Do You Have a Plan?

The death of a loved one, whether it's expected or sudden, can be an emotionally traumatizing event.  Although there are no wrong decisions when planning a funeral, preparations may run the range of preplanning and/or prepaying the funeral to assembling key documents, accounts and contact information and storing them in a place readily available to your heirs.  Being on the road full time can make the process even more daunting.

    Anything you can do to better position yourself to handle the many details central to the funeral of a loved one, the better you will be able to handle your emotional stress. 
This topic could be considered morbid, but planning for this emergency isn't too different from having a plan to deal with an RV roadside emergency.

What You'll Need First
    An immediate issue may be the death notice for the local or hometown newspaper.  Typically, funeral homes submit death notices to the newspaper and they may request that you complete some basic information or you may write the obituary for their approval. 
    A picture would personalize the notice, and usually, you will be asked for a black and white photograph.  You will also need to provide the funeral director with a set of clothing for the deceased, the obituary notice and identifying who the pallbearers will be.
    This information will be needed within 24 to 36 hours, depending on the time of the funeral. Newspapers also have online obituaries which allow loved ones to leave comments of encouragement to the family and in memory of the deceased.  These can be especially helpful to full time RVers without a convenient mailing address.
    Many RVers may be on the road when a loved one dies and hence transporting your loved one home may be necessary after the authorities have completed their formal inquires.  A specialty shipping service or a local funeral home may be required to make pertinent transportation arrangements home. 
    Any agency with a financial or governmental interest in the deceased will have to be contacted.  Over payments are likely and quite possibly any payment made for the month the person passed away may be classified as an over payment. 
    If the overpayment is made by a governmental agency via direct deposit, don't be too quick to write a check to refund them.  Because they're computerized they often rescind the deposit and withdraw it from your account. 
    Governmental and financial agencies expect to be informed in a timely manner.  A good time to start notifying agencies could be when you have received the certified death certificates, generally obtained from the funeral home. 
Contact Considerations
In reality, there is little that can be accomplished without the death certificates.   That said, here is a list of agencies that will likely need to be contacted once the funeral has been completed. 
  • Social Security Administration
  • Insurance companies: auto, life, house, health
  • Retirement plans
  • Broker
  • Associations, organizations
  • Schools, colleges, alumni association
  • Banks, credit unions
  • Friends, relatives
  • Professionals: CPA, DDS, MD's, etc.
  • Department of motor vehicles
    Very likely, the really difficult and sometimes frustrating work may begin as you try to conduct business to resolve the passing of a loved one with the various agencies.
     Death certificates can be long or short versions.  The longer version most often lists the cause of death, whereas the shorter version does not.  Note that the longer version may be required by insurance companies.
    You will want to have a sufficient number of death certificates available to conduct business as needs arise.
    Obtaining death certificates can be a time consuming process that may be best tackled up front.  Anyone with whom you do business by mail will likely want a certified death certificate with an embossed seal.  Generally, 12 death certificates requested from the funeral home should be sufficient.
    Central to your providing certified death certificates is the need to have access to a notary public.  Possibly, your bank can provide this service for free.  Many documents will need to be notarized, particularly when signing paperwork forwarded through the mail.

Using the USPS
Being away from home requires use of the USPO and this process can be difficult to organize.  It may be prudent to send notifications by priority or express mail with delivery confirmations.  Not only will it arrive at it's destination faster, it will arrive in an oversized envelope that will be harder to be misplaced and will require special handling by those receiving it.  Be sure to save the stamped postal receipt, the sales receipt and staple them to whatever paperwork is central to the mailing.
    After a day or more, go to the appropriate website (i.e. and plug in your delivery confirmation numbers.  When the paperwork is delivered, print the webpage and attach it to your paperwork.  It will be more costly but this may be more important to you when you have multiple documents circulating in the mail. 
    More to the point, knowing when the document was received is much better than saying: "But I mailed it to you a week ago."  Additionally when speaking to different people and agencies, take notes and record briefly when and with whom you spoke and the name of the agency contacted.  Future conversations may be benefited with this information at your fingertips. 

Headstones usually have to be ordered.  Aside from being historical markers, they allow for a personal memory of your loved one.
    When choosing a headstone, check with the cemetery for their rules and restrictions.  Headstones can be expensive and you will want to be in compliance with the cemetery's regulations.  If you opt for cremation, consider the future of the ashes, whether kept with you or buried or following advance wishes of the deceased. 
    Military services, when appropriate, can be scheduled through the funeral home or, possibly, coordinated through a local military reserve or National Guard center. 
    Another important task is the documentation of gifts provided by friends and relatives.  Make notes of their kindnesses, which will better enable you to write them a note of thanks later on.   
    Below are a few resources that may assist your efforts at this critical period in your life. Following the funeral, as you look to your future, be prepared for the unexpected.  Above all else, stay cool, be persistent, and don't be shy to enlist the aid of others to help you through this difficult time. 

Funeral Planning
  • Pre-plan and/or prepay the funeral
  • Powers of attorney, if necessary
  • Living will
  • Listing of accounts with acct numbers and contact phone numbers
  • Church/pastor contact info
  • Last will
  • Retirement plans, Social Security
Funeral Considerations
  • Funeral home and body preparations
  • Cemetery and grave location
  • Headstone selection
  • Obituary notice
  • Limousine needs
  • Casket and vault selection
  • Notice to open the grave
  • Pallbearers
  • Military services
  • Transport to hometown
  • Social Security 800-772-1213,
  • Funerals
  • Planning a funeral:
  • Delivery confirmation:
  • Books about funerals:
  • Veterans V.A.: Form 40-1330@
  • Non veteran:  Google headstones,
Info gathered from article in ESCAPEES magazine May/June 2009

Teri Blaschke is the RV Park operator of family owned HiddenValley RV Park in San Antonio, TX and writer of the park blog “A Little Piece of Country in San Antonio.” Teri contributes to various other blogs with a focus on either travel or social media and how it relates to the outdoor hospitality industry but her passion is serving the RV travel community by providing a memorable RV camping experience and growing the Hidden Valley RV family.  Connect with , Facebook and Twitter@HiddenValleyRV

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