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What should you do when someone dies?

Region: Ontario Answer # 151

When someone passes away, whether expectedly or unexpectedly, there are several steps that should be taken. Both the federal government and provincial/territorial governments provide guidelines and instructions, including how to order death certificates, who to notify, and instructions on probating a Will. Many of these tasks are undertaken by the estate trustee/executor.

Depending on the deceased person’s situation, in Ontario the list can include:

  • Immediately following a death: who to call first

Who you should immediately notify depends on whether the death was expected (call the doctor who was caring for the deceased person) or unexpected death (call emergency services first). If you are uncertain, contact the local Office of the Chief Coroner.

  • Register the death with the local government

This is done using a Medical Certificate of Death, a form that the attending doctor or a coroner completes, and a Statement of Death, a form that the funeral director and usually a family member completes. If a funeral service provider is not being used, a family member can get a Statement of Death form from the municipal clerk’s office, complete it, and submit both to the municipal clerk’s office.

  • Get a burial permit

In most cases, funeral directors oversee the process of getting a burial permit. If the family is not using a funeral service provider, the provincial municipality where you register the death can help you get a burial permit. A burial permit is issued after the death is registered.

  • Get a death certificate

You may need a death certificate to access insurance benefits, settle an estate or access or cancel government services.

  • Make funeral arrangements

If a funeral will be held, and you use a funeral service provider, they can help families make arrangements for funeral services. Otherwise, there are provincial organizations, such as the Bereavement Authority of Ontario that families can use that will help them make arrangements themselves.

  • Settle the estate

If the deceased has a Will and an estate trustee is named, that person is authorized to carry out the wishes of the deceased as per the Will. Without a Will, an estate is distributed according to the law. View other topics in Wills & Estates Law for more information on probating a Will, and what happens if someone dies without a Will.

Who else should you notify?

There may also be other organizations or government departments that must be notified, and steps taken depending on the deceased individual’s circumstances. These include:

  • Contact the federal government, including Service Canada and the CRA to access or cancel certain services and/or benefits (e.g. OAS, CPP) or file an income tax return on behalf of the deceased
  • Cancel Ontario Health Card
  • Contact the appropriate department if the deceased paid child or spousal support (e.g. family responsibility office)
  • Stop mail delivery
  • Cancel a driver’s licence
  • Cancel a passport
  • Cancel credit cards
  • Inform the person’s banks and financial institutions of the death

More info

For more information on who to contact in the federal government and what to do, visit Canada.ca or the Canada Revenue Agency. For information on the specific requirements for what to do in the event of a death in Ontario, visit the Government of Ontario website here.

Refer to other sections of Wills and Estates, or view our Links & Resources for more information on Wills, Estates and Powers of Attorney.

Getting the legal help you need

Wills are extremely important documents and relatively inexpensive to have prepared professionally. If you want to make sure your Will is legal and clearly expresses your wishes, you should consult a lawyer. A lawyer can also provide advice and assistance settling an estate.


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