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What to Do When a Relative or Loved One Dies — Key Steps

Rome Monument Provides Support, Assistance, Information and Resources to Families in Pittsburgh During Trying Times

When you’re responsible for a loved one, spouse, family member, significant other, good friend or life partner, facing the prospect of their death and understanding related processes (i.e., handling it) it can be tough. The question gnaws at you, “what do I do when they die?” It’s easy to be a little confused, afraid, or uncertain. Fortunately, we have answers. Just give us call anytime at 724-770-0100 or click here to request assistance

Rome Monument provides assistance, support, information and resources to people in Pittsburgh that experience the death of a parent, family member or friend.  If you have any questions about what to do when a family member or friend passes away, please feel free to stop by one of our offices in Pittsburgh. Our staff is intimately familiar with all aspects of “what to do.” Getting you through the death of a loved one is why we’re here and we’re always happy to answer your questions—any questions.

Not knowing what to do, where to begin, where to turn, or who to trust is normal when suddenly immersed in the unfamiliar. Managing the processes involved in the loss of a loved one is foreign territory for most—no matter when or how it happens. But, the process isn’t as difficult as it seems and many resources and people can help. It’s important to stay calm, be logical, get organized, and take one step at a time. Give yourself time to think and gather the right information. Don’t succumb to pressure or make forced ill-informed decisions.

Here are some of the key steps to take and issues to consider when a father, mother, spouse, relative, fiance, best friend, boyfriend, girlfriend or loved one dies.

An Important First Step — Talk to other family members openly and candidly. This can help all cope with the loss. Verify, and secure family member agreement on who is responsible for what. Family communication about this avoids conflict and confusion and wisely diffuses misunderstandings, while building cooperation. Get all the help you can from family, friends and clergy. Reach out appropriately—it helps.

Choosing a Funeral Home/DirectorSelecting a good funeral home in the the Pittsburgh area is important and among the first decisions you must make. First, verify whether your loved one has already preplanned funeral home services. If not, you can quickly decide by considering area options recommended by professionals doctors, police, hospice, etc. They usually know which funeral homes are reputable, reasonably priced, can provide the services you require, etc. Ask friends and family for guidance too. Once you’ve identified a number of good options, contact the funeral homes directly about their services, rates, and availability. Get a comfort level. Then check online reviews of Pittsburgh area funeral homes to confirm.  Click here for a list of select funeral homes in Pittsburgh and Allegheny County, Beaver County, Butler County, Fayette County, Greene County, Lawrence County, Washington County and Westmoreland County Pennsylvania with website addresses, phone numbers and street addresses.

Write a Checklist of Essential Steps — This list helps you get organized and stay focused. If you haven’t already created one on your own, you should do it. If you need help with your list try searching online for lists.

  • First item on your checklist should be key persons to notify of the death.
  • Any medical professionals working with your loved one.
  • Friends and family.
  • Clergy for the family.
  • If your loved one was working, call his or her employer immediately and report the death.
  • Insurance companies insuring your loved ones life.
  • Any lawyer known to hold files or documents governing or relevant to your loved one’s affairs.

Your funeral director can assist in handling initial matters like:

  • Transporting your loved one’s body.
  • Crafting and releasing an obituary to media outlets.
  • Securing a death certificate.
  • Notifying key persons.
  • Grief support.
  • Establishing communication with mourners and the community.

Gravestones and Cemeteries — If your loved one has not preplanned, two issues are a priority:

These are two distinct steps, and two separate decisions, though they can blur together. So don’t be confused. Cemeteries and memorial parks in Pittsburgh and Southwestern PA often offer to procure a headstone as part of a burial package, and funeral directors also offer packages that include arranging for a headstone and a plot. A funeral director can help make burial arrangements at the cemetery and select a memorial headstone, monument or urn. They also can recommend memorial companies and cemeteries.

Selecting a cemetery, a memorial company, and a memorial headstone are distinct decisions best made by informed family members through direct dialog with a memorial maker and cemetery administrators. Have the conversation with your family on whether you want the funeral director or cemetery to make choices for you. It’s often best for the family to make these decisions directly using their own judgment and sensibilities.

Key Notifications and Inquiries —Notify third parties of the death and make inquiries concerning your loved one’s property or contract rights. Examples of important third parties to include are:

Employer — notify employer(s) of the death and provide instructions on transferring decedent’s personal property and to-be-paid compensation. Ask about benefits and processes and procedures for closing out the employment relationship.

Social Security — Contact the Social Security Administration and submit a formal notice of the death. Request instructions on how to proceed properly to finalize/close/redirect the account.

Unions or Professional Associations — Call any unions, professional or service organizations your loved one was affiliated with and inquire about benefits the organization may offer and the processes required to secure those benefits.

Pension Administrators — Contact any pension administrators and submit a formal notice of the death, verify procedures, secure final payments, and inquire about required submissions for redirection of benefits and protection of successor rights.

Business Partners, Clients —Identify parties regularly doing business with your loved one and inform them of the death, and inquire about unresolved, pending, or open issues that need to be addressed.

Life Insurance Companies — Find the deceased’s life insurance policies, if any, and contact the company or its agent. Ask about formal notice and time requirements, procedures, forms required, and authority for submitting a claim.

Lawyers — Contact lawyers representing the decedent in business affairs, dispute resolution, or estate matters and inform them of the death. Ask the lawyer for any original documents and files belonging to the decedent and inquire about ongoing authority of the lawyer, and outstanding fees due to the lawyer.

Funeral, Cemetery, Monument Providers — Maybe your loved one already paid for funeral, cemetery or monument services. Verify if such pre-arrangements exist (look for relevant documentation) and then contact the provider and provide a death notice and make arrangements for implementing the prepurchased plan.

Religious Service Providers — If your deceased loved one belonged to a religious organization, verify whether arrangements have been made for funeral-related services, and what’s necessary to implement the arrangements or change them appropriately. Contact the church or other religious organization and provide a notice of the death.

Military — If your deceased loved one served in the military, gather appropriate service records and contact the service determine eligibility for military funeral honors, or request that your funeral director arrange military honors.

None of this is that difficult. It’s all pretty straightforward. It just requires some thought and appropriate guidance, and when possible advance planning. It’s best to relax. Breath deeply. You can manage this.

And if you need help, just call us at 724-770-0100 and one of our planning specialists will help you get the answers you need to manage the loss of your loved one prudently and effectively and with as little pain as possible.

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