When Death Occurs

When a death occurs in your family, you’ll be faced with legal duties and major decisions. It’s a very difficult time, and you may not know what to do or when to begin making arrangements. That responsibility can be overwhelming.

Fortunately, Cremation Society of Washington is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to help you make those necessary arrangements. Our secure online service makes the whole process of arranging a cremation easy and gives you control from your home or office. No appointment with a funeral director is necessary.

The following is a guide to the 5 steps you need to take when a loved one dies:

1. Call us toll-free at 844-682-6800

No matter when and where a death occurs, call us as soon as possible. We’ll ask a few questions, such as the name and address of the person who has died, where the death took place, and the name of the attending doctor and of the next-of-kin.

Once we have those essential details, we can transfer your loved one into our care. Procedures differ depending on where the death takes place and if it was anticipated:

When death occurs in a health care facility
If your loved one dies in a hospital or nursing home, all you have to do is call us. The medical staff at the health care facility will ensure all legal requirements are met. They may also call Cremation Society of Washington on your behalf, but to be safe, you or a family member should call us directly.

When an anticipated death occurs at home
Many people with terminal illnesses prefer to die at home in more familiar and peaceful surroundings, with family and friends close by. If this happens, the first step is to call the hospice or doctor treating your loved one. They will first report the death to the county and complete all county requirements. Then they will contact us to transfer your loved one into our care.

When the death is unexpected
If your loved dies suddenly at home or anywhere else outside of a health care facility, you must call 911 immediately. The local police will come to the place of death and decide what is to be done next.

If your loved one was apparently healthy and the death is non-suspicious, the police will call the Medical Examiner (ME) and await instructions. Depending on the circumstances, the ME may require an autopsy to be performed and take the body into custody. If the ME confirms that no autopsy is required, call us immediatly. We’ll come to you as soon as possible, usually within an hour or two.

If the death is suspicious, the ME will almost certainly order an autopsy and take custody of the body. After the autopsy has been conducted, the ME will contact us to transfer your loved one into our care.

When death takes place out of state
If your loved one has pre-arranged their cremation with us and the death takes place outside of Washington, call us immediatly. You do not need to contact a local funeral director in the state where your loved one died. That will only result in additional expenses for the family. We can make all the necessary arrangements through agents based across the country.

When death occurs outside the USA
If the death is in a foreign country, please call our office. We have contacts and networks all over the world and can usually help in some way. Those with MASA’s Away From Home Plan, which offers extra protection to travelers in the USA and abroad, will have their pre-arranged wishes carried out at no extra cost.

2. Arrange the cremation via our website

Once you have called us to notify us of your loved one’s death, you can go to our website and start arranging the cremation. Everything can be done online, but if you need any guidance, you can call us toll-free at 844-682-6800 at any time. Please note that you must arrange and pay for the cremation within 5 days of your loved one coming into our care.

3. Complete the Vital Statistics Worksheet

Once you have arranged and paid for the cremation, the next step is to obtain vital statistics information for your loved one. Click here to complete this information securely online. Alternatively you can download the Vital Statistics Worksheet to print it out to work on. Whichever method you prefer, please get us this information within five days of your loved one coming into our care. That information will allow us to complete and file the death certificate with the county. We cannot schedule the cremation until we have a completed death certificate signed by a physician.

4. Complete the Authorization Form

You also need to fill out a Authorization for Cremation and Disposition. This legally binding document authorizes us to perform the cremation and tells us whether you want the ashes scattered or delivered to you or a cemetery. It must be signed in front of a witness and returned to us within 5 days of your loved one coming into our care.

Please note: If we don’t receive the Vital Statistics Worksheet and the Authorization for Cremation and Disposition within 5 business days of your loved one coming into our care, additional sheltering fees will be charged.

5. You will receive confirmation that the documentation is complete

Once we have received the Vital Statistics Worksheet and the Authorization for Cremation and Disposition Form from you, there is nothing else you have to do. We will file the death certificate for you and then carry out the cremation process.

A cremation is usually performed within 7 to 10 business days of your loved one coming into our care. We will confirm in writing that the necessary documentation is complete and ready to utilize. If you have asked the ashes to be delivered to you, we will contact you after the cremation is complete to arrange for a mutually agreed on time for us to bring your loved one home.

Making arrangements when death is anticipated

If the death of your loved one is anticipated because of a terminal illness, it’s wise to start thinking about the final arrangements in advance. We frequently speak with the family before the death to start gathering information and discussing the services.

Such discussions are conducted discreetly and sensitively. Of course, your loved one may be involved in the decision-making if he or she is willing and able. Planning ahead means the family is not overwhelmed with making numerous important decisions at the time of death.

To begin completing your arrangements in advance, simply fill out our Online Arrangements System.

How to return documents to our office

You may scan and email or you may fax the documents toll-free to 888-971-4032. Alternatively, you can send the documents to PO Box 7506, Tacoma, WA 98417 using first class or registered mail.

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