What to Do When Someone Dies

what to do when someone dies

There have been thousands of searches on Google over the past 12 months relating to people asking what needs to be done when a loved one passes. People react with shock when someone close to them dies, and if you are responsible for making the funeral and administration arrangements, you may also be thrown into a bit of a panic.

Handling a death and managing funeral arrangements is a challenging situation, especially in the midst of your grief. AED Attorneys has put together some pointers to help you handle the process from the minute of passing until after the funeral.

At the Time of Death

  • If a person passes away under suspicious circumstances, the police will need to be contacted immediately, and they will organise the body to be removed.
  • If a person dies in a motor vehicle accident, the body will be removed to the mortuary, and you will be contacted after that.
  • If a person passes away at home and there is nothing suspicious about the death, you will need to call the paramedics such as ER24 or Netcare 911. They will be able to confirm whether or not the causes are natural. They will also assist in taking the body to the mortuary.
  • If the person passes away in hospital from natural causes or after an illness, the doctor will issue a death notice, and the body will be taken to the hospital mortuary. If the hospital has no mortuary, you will need to contact a Funeral Home to arrange for the deceased to be collected.
  • It is a legal requirement that a death notice is signed by a doctor or medical professional certifying the cause of death.

Identification of the Body

Identifying the body must be done by either an immediate family member or a close friend. In some mortuaries, the body can be identified via pictures on a computer rather than an in-person viewing of the body which prevents further emotional trauma. It is always a good idea to bring somebody along with you to the identification for emotional support. Once the identification has been made, a body number will be issued. This number needs to be provided to the funeral home, as well as the funeral policy number and details – if one exists.

Next Steps

Once the body number has been given to the funeral home, they will proceed with the funeral arrangements and will also advise you on what to do. You will now be able to disclose the news to friends, family, and colleagues, as soon as you feel able to.

Unfortunately, under COVID lockdown conditions only 50 people are allowed to attend a funeral, so you may need to discuss alternate options with the Funeral Home, such as broadcasting the funeral online to family and friends, if you choose to do so.

The Funeral Home will request a suitable outfit for the deceased to wear in the coffin or before the cremation.

It will now be time to decide on the following;

  • Will it be a cremation or a burial?
  • What type of coffin will be required?
  • What type of headstone will be required if it is a burial?
  • Will you require a cremation niche or plaque, if it is a cremation?
  • Who will deliver the eulogies?
  • Who will the pallbearers be?

Estate Administration Death Certificate

Either the doctor or police will issue the Notification of Death (DHA 1663). You will need to send this form, together with others and ID copies of the deceased, to the Department of Home Affairs. They will then register the death and issue a DHA5 Death Certificate. Try to obtain several certified copies of this certificate, as you will require them for many of the administrative processes to follow. Most Funeral Homes will be able to assist you with this process.

Processing the Deceased’s Estate

By law, the Master of the High Court must receive notification of the deceased’s Estate. You will need to locate the Will of the deceased to establish who the Executor of the Will is and make contact with them. 

If no Executor has been appointed, then contact a law firm such as AED Attorneys, who will report the Estate to the Master, and appoint an Executor.

If you cannot find the Will, or the person died Intestate (with no Will), you will also need to call an Attorney – preferably one which the deceased used. The Estate is then required to be administered under the Intestate Succession Act, and the Master will appoint an Executor.

Once the death certificate has been issued, the administrative processes can start, such as contacting the deceased’s nominated executor or if you need help with the reporting of the estate and the administration a law firm such as AED Attorneys.

This is a list of some of the documents that may be required for an Estate to be reported:

  • Original last Will and testament.
  • Original death certificate and DHA-1663-A Notification of Death Form.
  • Identity documents of deceased and spouse, if applicable.
  • Name, address of employer and salary number of deceased.
  • Details of the pension fund.
  • Name, address, and reference number of medical aid society.
  • Income tax details (if registered).
  • Name and telephone number of the accountant.
  • Name, address, and telephone number of deceased’s usual doctor.
  • Name, telephone number, and case number from police station should the deceased have died due to unnatural causes (e.g., motor vehicle accident, shooting, suicide etc.).
  • Partnership agreement and name and address of all partners.
  • Particulars of company or close corporation or business.
  • Name and contact number of auditor/accounting officer.
  • Details of divorced or predeceased spouse.
  • Antenuptial contracts and/or divorce agreements.
  • Original title deed in respect of each property and/or bank details where a bond is held.
  • Rates and taxes account(s) and/or details of the body corporate or managing agents.
  • Registration certificates in respect of motor vehicles.
  • Firearms – Copies of licences to be provided.
  • Certificates/details in respect of timeshare.
  • Original share certificates or electronic share account details.
  • Hire and letting contracts.
  • Cheque books, investment statements, credit cards, ATM cards.
  • Details of accounts owing by deceased.
  • Copies of identity documents of beneficiaries and marriage details and certificate.
  • Copies of birth certificates of minor beneficiaries.

If your loved one planned adequately to ensure that everything was in order and an Executor was appointed, then the Estate’s administration may still be completed relatively quickly. AED Attorneys assists with the drafting of Wills, setting up Estates and the processing of Deceased Estates in an efficient, yet sympathetic manner.

AED Attorneys understands that every situation is unique, and although they strive to ensure that the information contained herein is accurate at the time of publishing, it cannot be guaranteed to be without errors or omissions. As a result, AED Attorneys, its employees, independent contractors, associates or third parties will under no circumstances accept liability or be held liable, for any innocent or negligent actions or omissions in this article, which may result in any harm or liability flowing from the use of or the inability to use the information provided.

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