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When a Death Occurs

Serving Dane County since 1922

When a loved one passes away, the many tasks that are necessary can be very overwhelming. Below are some common questions that families have when they begin the process of arranging a funeral. If your question or concern is not addressed here, please contact the funeral home directly.

Who should I notify?
The first phone calls made upon news of a death will depend on the circumstances. When your loved one passes away in a hospital or other medical care facility, the staff will usually take care of some of the arrangements, such as contacting us (your funeral home of choice).  We will then take your loved one into our care. 

  • We will schedule a time for you to come into the funeral home to set up funeral arrangements, begin collecting information for the death certificate and obituary, help you notify other parties such as Social Security, and provide grief support.

You will need to notify family, friends and clergy. It may be easier on you to make just a few phone calls to close relatives and ask them to inform specific people so the burden of spreading news does not rest entirely on you. If you are alone, don't be afraid to ask someone to keep you company as you make the first phone calls and cope with the first hours after the death.

If a person passes away at home or at work, the first call must be made to 911. Any unexpected death occurring without a physician or medical personnel present must be reported to the police and an investigation held. The coroner will perform an examination and arrange for transportation to the morgue for autopsy (if necessary) or to the funeral home.

You'll also need to notify...

  • The employer. If the deceased was working, the employer must be notified as soon as possible. Ask about any benefits the deceased was receiving or will receive, including any pay due (including vacation or sick time), disability income, etc. Ask if you or other dependents are still eligible for benefit coverage through the company. Determine whether there is a life insurance policy through the employer, who the beneficiary is, and how to file a claim.
  • The life insurance company. Look through the deceased's important papers for a life policy. Call the agent or company to determine how to file a claim. Usually the beneficiary (or the beneficiary's guardian, if a minor) must complete the claim forms and related paperwork. You'll need to submit a certified death certificate and a claimant's statement to establish proof of claim. Ask about payment options. You may have a choice between receiving a lump sum or having the company place the money in an interest-bearing account from which you can write checks.
  • Other organizations. Usually the funeral home will contact Social Security and the Veterans Administration (if applicable) on your behalf. You will want to contact any unions, professional or service organizations, or fraternal organizations of which your loved one was a member. He or she may have had life insurance or other benefits through these organizations.
  • The court. If you were named executor of your loved one's will, you'll need to file a probate case with the court. An attorney is not required, but it may help you to hire one that is experienced in probate. As executor, you'll be responsible for carrying out your loved one's wishes according to the will, paying creditors and balancing the estate.
  • The bank. If you have a joint account with the deceased, you may be able to conduct business as usual depending on how the account was opened. Otherwise, usually only the will's executor or administrator can access the account after providing the required paperwork to the bank. You will need to contact your bank to determine their requirements. 

What information should I bring to the arrangement conference?
When you first call the funeral home, you will probably answer a few general questions about funeral plans--some vital statistics about your loved one, whether there was a prearrangement or a will, the decedent's or family's preference for burial or cremation, and possibly your thoughts on what services you'd like to hold. Plans will be finalized when you meet with the funeral director. The following list does not include everything, but it is a general list of things you may want to bring with you to the arrangement conference.

  • Vital information about the decedent--date and place of birth and death, parents' names, names of pre-deceased relatives and survivors, Social Security number
  • Highest level of education
  • Occupation
  • Military information including separation or discharge papers (DD-214), if the deceased was a veteran
  • Any information related to a pre-arrangement, if applicable
  • Place of burial or final disposition if a cemetery plot has been purchased
  • Photographs--one or two recent photographs will be used during the embalming and cosmetizing process
  • Names and phone numbers of clergy you wish to involve in the ceremonies
  • Clothing, including undergarments and jewelry or glasses you would like your loved one to be viewed wearing
  • Records of life insurance policies 

Who should come with me to the arrangement conference?
If you are the only next-of-kin, do not feel like you need to make all the arrangements alone. Families often come to the arrangement conference in groups for moral support and to participate in the funeral experience.


What if there was a pre-arrangement?
If your loved one made a pre-arrangement with our funeral home, we'll have that information on file here for you. We will use the time in the arrangement conference to go over any details that were not yet planned for.

If your loved one pre-arranged their funeral with another funeral home and you wish to transfer that arrangement to us, please let us know as soon as possible. If the funeral has been pre-paid at another funeral home, we can transfer those funds to our funeral home to make sure your loved one's wishes are fulfilled.


What if the death occurred away from home?
If a death occurs away from home, contact us first. We will find a local funeral home near the place of death and arrange for preparation and transportation of the remains back to our funeral home on your behalf.  We can also help coordinate with the other funeral home if you are planning to have a service prior to having your loved one returned to your home area.


What if there is no will?

If you die without a valid will while residing in the State of Wisconsin, you are said to have died "intestate."  In order to determine who will receive your property if you die intestate, the State of Wisconsin has established a number of laws (known as "intestacy laws" or "laws of intestate succession.") The primary statutes comprising these intestacy laws, or laws of intestate succession, can be viewed by viewing the link below:

It is important to remember that state probate laws vary, and individual situations may be taken into account in probate court when decisions are made to distribute the deceased's assets. If you have any questions or concerns, you may want to consult an attorney that is experienced in end-of-life planning and probate

My loved one was a veteran. What benefits can he or she receive?
Benefits are available to veterans whether they are interred in a national cemetery or a private cemetery. If your loved one will be laid to rest in a national cemetery, benefits include a gravesite in any national cemetery with open space, fees for opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone or marker, a flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate at no cost to the family. If the veteran will be buried in a private cemetery, he or she is eligible for a government headstone or marker, a flag, and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. In some circumstances, he or she may be eligible for a burial allowance. To determine exactly what benefits your loved one will receive, contact the Veterans Administration directly or visit their website here