When Death Occurs

No matter if a death is sudden, or if it something that was a long time coming, the loss of a loved one makes us feel emotional and overwhelmed.  No amount of preparation can fully prepare you for the loss of a loved one.  When you are in a heightened emotional state, even the most basic decisions can seem staggering.  The following is a rough guideline of what needs to be done within the first 48 hours after death.

When death occurs at home

If the person was not under hospice/community health care, the police will have to be notified immediately.  The police will be dispatched to the home and place the call to the BC Coroner Service.  From there the coroner will take the body into custody (to the hospital morgue) and determine whether further action is necessary.  The coroner must release the body before a funeral home can do any preparations. However, this does not prevent you from calling or meeting with a funeral director to ask questions and start laying the ground work for what will happen once your loved one is released by the coroner.

In some cases, after a phone call to your loved ones doctor, the coroner may wave jurisdiction and you may call the funeral home of your choice to come and pick up your loved one from home and take them directly to their facility.

If the person was under hospice/community health care under the Planned Home Death Protocol then phone the funeral home named in the paperwork and arrange a time for them to pick up your loved one from home. Do not feel rushed at this point, if family or friends still need time to visit. let them visit. If you wish to tidy up, bath and dress your loved one before they are picked up, do so.

When a death occurs at a hospital/nursing home/hospice facility

The staff of a care facility such as a hospital or a nursing home will notify you and the necessary authorities immediately after a death has occurred.  If a funeral home has been provided to the hospital or nursing home, they will be notified at the time of death.  If you are present at the hospital when the funeral director arrives, they may ask a few questions about the deceased wishes and, if you wish, you can set up a time to come into the funeral home to make arrangements. If you are not present please contact the funeral home when you are ready to discuss these arrangements, set up an appointment or ask any questions.

What do I do now?

The first thing to do is take a deep breath and try your best not to panic. You are grieving and not expected to be perfect, prepared or organized. Be kind to yourself; get some rest if you can. If you have any questions at all contact us

Clayton's Funeral Directors are here to help you obtain a death certificate, care for your loved one, and in the event pre-planning was not done, we can share with you our knowledge and experience to make some decisions at a very difficult time. We are here to help and advise you and will work very hard to relieve the stress and logistics involved in funeral planning.

How and when do we make arrangements with you?

On your own time, when you have rested and prepared yourself best you can we will be honoured to meet with you. *NOTE: , it is not our policy initiate contact with you, Please phone us to make an appointment when you are ready and able. Feel free to phone us outside office hours to make an appointment (which will usually be during regular office hours) to meet with a funeral director in what is called an arrangement meeting.

What do I need to bring to the arrangement meeting?

Yourself, anyone you need to bring for moral support (Dog's allowed; Clayton's is pet friendly), and some documents and information so that we can register the death/create the death certificate. If you do not bring with you the beverage of your choice we can make you a coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

This is the list of documents and information required for the registration/creation of the death certificate:

  • Full Legal Name (and maiden name if applicable) and Address
  • Date and City of Birth
  • Marital Status
  • Name of Spouse (if married, divorced or widowed)
  • Father’s Name and city of birth 
  • Mother’s Name (including maiden name) and city of birth
  • Primary life time occupation (eg. millwright, homemaker)
  • ​Full name, address and contact information for the "Informant";  legal representative for the deceased (eg. executor or spouse)

The funeral director will also need pertinent documents required to do all the legal paperwork, those documents include:

  • Legal Will (Not a copy)
  • Birth Certificate
  • Social Insurance Card or any government document with the sin number present (eg. Tax forms)
  • Provincial Services Card (the one with the health number) or Divers Licence with PHN.
  • Status Card (If applicable)

If a surviving spouse is applying for CPP survivor benefits then the funeral director will also require:

  • Spouse's Birth Certificate
  • A Marriage Certificate or Declaration of Common-Law Union (Also proves a person is the spouse if no will)
  • Spouse's Social Insurance Card or equivalent document


Why do you need all this stuff?

We require it to produce the Death Certificate. Together with a document we obtain form the doctor or coroner called a Medical Certificate of Death (M.C.O.D.) we register the death with The British Columbia Vital Statistics Agency.

Only when this is completed may we print Death Certificates and proceed any further with preparation of your loved one for final disposition.

We also need to copy the documents to assist you in applications for the CPP Death Benefit and Survivors Pension if applicable.

Who gets to make the Decisions?

Another very important reason for this information is to help establish who is in the legal position to be the person to make decisions regarding final disposition of your friend/family member.

Section 5 of the Cremation Interment and Funeral Services Act lays out a strict hierarchy to determine who may be this person.

(This is an excerpt).

This is the hierarchy:

  • Personal representative as appointed in a legal will (Executor/Executrix)

  • Spouse *With Marriage Certificate or Statutory Declaration of Common Law Status

  • Adult child of the deceased

  • Adult Grandchild of the deceased

  • If person is a minor (<18) then: Legal guardian at time of death.

  • A parent of the deceased

Note: A more exhaustive list appears in the Cremation, Interment and Funeral Services Act and is available online.

“(2) If the person at the top of the order of priority set out in subsection (1) is unavailable or unwilling to give instructions,

the right to give instructions passes to the person who is next in priority.”


*The hierarchy regulations are The Law in British Columbia that governs our actions in this regard and we are obligated to follow them without exception.

*They were created to avoid social conflict from interfering in the dignified final disposition of deceased persons.


What other things might I want to bring to an arrangement meeting?


The following ideas are only suggestions and as with most other aspects of the arrangement process

need only reflect your specific needs and or values.


Clothing for your loved one; even if they you are not going to view them or hold a visitation. While his may seem odd to many people we believe that whether being buried or cremated you may wish your loved one to be dressed in whatever clothes you feel they would like. It is also appropriate for people to leave this world as they arrived, in their “Natural” state. For us this is an issue of dignity and your loved one is still a person of value to us with an inherent right to dignity and respect. *None of Clayton’s clients are cremated by us in hospital gowns or with medical paraphernalia.

Notes, cards, letters to your loved one; this may be a way to say what you could not say in person due to personal circumstances, timing, geography.

Photos or personal mementos; these could be almost anything from pictures of family/friends/pets, to children’s drawings off the fridge, stuffed animals or even a favorite book or consumable substance. Whatever you wish to send off with your loved one is completely up to you. *If cremation is the final disposition then any items that go through the process must have batteries removed.

A funeral director will guide you through all these steps, using your wants, needs and desires as a foundation to create a meaningful service for your loved one. 

Clayton's Funeral Directors is a member of the Funeral Services Association of British Columbia.

Further information about all aspects of funeral arrangement and pre-planning can be found online via the

Funeral Services Association of BC website

*Or you can ask us here at Clayton's by clicking on the picture below.*

Have a question? Ask the Director