When someone dies… what happens next depends on whether the death is “expected” or “unexpected”.
We want to emphasize that if death is expected and hospice is already on board, it is important, if at all possible, to create a funeral plan before your loved-one is actively dying and your focus is quite naturally on being by their side. Make an appointment with our natural funeral staff to discuss your wishes, explore options, and arrive at a care plan that is meaningful for your family.
When Death Occurs
We encourage families to take the time they need to “be” with this momentous occasion. Death is a significant rite of passage not just for the person making the transition, but also for family members whose lives will continue in a different light, without the physical presence of the one who has died. It is a time to honor beliefs, traditions (if you have them) not to rush, and to breathe.
If you have created a funeral plan in advance of death, The Natural Funeral will assist with any after-death ritual such as a Reverent Body Preparation or a vigil outlined in that plan. This will happen after death has been pronounced. Hospice will also notify the coroner of the death.
Pronouncement of Death
If your loved-one’s death is expected, and they are receiving hospice care, hospice staff will come to pronounce death when you notify them that death has occurred. (A hospice staff person may also be present for the death, but not always.) The time of the pronouncement will be recorded as well as the “actual” time of death, if this is known.
The Natural Funeral will contact the physician who will sign the death certificate to fill out information on the cause of death. The physician should sign this within 48 hours of death. The completed death certificate with biographical information will be filed within 5 days of death. The Natural Funeral can obtain the permit for cremation or burial when the death record is complete, and has been entered into the vital records system.
Certified Copies of the Death Certificate
We will ask you how many certified copies of the death certificate you need for notifying agencies that death has occurred.
Once we have obtained the permit for disposition (which can take a few days), we can establish with you a time for the cremation or burial and continue to assist with other aspects of your funeral plan, including any memorial or other service.
If death is unexpected, you will need to call 911. If your loved one has a Colorado MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment regarding their wishes for resuscitation), you will need to make this known to the responders.
The Role of the Coroner in Unexpected Death
The coroner acts on behalf of the deceased to determine the cause of death when death is unexpected. The coroner may choose to conduct an autopsy to establish the reason death has occurred.
Contact us to make a plan of care for when your loved-one’s body is released to the next-of-kin. You can inform the coroner that you have chosen The Natural Funeral to assist with funeral arrangements. It may be that the coroner releases the body before concluding the cause of death, in which case, your family will be able to proceed with any ceremonies or rituals. Burial or cremation are possible once we have filed the paperwork, have at least a “pending death certificate” and therefore can obtain the necessary permit.
You will need to notify various government and other agencies that death has occurred, in order to close out accounts, receive benefits, etc. It is important to take care of these matters in order to avoid identity theft. This list is a helpful guide of agencies and other organizations, which may require certified copies of the death certificate. However our list may not include all the agencies pertinent to your particular circumstances.
Who is eligible?
Social security benefits may be available to the following people:
- A surviving spouse who is at full retirement age may be eligible for full benefits.
The full retirement age for survivors is age 66 for people born in 1945-1956. The full retirement age will gradually increase to age 67 for people born in 1962 or later. A widow or widower can get reduced benefits as early as age 60.
- A surviving spouse who is disabled may be eligible for benefits as early as age 50.
- A surviving divorced spouse (married for at least 10 years) may be eligible for survivor’s benefits.
A former spouse doesn’t have to meet the age or length-of-marriage rule if they take care of your child who is younger than age 16 or disabled, and who is entitled on your record. The child must be yours and your former spouse’s natural or legally adopted child.
- A surviving spouse who takes care of a child who is younger than 16 or who is disabled and receiving Social Security benefits may also be eligible for benefits.
- Unmarried children, younger than age 18 (or up to age 19 if they’re attending elementary or secondary school full-time), may be eligible for benefits at the death of a parent.
