What to do when someone dies
Answers to common questions about what to do, and what support is available, when a loved one dies in Ontario.
Who to call first
An expected death: call the doctor who was caring for the deceased person.
An unexpected death: call emergency services first.
No available doctor/emergency services in the area: contact the local coroner’s office.
Unsure about the circumstances: contact the local coroner’s office or the Chief Coroner of Ontario.
Organ and tissue donation
Organ and tissue donation can help enhance and save lives, and provide immediate comfort and long-lasting consolation to grieving family members.
You can also choose to donate a body to science or medical research in Ontario.
Arrange the funeral
Funeral directors can help you make arrangements for full funeral services.
For more information, you can contact:
If your arrangements include burial or cremation, the cemetery or crematorium you choose can help you.
Get a burial permit
In most cases, funeral directors can help get a burial permit.
You need a burial permit before funeral services, including cremation, can be performed. You need this permit, even if the burial or other arrangements will take place outside the province.
If the death was outside Ontario, but the burial and arrangements will take place in the province, you will need a burial, transit or removal permit from the jurisdiction where the death occurred.
A funeral director usually oversees the process of registering a death.
To register a death, a funeral director submits 2 documents to a municipal clerk’s office:
A Medical Certificate of Death: the attending doctor or a coroner completes this form, outlining the cause of death.
A Statement of Death: a family member and a funeral director complete this form, together. It includes personal information about the deceased (e.g., family history, age at death, place of death).
Information that is gathered about causes of death can be used for medical/health research or statistics.
Get a death certificate
You can apply for a death certificate at any time, but it cannot be issued until a death is registered.
You may need an original or certified copy of this certificate to:
- settle an estate
- access insurance benefits
- access or cancel certain government services (e.g., health card, pension)
- research a family tree
Who can request: next of kin, an executor or estate administrator.
Wills and estates
After someone dies, you may need to check if the deceased person has a will. A will is a legal document that sets out who will inherit property, possessions and other personal items.
To find out if a will has been filed: you can contact the estates division of the local Ontario court in the community where the deceased lived.
With a will
If the deceased has a will, a “probate” court may or may not need to determine that it is legal.
If a court determines that a will is legal, it also grants “probate” – or approves – a trustee to carry out the wishes of the deceased person. This trustee is often named in a will.
If you are named as the estate trustee (also called the “executor”), you are authorized to administer the estate of the deceased person. You are considered the deceased person’s personal representative, and will carry out their wishes as stated in the will.
For example, you might distribute assets such as a home or financial savings or donate money to charity if that is what is outlined in the will.
Without a will, an estate is distributed according to the law. This can be a complex process. If you are in this situation, you might want to contact a lawyer.
Lawyer Referral Service
The Law Society of Upper Canada offers a free referral service by phone.
This service is designed to connect you with legal services that might be helpful to you.
You will be connected to a Legal Information Officer who can:
- assess your needs
- provide the name of a lawyer or paralegal, based on your circumstances
The service is not considered legal advice. Legal fees should be discussed directly with the lawyer or paralegal you are referred to.
Law Society of Upper Canada
Law Society Referral Service
Who to notify of death
You may need to notify certain organizations or levels of government when a loved one dies, to access or cancel certain services and/or benefits.
Oversee the deceased’s finances
If you are the executor, you will need to:
- file an income tax form on behalf of the deceased person
- inform the person’s banks and financial institutions of the death
- contact the Family Responsibility Office if the deceased paid child or spousal support