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Frequently Asked Questions
Dying At Home
If a death occurs at home you must call Emergency Services (911). They will dispatch an ambulance, fire truck and a police cruiser to your residence. A Medical Examiner (M.E.) will also be in attendance at the scene to perform a brief investigation. When they are finished you will be required to contact a Funeral Home to have the body removed.
A growing number of terminally ill patients are expressing their wish to be at home to spend their final days. Special provisions need to be made to allow this to happen with little or no fuss. The family doctor will write a letter to the M.E.’s office indicating the patient’s ailment and their wish to die at home. A copy of this letter is also forwarded to the Funeral Home for their records. Upon the death occurring, the family will phone the Funeral Home. They will arrange to have the body removed and have all the proper paperwork completed. Obtaining proper documentation prior to the individual dying at home will eliminate the need for Emergency Services to be involved.
Dying While Traveling
As Canadians, we have become a very mobile society. We are constantly on the move, particularly vacationing to distant places. Very often a question that is asked of us is, “What happens if my loved one or I should die while traveling?”
From experience, the best answer to this question is to call the Funeral Home where you live. They would probably be familiar with the funeral establishments in the area of the death and would be able to help co-ordinate most of the arrangements on your behalf. Arrangements could be made for cremation at that location or preparation and shipment of the remains for burial at home.
In some circumstances, a casket may not be necessary for shipping and you may only need to use a specialized container that is designed for the purpose of transporting bodies. The container required would be governed by the rules and regulations in the place of death and a casket could be selected upon arrival at home.
Executor’s job an honour, but can be hard work
If someone named you as their executor, you would likely feel honoured, and for good reason. That person is nominating you as his or her personal representative, to make decisions and use your judgment when they have departed.
However, it is likely not a job to get excited about. It involves a lot of responsibility, will be time-consuming, and can even result in personal liability (although most modern wills absolve executors for actions taken in good faith and with proper care). Sometimes this is a job best left to professionals, like trust companies.
However, most people like to name an individual they know and trust. Proper preparation on both sides can make the job much easier.
Be sure your executor knows they have the job and have had a chance to ask the questions they need to ask. Prepare a complete inventory of all assets -like bank and investment accounts, life insurance policies, real estate, group and pension benefits, safety deposit box, out-of-country accounts, or properties, everything – and their locations. This is also a great organizational tool for you, and one you will find valuable as you get older.
Our company and most financial institutions have family inventory forms that can help with this task.
Make sure the location of your original will is known to your executor, and let that person know if you move it. Ideally, go over the will with the executor, to clarify any ambiguities.
If your will leaves some things up to the executor’s discretion, then prepare a letter or have a talk with that person to explain your thinking and feelings about those issues. This is especially true when setting up testamentary trusts that will last a number of years.
If you are named as executor for someone, ask to get this information ahead of time. It will pay off later, and also give you a better chance to properly grieve when the time comes.
Here is a partial list of executor duties:
- Arrange funeral and burial
- Obtain death certificate and copies
- Locate and review original will
- Locate and inventory all assets and liabilities
- Meet with lawyer
- Advertise for creditors of the estate
- Submit application for probate
- Pay probate fees
- Locate and notify all beneficiaries, including charities, of there interest
- Explain your role to beneficiaries
- Notify spouse of entitlement under family law and suggest independent legal advice
- Assess the rights of dependents
- Apply for all benefits and rights under government, life insurance, group, pension and other programs
- Cancel all credit cards, SIN, memberships, etc., and notify financial institutions of the passing
All of that is before you start managing the assets and the estate, calculating taxes, paying liabilities and, eventually, calculating and making distributions to beneficiaries.
A proper executor's checklist runs many pages. When naming (or accepting appointment as) an executor, prepare yourself for your task