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What should I do when a family member has died?

Death in a hospital or nursing home
Following a death in a hospital, hospice or nursing home medical staff will contact the doctor to issue a death certificate.  The nursing staff will notify the next of kin and family members.  Nursing staff will usually prepare the deceased and you will be able to spend time with them before having us transfer the deceased into your care.
When a death occurs at home
You should phone the deceased’s doctor as soon as possible so the doctor can verify the death.  Once the death is verified then the doctor will fill out and sign a document called a Medical Cause of Death.  This is a temporary death certificate that must be given to the funeral home so they can register and apply for the Death Certificate.  If it is known by the family that the wishes of the deceased is for a cremation then the family will need to inform the doctor at the earliest possible opportunity.  This will ensure a smooth proceeding for both the family and the funeral director.
When is the Coroner involved?
In an event of an unexpected death at home, hospital or public place then the death may need to be referred to the coroner’s office.  In such circumstances you should call the police as well as your doctor.  The police will determine if the death needs to be referred to the coroner.  The coroner will carry out further investigative work to determine the cause of death.  When this has been completed the deceased will then be released to the family to arrange the funeral.  You will need to inform the coroner which funeral director you wish to use.
Do I have to have a funeral?   
No you do not, however it is a requirement of law to arrange for the deceased to be cremated or buried. Sometimes people feel that a funeral service is going to be too hard emotionally and seek to avoid a public setting when they are grieving deeply. Unfortunately people often regret this choice later. Although difficult, a funeral service is an important part of grieving the death of someone whose presence in the world mattered to many people in the course of their lifetime. If for some reason a funeral service is not held at the time, a memorial service at a later date can often serve a healing function. Funerals do not have to be big public events and families can opt for a private service or even a simple gathering at home to acknowledge the life and subsequent death of someone they love.
Do I have to use a casket?
Yes. Your Funeral Director will be able to show you a range of caskets readily available, or custom made options. You may make your own casket if you wish but it is wise to check with your cemetery or crematorium of choice to ensure that they meet regulations and environmental requirements. 
Does the casket get cremated too?
Yes. New Zealand law decrees that the casket is cremated along with all the attachments (handles, name plates etc). Any flowers adorning the casket will be cremated unless the family choose to take them.
Is embalming necessary?
Embalming ensures disinfection and preservation during the funeral period and is particularly important if you wish to spend time with the deceased. If the funeral is delayed or the body has to travel then embalming is necessary.
Spending time with the deceased
Many people find that spending time with the deceased before the funeral helps to provide an acceptance of the whole event and that is why the funeral director will enquire if any member of the family wishes “to view” the deceased.
For many, effective grieving and subsequent readjustment cannot take place if this acceptance has not been established.  The opportunity to view is even more important when death is sudden and unexpected.  The funeral home should provide facilities to allow the deceased to be viewed in privacy and in appropriately peaceful surroundings.  The decision to view is a very personal one, but funeral directors know from experience that those who are hesitant at first later advise that they have been greatly assisted by this brief time with the deceased prior to the funeral.  In many cultures it is customary to bring the deceased home in the days leading up to the funeral service.
When will I get the death certificate?
Your funeral director will register the death with Internal Affairs within three days following the funeral and will request a Death Certificate which is normally received within seven working days.
Burial or Cremation?
One of the first questions once your loved one has died is are they for burial or cremation?  This decision is not to be taken lightly.  Taking into consideration the wishes of the deceased.
There are two types of cemeteries in New Zealand.  Local authorities, private trust or church.  We are here to help and advise your family in whether a new grave is required or using an existing family grave.