When Death Occurs
Arranging a funeral is not something you do every day, so you’re bound to have lots of questions: How do you file the death certificate? Who do you notify? What are the legal requirements in California?
West Coast Cremation & Burial Services can support you during this time of sorrow and responsibility by answering all your questions and taking you through each of the necessary steps.
Those steps have been outlined below for you. Once we’ve been notified of your loved one’s passing, you can arrange the cremation via our website. You won’t need to make any appointments or see a funeral director, but we’re always at the end of the phone if you have any questions.
How to arrange a direct cremation with West Coast Cremation & Burial Services
The five steps to take when arranging a cremation with us are:
1. Call us promptly at 866-255-9222.
As soon as death has been confirmed, call West Coast Cremation & Burial Services. One of our compassionate staff will ask you a few straightforward questions about your loved one, such as his or her name and address and where the death took place. You’ll also need to tell us who the next-of-kin is and who the attending doctor was. We’ll then come to collect the body, usually within an hour or two of being notified.
Depending on the circumstance of death, you may have to call other officials as well:
If your loved one died in a hospital, hospice or nursing home, the medical staff will notify the relevant authorities on your behalf. They may call us as well, but to be sure, it’s best that you call us directly.
If your loved one died at home following a terminal illness, you should first notify the doctor or health care facility that had been providing treatment (if you don’t know, look on the prescription bottles). Then call us to collect the body.
If your loved one died unexpectedly and not in a health care facility, you must call 911 immediately. Emergency services will come to confirm the death and then call the Department of Medical Examiner-Coroner (ME-C).
The ME-C will decide whether an autopsy is necessary to determine the cause and manner of the death. If it isn’t necessary, call us and we’ll collect the body from the place of death. If an autopsy is required, the body is taken into custody by the ME-C. You should still call us though because we’ll need to let the ME-C know that we’ll be handling the funeral arrangements.
The thought of an autopsy can be very upsetting, but post-mortem examinations can help identify genetic health problems and contagious diseases and they can even prevent other deaths in the community. In addition, they can help families understand how the death occurred and give them closure. This is an important step in the grieving process.
If your loved one died in another state, phone us because we can still help you and arrange for transportation back home. If you ask a funeral director in the state where death took place to do this, you’ll incur an additional and unnecessary cost.
If your loved one died while traveling abroad, contact the nearest consulate and then call us for guidance about transporting the remains back to the USA. If your loved one had our Death Away From Home Plan, we’ll make sure his or her body or ashes are brought back to California at no extra cost.
2. Go online to arrange the cremation
After notifying us, you need to order and pay for the cremation through our website. We’ve made the process as easy as possible for you. Simply select our Simple Cremation Package, decide which urn you want, and add any keepsake options.
Review the itemized statement that shows the total cost of the cremation. Once you are satisfied with your choice and the cost, enter your contact and billing information (you can pay with any major credit card) and hit ‘Submit’.
As soon as we receive you order, we’ll send you confirmation and further instructions by email. Call us if you need help with placing the order.
3. Fill out, sign and return the authorization forms
The next step is to complete two legal documents: The Vital Statistics Form and the Cremation & Disposition Authorization Form. You need to sign and return these forms to us within 5 of days of your loved one coming into our care. We cannot go ahead with the cremation unless we have these forms.
This Vital Statistics Form lets us file for the death certificate, and the Cremation & Disposition Authorization gives us permission to carry out the cremation. Just download the forms from our website, fill them out, sign them and return them to us.
Californian laws state that cremation cannot take place until 48 hours after death. We usually carry out a cremation within seven days of receiving an order placed online. We will confirm the exact time and day.
4. Inform friends, relatives and organizations
One of the hardest things you’ll have to do is inform family, friends and others. It may be a good idea to ask a handful of people to spread the news among your wider circle for you.
You’ll also need to contact some organizations very quickly. The main ones to call in the immediate days after death are:
- Social Security Administration (to report death, stop checks and claim survivor’s benefits)
- Current employer (to notify of death, arrange final salary and ask about benefits).
- US Department of Veterans Affairs (if your loved one was a veteran, funeral allowances may be available)
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service (if your loved one was retired military, you need to report the death and arrange survivor’s benefits)
- Your attorney (to assist with estate settlement and other legal matters)
- One of the best ways to notify people of a death is by placing an obituary in local newspapers. You may want to read these tips for writing an obituary. We can supply you with a list of local newspapers that publish obituaries.
5. Receive delivery of the ashes
Once the cremation has been carried out, we’ll put the ashes in the urn that you selected and deliver them to you using a trusted courier. We can also deliver the ashes to another address outside our service area and within continental USA for an additional charge.
If a death has occurred in your family and you’re not sure what to do next, please call us at 866-255-9222. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.