After-death arrangements: How to make a strong exit plan

Hello, I’m Lorretta Guazzini. I own and operate The Gardens Funeral Home in Fallon. Since going into this business almost 20 years ago, I realized most people are unprepared for dying! I don’t mean death itself, I mean all the things that need to be in place before you take that trip we all will take one day. I would just like to give you a few ideas to make it easier on those who are left to take care of your affairs.

When a death occurs at home, depending on where you live, city or county, you would call the police or the sheriff. If you call 911 you will get an ambulance, they are going to try to breathe live back into the person, that’s their job! They, law enforcement, will call the funeral home of your choice. If you die in a hospital, the same thing, you will have your choice of funeral homes.

The funeral home is who comes to your home or hospital to do the removal. They will want to meet with you to get all the information to generate a death certificate, usually that occurs within a day or two. Once the death certificate is generated, a doctor has to sign it and then the registrar has the final say, the registrar signs it and files it. Once that is done, the funeral home can move forward with burial or cremation. I always tell families not to set any dates or times until they meet with me. The funeral director generates the death certificate from the information gathered from the family. We discuss how many death certificates you will need, social security, veterans services, cremation, burial, services, obituaries, schedules all have to be coordinated, and the funeral director will take care of all of it for you. Sometimes it takes several days to get a death certificate signed. It is usually a week to 10 days before we receive the certified death certificate. But nothing can be done, cremation or burial, until it is signed by the registrar. That’s why it’s important to have all of this in place before families start making reservations to get here.

Power of attorney? I hear this all the time, “I have power of attorney.” Well, it ceases when the person dies! When cremation is the choice, I have to have the next of kin sign for the cremation, not the person who has power of attorney. If there are only children as next of kin, they have to all sign or at least the majority. Authorizations can be emailed or faxed, but they have to be notarized on the other end. Thank you for email and faxing, it makes it easier in this day and age.

Another thing to be prepared with are numbers. Do you know your kids’ or siblings’ email or fax number? Speaking of numbers, we all seem to have computers or even cell phones that take a passcode. Does anybody have your passcode? Do you have it written somewhere a family member can find it? A lot of families are completely in the dark; mom or dad paid all the bills from the computer and mom or dad didn’t share it, they have no idea what the password is to get into it.

One more thing: I know lots of people who have joint everything, bank accounts, cars, property, credit cards, but there are those that it’s all just mine! Well, if you don’t have someone else as a signer on your bank account, safe deposit boxes, just to name a couple of very important things, your account is locked down for 45 days and no one can do anything about it. Once you get a death certificate and prove who you are, you’ll be able to access it. If someone has an autopsy, you are two months before you get a death certificate. Your family can suffer severely when your money is in a holding pattern. Sometimes, mortgage payments, car payments, utilities are months behind when you have to wait for the death certificate just because you didn’t take the time to go with your spouse or your mother or father to become a signer on those accounts.

Donors, there is a catch 22! It seems as though in the past several years, everybody talks about a DNR (do not resuscitate) at some point or another. You cannot be a vital organ donor if you have a DNR. You have to be kept on life support until arrangements have been made for the donor team to come to do the recovery, which could takes days to get everything in place. You can have a DNR and still be able to donate, it just can’t be the vital organs, mainly skin, corneas, large bones, tendons. The wonderful thing about being a vital organ donor is how many people one person’s donation can benefit.

It always amazes me how many people don’t know what there family member prefers. It is sometimes not a conversation we want to have about the end of ours lives, but it is important to have that conversation. Don’t leave your family wondering if they’re making the right decision.

Well, I think I’ve used my 600 words up, hopefully wisely for someone’s benefit. Sad, to say, but death is something we all have to face in our lives. Until it happens to you, it’s hard to imagine what a family goes through when they have a loss. Every death is different, but nonetheless, it is a loss. Having some of these affairs in order make it a lot easier relieves a lot of stress. They may seem small, but believe me they are all big when someone else is trying to figure it out and you’ve left no map to follow.

There has always been a certain mystic about death and dying. If you have any questions or comments, don’t hesitate to email me at

Lorretta Guazzini owns and operates The Gardens Funeral Home in Fallon.


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