What should I do when someone dies?

The death of a family member or friend is never easy. You will need to take certain steps if a loved one dies in Ontario.

Who do I call first?

Depending on the circumstances of the death there are different people you need to contact.

If the death was expected, you should call the health care provider for the deceased person. If the death was unexpected, you must call emergency services first. If there is no doctor or emergency services in your area, you should contact the Coroner's Office.

After the officials have been notified, you should make a list of the family and friends you wish to inform.

Who has the legal right to make decisions?

One of the first things you must determine after someone dies is who has the authority to decide what will happen to the person's body.  Below is a list, in order, of who may act as legal representative:

  • Estate trustee (also known as executor) who is named in the will.  Alternatively, an administrator may be appointed by the court.
  • Spouse
  • Adult children

If there is no will you may wish to obtain legal advice before making any plans.

Organ Donation

If you believe that your loved one wanted to donate their organs, you should contact the Trillium Gift of Life Network Provincial Resource Centre as soon as possible at 1-877-363-8546. 

To become an organ donor you can register your consent by filling out a Service Ontario Organs and Tissue Donation form. Get more information about organ donation at the Ontario.ca Organ and Tissue Donation Registration page. 

Death Registration and Certificate

If someone you know passed away in Ontario, you can apply for a death certificate any time after the death is registered. A funeral director usually oversees this process. You may need a death certificate in order to make arrangements regarding the person's possessions, accounts or other matters.

Arranging a Funeral

The process of planning a funeral following the death of a loved one can seem overwhelming. There are some things to keep in mind as you make arrangements for services and interment. In Ontario, funeral service, transfer service or crematorium service providers must be licensed. No matter which option you choose, a service provider is required to give you various options and price lists.

You can find a listing of service providers on the Ontario Funeral Service Association website.

This article contains information from the Province of Ontario.

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Last updated: June 12, 2023 4005014