Generally speaking when there is an “expected” death, it is not necessary to contact a funeral home right away. However if your family member is in the hospital or long term care facility and not at home, then it is likely the facility will want that bed for someone else in short order.
What will you do?
If you choose to act as your own funeral director, as long as you have a signed certificate of death you can legally transport the body back home if you like and have a home funeral. It is best to plan a home funeral in advance though, as there is a lot to consider.
It is hard to make a home funeral happen on short notice, but not impossible if you have a lot of support and know how to take care of the body. Of course if the expected death was at home, as a natural extension, having a home funeral may make a lot of sense for a lot of reasons. It is after all what families did for each other before the funeral industry existed.
You will eventually need to hire a funeral home if there is a plan for cremation, unless you find a crematorium that will take the body of your loved one directly from the family. Again, not necessary right away if you are acting as your own funeral director, however, the funeral home (or crematorium) will want to know you are taking proper care of the body, and may impose a deadline for how many hours or days you can keep the body at home before handing it off to them. You need to be knowledgeable and you need to know your rights.
As for burial, there are some options.
Depending on where you live, and since embalming is generally not a legal requirement, it is possible to do the burial yourself. What you need to know is if the cemetery you want to use will work with you in this regard. Again research is key here. Some municipalities or privately owned cemeteries will have certain requirements that will need to be followed. Some cemeteries are also owned by corporations, which generally means, by the funeral home itself. Planning ahead will make this research a whole lot easier.
An alternative to burial in a cemetery is to have land designated for this specific purpose if you own an acreage. Here is a link for how the process works in BC. In Nova Scotia, to find out if this is possible, you need to talk to the municipality and find out if their bylaws will allow this. It may require a rezoning of the specific parcel you have in mind. Of course you must consider the future when thinking this through. Will this land be passed down through the generations? Or will it be up for sale at some point in time? Selling property with a grave on it may impact the price you are hoping to get. It may also open up the possibility of having unexpected visits from relatives after the new owners move in. This could be an unpleasant experience for both the new owner of the land and the relatives of the deceased.
Exhuming the body before you move is a potential option. You will have to make the determination if the cost or effort to do this is worth it in the end.
Does this all sound simple? It can be, but there is a lot more to it of course. There are laws that need to be followed, and it is best to do your research well in advance. Alternatively you can hire someone like me to help you plan and do the research. Certainly a funeral home can make the whole process seemingly effortless and some may do it for a reasonable cost. It depends on what you envision for yourself. Again, do your research in advance! I do not recommend doing research when you are in the grip of grief, but when death is “unexpected” or there is no plan, your options become very limited and you will do the best you can.
Contact me when you are ready to do some planning, or do some research here for a DIY approach.