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A valuable checklist on how to take care
of immediate business following the death of a loved one

(updated July 2023)


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Death, be it expected or unexpected, is always immensely hard to deal with.  Death is something that no-one is ever prepared for.  And if you are the person who has to deal with all the practicalities surrounding the death of your loved one, you could find yourself dealing with a funeral and never-ending paperwork.

With the help of Constantiaberg Funeral Home, You’ve Earned It/YEI has put together a checklist on how to take care of the immediate business following the death of your loved one.

As there is a difference in procedure, the following checklist does distinguish between natural and unnatural causes.


CLICK HERE TO READ MORE:  The in’s and out’s of writing or updating your will

Death registration


  • The death of a deceased has to be registered within 72 hours of passing.  
  • It is therefore very important that as soon as the Doctor issues the Notice of Death (DHA 1663) that the Funeral Director meets with the next of kin to complete documentation in order for the death to be registered.  
  • Funeral Directors understand that sometimes the family or next of kin are not ready to meet with them, or are still undecided as to what they would like to do. This does not mean that the family has to make decisions and arrangements regarding the service at the same time. They can come back once they feel ready to do the arrangements.


If your loved one dies in hospital


  • Contact a Funeral Director – he/she will advise you on procedure.
  • The Funeral Director will collect the deceased from the hospital.
  • Many large Government hospitals appoint a Funeral Director (on a tender basis for a period) to remove/collect all the deceased (unless special arrangements are made with the Ward Sister). However the Funeral Director chosen by the family can collect the deceased from the hospital’s Funeral Director at no charge (within 72 hours). (This is the case with Victoria, Groote Schuur, Somerset and Tygerberg Hospitals).
  • The hospital will issue the Notification of Death (DHA 1663)to the family’s Funeral Director, as well as a Medical Certificate for Cremation (Form B), if required.
  • The deceased’s ID document/card (original) should be handed to the Funeral Director, who may need to present this to the hospital when collecting the certificates
  • Remember to collect your loved one’s personal belongings.


If your loved one dies at home


  • Contact the family Medical Doctor (GP) – at whatever time of day or night. Many doctors have an ‘on call’ roster with other doctors for after hours service.
  • If a doctor is not available to come to the house, contact Netcare 911 or ER24. They will determine if the death is natural or unnatural, and (if natural causes) will issue a Declaration of Death (DOD) form.  They will usually call the SA Police Service to come and confirm that death was by natural causes.  The SAPS officer needs to issue a SAP 180 form.  The Funeral Directors can then be called to collect the deceased.
  • Contact the Funeral Director who will advise you on procedures. The Funeral Director will remove/collect the Deceased and liaise with the Medical Doctor.
  • Copies of the DOD and SAP 180 forms, if obtained, should be given to the Funeral Director, who will forward copies to the family Doctor or specialist, whichever will be issuing the Notification of Death (DHA 1663)  This form, together with the Medical Certificate for Cremation (if applicable), will be collected by the Funeral Director when ready – which may be a day or two later
  • If the deceased was an outpatient of a hospital or day hospital or clinic, the Funeral Director will need to take the deceased’s hospital card and ID document/card together with the DOD and SAP 180 forms to the hospital, and request a DHA 1663 (Notification of Death form) and a Form B for cremation (if required).


If your loved one dies unexpectedly


  • Contact the Funeral Director who will advise on the procedures involved and who will also liaise with the correct authorities.
  • If death appears to be from natural causes, call the family Medical Doctor. If the doctor is not available, call the Paramedics and Police (as described above).  Obtain the DOD and SAP 180 forms, and hand these to the Funeral Director, as well as the hospital outpatients card (if applicable), and the deceased’s ID book/card or a copy.
  • The Funeral Director may then remove/collect the deceased to their private mortuary.
  • Should the person pass away at home and it appears that there has been a forced entry, or there is evidence of unnatural causes, or you consider something suspicious has happened, call 10111 or your local SA Police Services. They will arrange for the removal/collection of the body to the nearest State Mortuary (run by the Provincial Department of Health).  It is likely that a post mortem examination will be performed by a Pathologist (usually from the local university medical school).
  • If there is no family doctor, and the deceased was not an outpatient of a hospital or clinic, or there is no medical history, the SA Police Service will need to be called, and the deceased taken to the State Mortuary. If there is no suspicion of unnatural causes, the family may be asked to give the medical history of the deceased to an official at the State Mortuary, who may decide that a post mortem examination is not necessary.
  • In all cases where the deceased has been taken to a State Mortuary, the Next-of-Kin will need to go there and identify the deceased, and take their and the deceased’s ID document to show the official. If the Next-of-Kin wishes to delegate the identification of the deceased to another family member or associate, he/she will need to write a letter authorising this person to do the identification on his/her behalf.  The official will then issue a letter to the person, authorising the removal of the deceased. This, and the deceased’s ID document, needs to be handed to the Funeral Director, who will liaise with the State Mortuary to find out when the deceased will be released, and can be collected – which will be after the post mortem (if performed).
  • The Department of Health will issue the Notification of Death (DHA 1663) to the Funeral Director, signed by the pathologist who performed the post mortem (autopsy), or was satisfied that death was by natural causes (without a post mortem). If required, the Pathologist will also issue a Cremation Certificate(s).


