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How to Prepare for an Unexpected Death in the Family

How to Prepare for an Unexpected Death in the Family

Death is an unavoidable part of life. No one can escape it.

When someone you love passes away, it’s normal to feel a range of different emotions. Sadness, loneliness, and even anger are all part of the grieving process. These emotions can be very difficult to deal with, especially while dealing with an unexpected death in the family.

There are several things that need to be done when someone in your family dies. It’s wise to prepare for an unexpected death as much as possible to make things easier on your family in the future. Although it’s painful to think about, these preparations are much easier dealt with ahead of time than during a time of grief.

Here’s what you should consider when it comes to planning for an unexpected death in your family.

When Someone Passes Away

When someone passes away unexpectedly, it’s often the result of an accident or illness. There are a few steps you need to take immediately when someone dies at home or outside of a hospital.

  1. You’ll need to get a legal pronouncement of death. This is necessary to begin funeral preparations and move forward with everything else that needs to be done. Only a medical professional can legally pronounce someone deceased. Call 911 to arrange for the deceased’s body to be transported to a hospital.
  2. Arrange care for children and pets that the deceased was responsible for.
  3. If the deceased was an organ donor, notify the medical team as soon as possible.
  4. Notify loved ones. It’s never easy to hear about an unexpected death, but many people prefer to hear the news from someone close instead of “through the grapevine.”

Funeral Planning

Within a few days of a person’s passing, loved ones will need to begin planning a funeral ceremony.

  1. Contact the funeral home. They will be able to begin walking you through the steps that need to be taken, such as transporting the body and planning a memorial service.
  2. Gather photos, videos, music, and other mementos. If the deceased had particular wishes about how they’d like to be honored after death, incorporate those ideas into the ceremony.
  3. Prepare an obituary. Usually, someone close to the deceased who has a way with words can write the obituary. Family members can also work together on it. The obituary should include their full name, the date that they died, their age at the time of death, date and place of birth, a list of surviving relatives, and details about their funeral service. Oftentimes the obituary will also include pleasant memories about the deceased’s personality and notable life events.

Most funeral homes offer prepaid burial plans, so you can arrange and pay for services before death. If you are able, this can be an excellent way to ease your family’s burden after you’re gone. Consider purchasing plans for your family as finances allow.

Grief Counseling

Grief is a complex experience and is different for everyone. People deal with death in many different ways. Connecting with a counselor who’s experienced with the grieving process can help survivors cope with overwhelming emotions.

According to Ricki Ray, a hospice bereavement counselor, unexpected deaths are especially challenging for surviving loved ones. “When someone you know and love dies you aren’t just mourning a loss, you are also dealing with the trauma of how they died.”

If you can’t find a grief counselor in your area, you can find someone to support your family online with telecounseling.

Living Will and Testament

Establishing a living will and testament is enormously helpful for family members left behind. Having a will takes the guesswork out of the equation when your family has to decide what to do with your body, how to handle your finances, and what should be done with your assets.

The document is called a “living” will because it’s prepared while a person is still alive and can be updated as circumstances change. When you have a baby, for example, you will want to update your will. If you have a significant change in assets, you’ll also want to update it.

In the event that someone dies without a will in place, the state will determine how to handle the deceased assets. Typically, assets will be distributed to a person’s spouse, children, parents, siblings, and extended family members, respectively.

Establishing a will is not difficult, nor is it particularly expensive for most people. An estate lawyer can help you prepare and file the will, which is a good way to go if you have children or assets. If your situation is relatively straightforward, you can also prepare and file it yourself.

Life Insurance

Life insurance is another helpful tool when it comes to end of life planning. Life insurance is inexpensive and there are plans available for people of all ages. Even children can be insured, which is not a bad idea because life insurance can help cover the costs of an unexpected funeral.

Life insurance can also help support your family when you’re gone. If you’re a breadwinner, consider a policy that would replace your income for a number of years. If you’re a caretaker, choose a policy that would allow your family to hire support after your death.

Tying up Personal Affairs

As the whirlwind of funeral preparations and grieving as a family begins to settle, there will still be a few personal affairs to handle. This can be quite tedious for surviving family members, so be sure to ask for help and support when handling these matters.

  • The deceased’s belongings – anything that is not accounted for in a will can be donated to charity, distributed to family members, or disposed of
  • Notifying creditors – they will likely need a copy of the deceased’s death certificate
  • Cancel services, utilities, and subscriptions as needed.
  • Pay outstanding bills and close accounts.
  • Close or memorialize social media and other online accounts.

As you plan ahead, consider how you can make this process easier for your family in the event of your death. For example, keeping your belongings neat and organized makes a big difference. It’s also helpful to have an organized system for keeping financial records and passwords together and easy to navigate.

The reality of death doesn’t make it any easier to deal with. By preparing for the inevitable ahead of time, you can save your family a lot of stress. Work together on end of life planning so that everyone can have that extra peace of mind.