What to do if a death is expected

How to Prepare for an Imminent Death

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When you’re expecting the passing of a loved one, life can become stressful and overwhelming. Taking some time to prepare now, while they’re still with you, is brave and also a way to bring you and your family some solace in this time. To make it easier for you, we’ve laid out some important steps in order to prepare. At Arbor, we’re here to answer any questions that come up during this time.

1. Identify who has been named the executor/legal representative
Before doing anything else, find out who’s the executor of your loved one’s estate. This person is responsible for fulfilling their wishes and distributing inheritances to beneficiaries. They’re also responsible for handling outstanding debts, filing their final tax return, issuing notices of death to employers and other necessary parties, amongst other administrative duties.
If you’d like to learn more about the duties and responsibilities of an executor, click here.
If your loved one has not named an executor, you can look up government regulations in your province to see who will be legally responsible. For example, it may be open to the next of kin. It’s a significant responsibility, so some families choose to have co-executors share the load.
2. Locate the will and gather key personal information
Once the executor has been identified, find out where the will is. If it’s with a lawyer, get in contact with them. Look through your loved one’s files to see if it is at home. 
If a will hasn’t been written yet, you can access our free Legal Will Kit here. 
When it’s time for the funeral home to register the death, they’ll need to know some information about your loved one. This includes their parents’ names and their respective places of birth. Now is a good time to make sure you have this personal information on hand.
3. Gather any necessary documentation
Compiling documents can be an onerous and exhausting task. Collecting essential documents before your loved one’s passing will help you feel calmer and make it easier to focus on taking care of yourself when the time comes.
Medical information 
Locate where any medical documentation may be, such as their health card and insurance. Check if they have radioactive or medical implants, like a pacemaker. This is important if they wish to be cremated.
Important: ask if they’re registered for organ or tissue donation. There’s a short time frame to fulfill those wishes, so it’s important to know ahead of time.
Financial information
Anything from their banking information to their social insurance number will be helpful when filing their final tax return and closing accounts.
Determine if they’re receiving any financial assistance through a disability support program (such as ODSP or CPP), social assistance, or employment insurance. Keeping note of these programs prevents potentially receiving an overpayment and having to manage its return.
4. Locate any keys and passwords
This is especially crucial if your loved one has been living by themselves. You should know where the keys to their home and vehicles are, as well as the passcode to their safety deposit box.
Gathering social media passwords at this time can also make it easier to close their accounts at a future point in time.
There are also hundreds of passwords your loved one may have stored online or in a notebook for everything from email accounts to their health insurance provider’s online portal. It’s important that you know where this information is stored, or that you have the master password if kept in an online password vault like Google, Lastpass or 1Password.
5. Care for their pets
If your loved one has pets, ask about their short-term and long-term care. For now, check that someone knows about their diet requirements, and is able to drop by to let them out and give them food and water. This is also a good time to talk about where they go to the vet, learn about their habits, favourite toys, and other quirks.
6. Planning their final resting place
Ask your loved one if they’ve purchased a cemetery plot or other final place of rest. For cremation, your loved one may have decided whether they’d prefer to have their ashes scattered in a particular location, buried in the cemetery, or placed in a niche. If a final place of rest has been purchased through Arbor, a copy of the deed or other details isn’t necessary as will already be in our database.
If a plot hasn’t been purchased, inquire if they’d like to rest near a loved one. They might have a place in mind, such as an area where they once lived. Ask if they’d prefer an indoor or outdoor entombment. If they’d like to be cremated, would they prefer to be laid to rest in a cemetery or niche? 
7. Planning the funeral or celebration of life
The first thing to contemplate is where the service will be held. If they’re religious, ask if they’d like to have it at their local place of worship.
If they are comfortable with being involved with the planning of the service, take note of their wishes and unique ways in which they would like to be remembered. One way that they can be a part of the memorial is to create an audio or video recording to play at the service. They may wish to say their eulogy or give a personalized message to those in attendance. This can be incredibly moving and makes for a beautiful keepsake to cherish.
Now is also a good time to connect with family to see if they have any photos they would like to share. You can also ask your loved one directly if they have any physical photo albums or digital photos that they would like you to use. Indeed, going through old photos with them and letting them select which ones they would like shared can be a touching activity to do together.
Visiting the funeral home and speaking to a Funeral Director beforehand will give you some insight into packages, costs, memorial and reception options. Getting an idea about the investment before their death can help you and your family determine what financial decisions will fit your budget.

Taking the first step together

At Arbor, we’re here to support you. Facing the death of a loved one is never easy, and we want to help you through this difficult process in every way we can. If you’d like a comprehensive list of things to keep in mind during this time, please click here to download a checklist.

Checklist on how to prepare for an anticipated passing of a loved one

 We’re also available to take your call directly. Please visit our location finder to contact an Arbor location nearest you.

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