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02 September 2019  | Chanré Wes

Death, grief and loss are things we don't talk about enough. Would you know where to start when it's your turn to organise a funeral? In this article the writer will attempt to explain step by step what the grieving survivors ought to do in case of death of a loved one.

The inevitability of death doesn’t detach from the shock and distress that it brings to the grieving survivors, and much as we don’t like to plan for these things it will help at least a little to know what to do in practice after a death.

Working out what to do first when someone dies can seem overwhelming. Besides letting family and friends know, there are several organisations you need to notify when a person has passed away.

Firstly, get a legal pronouncement of death, it is also known as a notice of death or death certificate. If your loved one died in a hospital, a doctor can take care of this for you. If he or she passed away while in hospice, call your hospice nurse. If your family member died at home you should call the police. From here on arrangements needs to be made to transport the body to a mortuary until the burial or cremation. 

Secondly, you should inform the rest of the family and close friends of the death of your loved one. You can do this via telephone calls, messages or an in-person delivery of the message. Whichever option is the most convenient for you in this regard.

Thirdly, you should determine whether the person had wishes to be buried or cremated. Your duty will then be to fulfil the wishes of the deceased and arrange burial or cremation.

After the funeral of your loved one you should establish whether a Will exists. If you are unsure contact the deceased’s attorneys that he/she made use of in the past, banks and or community centres where they draft Wills for community members. You will then have two options at your disposal:

  1. If the person did not have a Will, contact an attorney and arrange with them to assist you in the administration of an intestate estate.
  2. If the person had a Will, you should contact an attorney to assist you in the reading thereof and also to establish who the executor of the estate is in terms of the Will. The attorney can then further assist you in completing the necessary documentation that will enable you to report the estate at the Master of the High Court’s office.

Lastly, take time to grieve your loss. Things will only get better if you take time to work through it.


Reference List:

  • Neumann Van Rooyen Short summary of deceased estates.
  • Ever Loved article What to do when someone dies checklist


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