In addition to taking an emotional toll, preparing for the death of a family member or friend can require a significant amount of planning and preparation. From gathering necessary information about the deceased’s life and finances to planning the service to handling life insurance-based funeral financing, most people aren’t familiar with the necessary steps until after a death has occurred. And knowing what to do immediately after a person’s passing is also sometimes challenging in that time of sadness. Iowa Funeral Planning has presented a series of steps below on how to prepare for a loved one’s death and what to do when death occurs to help you through this process. You can also contact us for assistance and for your free, confidential, obligation-free consultation or to begin your pre-planning conference.

How to Prepare for a Loved One’s Death

For some people, planning a person’s funeral is best done well in advance of death; for others, those plans occur immediately before or after the person’s passing. The funeral planning professionals at Iowa Funeral Planning encourage our clients to focus first on their family and friends in the final stages of life rather than planning a funeral. However, some people prefer to begin planning at this time. Regardless of when you start funeral planning, we are here to make the process easier, and that begins with the information below about the steps you can take to prepare for a loved one’s funeral.

Collecting Important Information

Collecting vital information is one of the most important steps that can be taken to begin the funeral planning process. Your funeral home needs a variety of information about the deceased, including whether he or she was a veteran and their honorable discharge and the DD214 documents in order to arrange military honors and complete the accompanying VA forms. All of these questions are reflected in our personal planning guide, a comprehensive document that can be turned into our office at your planning conference or earlier. To assist with the process of collecting information, please consider becoming the designee for final disposition for your loved one. Click here to learn more about this process, or here to become the designee for final disposition.

Preparing for the Financial Transaction

Preparing for financing the funeral is also critical. We recommend to each of our clients that they consider pre-paying for their funeral expenses. Doing this can help you lock in present prices and ensure that your funeral planning package maintains its current value, regardless of what happens to prices in the future. Our pre-planning services and all current promotions are also available even if someone is in hospice care. In addition to selecting your funeral service options, ensuring liquidity after a person’s death is also important. Banks will typically freeze a person’s account after death, eliminating the ability to write checks. It is therefore important to consult with the bank ahead of time to ensure that funds will be available after death. Credit cards can also be used to pay expenses immediately after death. It is the policy of Iowa Funeral Planning that payment will be received at the time of services for all expenses not previously prepaid or covered by insurance.

Many people use life insurance to pay funeral expenses. However, insurance companies often take several days to distribute the death benefit, sometimes creating a temporary cash flow issue for an estate without other financial resources to pay expenses. It is important to review the policy so you can understand its contents fully, including:

  • Your policy type and whether it’s still in force. Ensure the policy hasn’t lapsed for lack of premium payment and that the policy is a life insurance, and not an accidental death, policy.
  • The policy beneficiaries. The beneficiaries must all sign the claim and assignment forms after death, and the failure to change policies for major life events (death, divorce, etc.) can sometimes result in major issues post-death.
  • The death benefit of the policy. Death benefits are often most-easily determined prior to a person’s death, as privacy laws may prohibit insurers from speaking with someone other than the policy owner or his or her acting power of attorney (a power that ends at a person’s death).

What to Do When a Death Occurs

There are two important steps to take when a person passes away: contacting the appropriate authorities for immediate actions concerning the body and attending the planning arrangement conference for the funeral. Nurses and social workers will assist survivors in notifying the funeral home and appropriate medical personnel for a person who is in hospice or a care facility at the time of his or her death. For those who die unexpectedly outside of hospice care, we recommend immediately contact 9-1-1 and then your funeral director, who can also assist you in making phone calls. Out of respect for your loved one’s passing, we will arrive at the time you request, to allow for appropriate goodbyes.

The planning arrangement conference is the time when family and friends meet with the funeral director to begin planning the funeral. At the conference, you’ll discuss many topics, including the time and place for the services. You may also provide photos for newspaper and online notices, as well as for the visitation. We will also need clothing to place on the deceased for the visitation. High necklines and sleeves are recommended, although shoes and socks are optional as those areas are not visible. Please also bring any insurance policy or alternate payment methods (checks, cash, or credit cards) you are using to fund the funeral. You can also write an obituary or our funeral director will assist you with this and with placing it in the newspaper and on our website. We recommend completing our personal planning guide, as we use this information in planning the funeral, and the Iowa death certificate worksheet, which includes the vital statistic information needed for the deceased.