- Disabled children may be eligible for survivor’s benefits at any age if they were disabled before age 22 and remain disabled. Under certain circumstances, survivor’s benefits may also be payable to stepchildren, grandchildren, stepgrandchildren, or adopted children
- Dependent parents can get benefits if they’re age 62 or older. (For dependent parents to qualify as dependents, the deceased person would have had to provide at least half of their support.)
A One-time Death Payment of $255
This may be paid to a surviving spouse or a child who meets eligibility requirements. You must apply within two years of death.
Apply promptly for survivor’s benefits
For some claims, Social Security will pay benefits from the time you apply and not from the time the worker died. You can apply by in person at your local Social Security office or by phone. Call 1-800-772-1213 or TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing (from 7AM – 7PM).
You will need the following information:
- Proof of death — either from a funeral home or with a death certificate
- Your Social Security number, and the deceased worker’s SSN
- Your birth certificate
- Your marriage certificate, if you’re a widow or widower
- Your divorce papers, if you’re applying as a divorced widow or widower
- Dependent children’s Social Security numbers, if available, and birth certificates;
- Deceased worker’s W-2 forms or federal self-employment tax return for the most recent year
- The name of your bank and your account number so your benefits can be deposited directly into your account.
To download the full Social Security guide to Survivor’s Benefits, visit https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10084.pdf
For more information on widows, widowers, and other survivors, visit www.socialsecurity.gov/survivorplan
Note: Reporting a Death to Social Security
With electronic death registration, Social Security is automatically notified of the death when the death certificate is filed. If you do receive benefits after the death, you must notify your bank and return any checks for the month in which death occurred.
Burial at a National Cemetery
Veterans who have been honorably discharged are eligible for free burial in a national cemetery. Note that this is conventional burial and includes the placement of a vault over the gravesite, although the casket may be of natural, biodegradable material such as The Natural Funeral Colorado pine caskets. An honor guard will attend the burial.
Cremated remains may also be buried in national cemeteries, with an honor guard in attendance.
Spouses and dependents of honorably discharged veterans are eligible for free burial with the veteran (even if they pre-decease the veteran).
For more information on veterans benefits, contact the National Veterans Administration at 1-800-827-1000. For more information on the Fort Logan National Cemetery, 4400 W Kenyon Ave, Denver, CO 80236 in Denver, Colorado, call 303-761-0117.
For Veterans Funeral Benefits,
Veterans who were receiving a VA pension or other VA compensation at the time of death or who meet other requirements may be eligible for funeral benefits (known as “burial benefits”).
The family of the deceased will need to submit funeral expense receipts to the VA and follow the procedure outlined at https://www.vets.gov/burials-and-memorials/application/530/introduction
For more information, visit https://www.benefits.va.gov/compensation/claims-special-burial.asp
Most of us have online accounts, so when we die, it is important that those we trust are able to access and manage these in the interests of our personal legacy and our estate. We also want to insure against identity theft.
Social Media and Information Resources
Personal Information Storage and Remote Retrieval Services
Some people sign up for paid online storage and retrieval services, so those with financial power of attorney (before death) or beneficiaries and trusted friends or family can access logins and passwords and other key information at death.
Storage and Remote Retrieval Services
There are a number of online sites offering these services. The Natural Funeral does not endorse any of these services, but is providing this list for your reference. Here are just a few:
- Everplans – Store and Share Everything Important
- LifeBank – Collect and Protect Your Personal Information
- WebCease – Digital Asset Discovery (Helps executors find online accounts of the deceased)
- IdentityGuard – Personalized Identity Theft Protection and Credit Monitoring
Memorializing or closing other online accounts
Here are links to some helpful sites about dealing with Facebook, social media and other online accounts when someone dies. You may find many more on the internet.
- PBS News Hour – Dead and Online: What Happens to Your Digital Estate When You Die
- TimeTech – How to Access a Deceased Loved-One’s Online Accounts
- HuffPost – Your Digital Inheritance: What Happens to Social Media When You Die?