. Redirect mail: Contact Canada Post to redirect mail to you. As mail starts to come in, this will help you cancel subscriptions, pay creditors etc.
  3. Get in touch with the deceased’s place of work: Ask about final paycheques including any benefits/life insurance that may have been in place, and outstanding vacation pay.

1-2 weeks after death

  1. Start the paperwork: Ask for multiple copies of the death certificate - 8-12 copies. You will need these for things like insurance claims, closing bank accounts, closing email accounts etc. The funeral director can also obtain these for you.
  2. Find the will and the executor: If there isn’t a will, see step 4 - the probate court judge will name an administrator in place of an executor.
  3. Hire a lawyer and an accountant: This is not essential but, if you can afford it, it does take a lot of the burden off you. An accountant will need to file a final tax return on the deceased’s behalf. Take the will to probate: Probate is the legal process of executing a will. This ensures the person’s debts and liabilities are paid and that the remaining assets are transferred to the beneficiaries.

    a) You’ll need to make a list of assets: house, contents, car, investments, savings, RRSPs, TFSAs, etc.

    b) You’ll also need to make a list of bills: this is where the redirected mail will help.
  4. Cancel accounts and subscriptions: This can include phone accounts, streaming services, magazines, sports dues etc. 
  5. Decide what to do with the passport:  You can keep the passport as a memento, or mail the passport to the government along with a copy of the death certificate and have it officially canceled. 

2-4 weeks after death

  1. Insurance companies: You’ll need a death certificate and policy numbers to make claims on any life insurance policies the deceased had. You will also need to cancel any home, auto, and health policies.
  2. Banks, financial institutions, credit cards: Show the bank(s) a copy of the death certificate. The bank will then release funds to the person named beneficiary. Note - the executor will need to use any funds to repay debts first. Be sure to cut up and dispose of any cancelled credit cards.
  3. Cancel driver's license: You will need to take a copy of the death certificate to a local registry office.
  4. Delete or memorialize social media account(s): Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram all have the option to keep accounts open in a memorial function if you can show a death certificate. This means friends can continue to post messages on a timeline.
  5. Close email account(s): If you know how to log in to the account, you can do this yourself. Otherwise, show a copy of the death certificate to cancel an email account.