What to Do When a Loved One Dies
A checklist of all the steps to take when a loved one dies in South Africa, including how to claim from life insurance.
Nobody likes thinking about the loss of a loved one. That said, planning for the future is important, including how to deal with this unfortunate situation. You can use our comprehensive checklist to make things easier during the challenging time directly after the death of a loved one.
A Checklist of Things to Do When a Loved One Dies in South Africa
Immediate Steps to Take
Immediate steps to take will differ depending on where and how the death occurs. Your first goals, besides for moving of the body, will be to obtain a document called a notice of death, then a death report and a burial order. These documents will be used to issue a certificate of death, which a person will need for many steps in the second phase.
If Your Loved One Passes Away at a Hospital.
- Speak to a funeral director who can advise you on the procedure.
- Collect your loved one’s possessions from the hospital.
- The hospital usually appoints a funeral director to collect the deceased, but your family can collect the deceased from the funeral director within three days, often for free.
- Next, hospitals usually issue the notification of death or pronouncement of death to the funeral director.
If Your Loved One Dies at Home.
- Speak to your local GP. If it’s after hours, you may need to use a specific number at your doctor’s practise, but most will have a number you can call. Otherwise, you can call emergency services such as ER24 or Netcare 911.
- The medical professional you contact should next determine whether the cause of death was natural or unnatural. If it is natural, they usually complete a declaration of death.
- Next, you or the medical practitioner can contact the police department to come and confirm that the death is by natural causes, after which they will issue an SAP180 form.
- Call the funeral director to collect the deceased and advise you on further procedures.
- Give the DOD and SAP 180 forms to the funeral director. They should give these to the doctor who will be issuing the Notification of Death. This may occur after the body has been collected and can sometimes take a few days.
- Should your loved one have been an outpatient to a clinic or hospital, you can take the above documentation to the hospital to request the Notification of Death form.
If Your Loved One Dies of Unnatural Causes or Suddenly and Unexpectedly.
- If there appeared to have been a forced entry or if you know that a crime was committed that caused the death, contact the SAPS first. The police will arrange for the body to be taken to a state mortuary where a post-mortem examination will be undertaken.
- If your loved one died elsewhere, you or close family members may need to go to the mortuary to identify them. If you can’t bear to do this, you can delegate the identification to someone else in the family by writing a letter.
- The police officials will, in due course, issue a letter that allows for the removal of the deceased, after which you can arrange for a funeral director to collect them.
- Funeral directors should receive a notice of death from the Department of Health that is signed by the specialist who performed the autopsy.
Next Steps to Take After the Initial Stage
- Contact friends and family to notify them of the loss and for help and support with arrangements.
Consider the immediate care of pets and livestock and water plants at their home.
- Consider perishables in your loved one’s home and their home security.
- Find important documents like your loved one’s ID, Passport, contracts, title deeds, and so forth.
- Find their will.
- If your loved one was an organ donor, let the relevant organisation know. This should, of course, be done fast to allow time for harvesting organs where applicable.
- If your loved one had funeral insurance, you can contact the insurance company to institute a claim and begin making funeral plans.
Further Important Steps to Take
Get a Notice of Death or Legal Pronouncement of Death.
It may take a few weeks, but you can request an abridged death certificate from the Department of Home Affairs as soon as possible during office hours.
Report the Death.
A death must be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days. You will need lour loved one’s will for this. If there was no will, you can contact an attorney to help you report their death to the Master of the High court. This is often called the deceased estate. An attorney can advise you on all the steps to best deal with the deceased estate, from appointing an executor to accessing assets and distributing to beneficiaries.
Submit Life Insurance Claims.
Your loved one’s insurance provider will each have their own steps to take in order to make a claim. You can usually find these on their website or by contacting them directly. This money will be important and can be used to sustain the family and pay off debts left behind by your loved one. Some policies pay out a sum immediately to help with funeral costs or paying for a memorial service, but a claim can often take long. It’s important to submit the claim fast, to give the family access to these funds as soon as possible.
Update the Medical Aid Policy.
Sometimes dependents can be left without medical cover when the breadwinner in a home passes away. It’s important to contact your loved one’s medical aid provider to close an old policy and create a new one or move dependents if needed.
Submit Credit Card and Store Account Claims.
Sometimes store accounts and credit cards offer their account holders a pay-out if they pass away. These amounts can sometimes cover debts on the accounts or sometimes they are meant to be used for funeral costs.
Move Debit Orders & Close Bank Accounts.
When someone dies, their bank account is frozen. The estate executor can contact the bank to transfer funds and close accounts. You can also make a list of debit orders to move to other accounts to ensure no payments fall behind.
Arrange the Funeral.
If you are doing a funeral, a funeral manager will assist you with arrangements. You can also involve other family members and friends in funeral arrangements.
We know this topic isn’t pleasant, but we hope the above list will help you feel prepared if the unexpected occurs. It’s also a great reminder that life is unpredictable and preparing for the future of your family is wise. Making sure you have a legal will and life insurance cover can make it easier financially on your loved ones if you should pass away.
DISCLAIMER: The information provided in this article is meant for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal, medical, or financial advice. Facts stated in this article are correct at the time it was published.