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Paperwork

Whether you are planning to hold a funeral or not, there are papers that must be filed and permits that are required for burial or cremation.

A Medical Certificate of Death will include particulars about the deceased person, such as their name, date of birth, place of death, and cause and manner of death. It will also indicate whether an autopsy will be conducted. The certificate must be completed in order to obtain a burial permit.

Medical Certificate of Death

When an individual dies, a Medical Certificate of Death form must be completed and registered. Typically the attending physician, family doctor, nurse practitioner or coroner takes responsibility for completing this form. If the death took place in a hospital the staff will usually arrange for this to be done. For a death which occurred at home or in some other setting, family members of the deceased may need to make the arrangements. Depending upon the circumstances of the death, this may involve calling the family physician, the coroner or the police. The completed form can then be provided to a funeral director or other person, such as a family member who will take responsibility for the final disposition of the body, for registration.

Making Initial Arrangements

An autopsy may be requested by the physician in charge or by family members. Unless an autopsy is required by law, an autopsy will not be performed without the consent of next-of-kin.

Unless arrangements have been made for the deceased person's body to be used in medical research, a funeral director is generally contacted to take charge of the body. Saskatchewan law regulates the ways that human remains can be dealt with. A funeral director, while not always required, can assist with this and process the required paperwork. Unless embalming or cremation is desired, individuals can make arrangements on their own without using a funeral director. In these cases they will be responsible for registering the death and for complying with the rules and regulations regarding the final disposition of the body.

If the deceased person had a Will and the Executor is known, contact with a funeral director should be coordinated with the Executor. Under a Will, the Executor of the deceased person's estate is responsible for making funeral arrangements and paying for them out of the deceased person's estate. For this reason, the Executor should be involved in the process as soon as possible.

If there is no Will or there is a Will but an Executor is not named, someone will ultimately need to make a court application to deal with the deceased's estate. In these cases others may need to do what is required in the initial period after the death without being able to involve the person who will later be in charge of the deceased's estate.

Registration of Death

In Saskatchewan, all deaths must be registered with eHealth Saskatchewan. An official death certificate cannot be issued until the death is registered. This may seem like just a formality but this official certificate will be required in a number of circumstances and, in any event, registration is required by law.

Statement of Death

A Statement of Death must be submitted to the Registrar and is generally completed using information provided from next-of-kin, including…

  • name of deceased
  • date of death
  • place of death
  • health services number
  • address
  • marital status
  • occupation
  • names of both parents & place of birth

The Statement of Death must also include…

  • the name of the individual providing the above information
  • their relationship to the deceased
  • their address
  • the name and address of the funeral director or other person the body is being released to

Finally, the Statement of Death must state…

  • the date of the final disposition of the body
  • the place and the manner in which the final disposition of the body will be carried out
  • other information as required by the Registrar

Medical Certificate of Death & Registration of Death Form

The completed Medical Certificate of Death and a Registration of Death form must also be submitted to the Registrar. Once the registration information is verified and the Medical Certificate of Death and the Registration of Death are filed, eHealth Saskatchewan can then issue an official death certificate upon payment of a fee. An official death certificate may be required to establish legal proof of death for estate purposes and other matters such as life insurance and pension benefit claims.

If a Coroner Is Involved

A Coroner may become involved when a person dies in unexplained or unnatural circumstances. There is a legal duty to promptly report a death to the Coroner or a peace officer if it occurred...

  • as a result of an accident or violence, or was self-inflicted
  • from a cause other than disease or sickness
  • as a result of negligence, misconduct or malpractice on the part of others
  • suddenly and unexpectedly, where the deceased person appeared to be in good health
  • in circumstances where the body has been destroyed, cannot be recovered, or cannot be located
  • as a direct or immediate result of the deceased being engaged in employment, business or an occupation
  • as a still-birth, without the presence of a qualified medical practitioner
  • in other circumstances that require investigation

A Coroner may be, but does not have to be, a medical doctor. The Coroner may conduct an investigation into the death to confirm who died, where and when the person died, how the person died, and other circumstances of the death. The Coroner has the authority to secure the scene, collect information, and inspect and seize documents or other possessions. In some cases, the Coroner may order an autopsy of the deceased person. Autopsies are performed by a trained pathologist.

A Coroner's investigation does not determine whether someone is to blame for the death or whether criminal charges should be laid. Following the investigation, however, the Coroner may make recommendations in their report to help avoid similar deaths in the future. It may take up to six months to complete a Coroner's report, including any autopsy report.

The Coroner's report is not automatically sent to the deceased person's family unless they request it. The request must be in writing to the Office of the Chief Coroner. If an insurance company requires a "Proof of Death" or "Physician's Statement of Death" form to be completed, and a Coroner was involved after the death, these forms can be forwarded to the Chief Coroner as well.

Inquests

An inquest has a similar function to an investigation. However, an inquest is conducted more like a court hearing, and is generally open to the public. The Coroner calls witnesses to give testimony under oath. A jury decides the same issues that an investigation does, and makes recommendations for avoiding similar deaths in the future. Like an investigation, an inquest does not decide criminal or civil responsibility for a death.

An inquest may be held if it is necessary to...

  • find out the identity of the deceased and the cause of death
  • inform the public about the circumstances of the death
  • inform the public of dangerous practices or conditions, and recommend ways to avoid preventable deaths

An inquest must be held if the deceased person was an inmate in a correctional facility, in the care of Social Services, or an involuntary patient in a mental health facility. The provincial government may also direct the Coroner to conduct an inquest as a matter of public interest.

Who to Notify

There are many people and institutions to notify upon a person's death. Many of these notifications are not urgent and can be left for the Executor or Administrator to handle. These non-urgent matters might include such things as notifying...

  • the provincial land registry system, regarding any land the deceased person owned
  • federal government departments such as Canada Revenue Agency and Service Canada, regarding matters such as the Canada Pension Plan Death Benefit or cancelling a social insurance number (SIN)
  • the lawyer who will be helping administer the estate of the deceased person

If the deceased was receiving money from a government plan such as the Canada Pension Plan or the GST Rebate Program, the government agency should be notified so that they do not issue any further payments which would then need to be paid back by the estate.

In certain circumstances, a physician and funeral director may be the first to be contacted. Family members and friends of the deceased will likely be notified as soon as possible. It may be useful to make a list of names and phone numbers, to better organize efforts to inform those who were close to the deceased person.

Beyond this sort of communication at a personal level, other individuals may also need to be advised in the short-term. For example...

  • a member of the clergy for the spiritual needs of the family or to help make funeral arrangements
  • employer or business associates of the deceased
  • the landlord of the deceased (or care home operator, if that is the case)
  • any social worker or home care provider
  • newspapers, to arrange an obituary if desired

As mentioned, the Executor, if there is one, is legally responsible for arranging the funeral and paying bills of the deceased. For this reason, if there is a Will and an Executor named in the Will, the Executor should be involved in making funeral arrangements and publishing obituaries. In fact, as much as possible, the Executor should be involved in any contact where financial liability could arise.

Checklist

A quick overview of matters to consider when someone has died.

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