Important Death Paperwork Before and After Cremation

Losing a loved one signals the beginning of an emotional grieving process for family members, but it also carries administrative burdens. Families and next of kin are often surprised to find they must complete a lengthy series of paperwork related to notifications, and planning cremation or other funeral services. If you have recently lost a loved one, or are pre-planning or preparing for a loss, expect to handle the following important paperwork:

Death Certificate

The death certificate is arguably the most important paperwork that a family needs in order to move forward with cremation, and it’s also vital for completing the other paperwork that follows death. The death certificate is a document issued by a medical practitioner or coroner that certifies that a person is deceased. In total, you may need as many as 10 to 15 certified copies of the death certificate - more if the deceased had a large number of accounts or assets. You’ll need to provide a copy of the death certificate to the cremation provider, and you’ll need it when you notify agencies and debtors of the death.

Authorization for Cremation

Before cremation can go forward, the cremation provider needs written authorization for cremation from the next of kin or family members with the authority to sign the authorization. Depending on the provider and the arrangements, you may also need to sign additional paperwork, or make certain decisions before the cremation process begins.


The obituary is one of the most challenging pieces of paperwork for families to complete after death. The obituary typically includes information such as the date of death, the age of the deceased, the city and state where the person was living at the time of death, and next of kin. If the funeral service is open to the public, the obituary often mentions the time and place of the service. Listing cause of death in the obituary is optional, and is based entirely on the family’s preferences. The obituary may also mention facts about the person’s life, such as where the deceased attended school, where he or she worked, or any noteworthy accomplishments.

Notify Social Security, VA, Life Insurance, and Pension Fund

If the deceased was a beneficiary of Social Security or any pension funds, the family has a legal obligation to notify these organizations of the death. You’ll need copies of the death certificate for each organization or fund. You’ll also want to notify life insurance companies with which the deceased held policies of the death so they can begin processing benefits and payments.

If the deceased was a veteran, you may be eligible for assistance with the funeral, cremation costs, and other benefits. You’ll need a copy of discharge papers, and you will need to provide a copy of the death certificate.

The Executor's Responsibilities

The executor of the deceased person’s estate has additional paperwork responsibilities, such as notifying banks and credit cards, settling debts, and distributing assets. If there is no will or no executor, the local probate court will appoint an administrator who must perform these duties.

Ideally, the death of a beloved individual should be a time of grieving for family members, but these important pieces of paperwork are integral to the process of arranging a cremation, and moving forward after death. Delays in this paperwork delay cremation, may result in failure to receive all the benefits to which the family is entitled, or may have legal consequences.


04 Apr 2013

By Dachary Carey