The Funeral Director will then need to meet with the family to attend to the following:


  • Receive the deceased’s ID document/card – which will be returned after the death has been registered with the Department of Home Affairs.
  • Receive the ID of the next-of-kin, or other connected person, who will sign as ‘Informant’ on the Notification of Death. This ID can be returned immediately, after the Funeral Director has made copies.
  • Obtain personal particulars of the deceased, for completion of the Notification of Death – which will be lodged with the Department of Home Affairs, together with the deceased’s ID document. Home Affairs will then issue the official Death Certificate, and Burial Order, and return the ID document.  The Funeral Director will provide the original and five certified copies of the Death Certificate. (More copies can be requested).
  • Completion of the Application for Cremation (if applicable), signed by the family representative, and attested before a Commissioner of Oaths (at the Funeral Director’s office), as well as instructions concerning the cremated remains (Ashes).
  • The Next-of-Kin, or person responsible for making funeral arrangements, should advise the Funeral Director who will be authorised to collect the Death Certificate and the Ashes of the Deceased. This to prevent them being handed over to the ‘wrong’ person – which is a risk, especially in situations of family conflict.
  • Discussion on funeral arrangements – whether there will be a burial or cremation; a church service, with or without the coffin present; a cremation, with or without the family attending at the Crematorium; whether there will be a viewing, at the funeral home or at the church; whether the deceased will be dressed, or stay in his/her clothes at the time of death, or simply be covered with a shroud; etc.
  • A coffin will need to be selected. This is required for burial and cremation (even a private cremation, for which a simple unpainted chipboard or cardboard coffin will suffice).
  • Optional services will also be discussed (which can be arranged either by the Funeral Director or the family and friends). These include placing of press notices, ordering of flowers, and printing of leaflets, and arranging for catering after the service.  If the Funeral Director will be preparing a leaflet, the content needs to be given in good time. Donations (in lieu of flowers) to a charity or organisation can be included in the press notice and leaflet.
  • Look at any funeral policies, and decide who needs to claim the benefits.




  • Advise your Minister (Religious Leader), if you have one. He/she will provide the necessary support on a spiritual and emotional level.
  • This is probably the last thing you want to think about at a time like this, but if the Deceased is an Organ Donor, arrangements for organ donation need to happen quickly.
  • Once you feel ready, share the news with your immediate family and close friends.
  • The Funeral Home will assist with all funeral preparations, and can source a Minister to conduct a service if you do not have one.
  • Together with family members, decide on who will be delivering eulogies/tributes at the funeral or memorial service or gathering, and the pallbearers for the coffin.
  • Meet with the Minister (Religious Leader) who will be conducting the funeral or memorial service, to discuss the service details and hymns, and participants in the service (eulogies/tributes and readers), as well as arrangements for the coffin to be brought into the church (placed in front beforehand, or in procession with Minister and Pallbearers), and taken out afterwards (usually in procession).
  • Get support from family and friends – don’t try to do it all alone. Friends can remind you of certain things when your mind might be all over the place.
  • Don’t forget about the pets. If there is no spouse, then arrangements need to be made for the pets.  Consider arranging for the pets to see (and sniff) the body of the deceased after death, so as to understand that they have not been abandoned by the deceased.
  • Arrange a post-funeral gathering. This can be at the funeral/memorial service venue (adjacent hall), or a restaurant, hotel or private club, or the home of family or friends.  Enlist the help of friends and family, or a Church hospitality group. The Funeral Director will have contacts in catering.
  • Don’t neglect your health – you need all your strength for the practical arrangements. It’s a huge loss – if you need the advice of a professional such as a therapist or bereavement counsellor, don’t be proud.  Ask for help.


The Estate


  • The Estate of the Deceased needs to be reported to the Master of the High Court within 14 days from the date of death. There is a Death Notice form, a form sumarising assets and liabilities, and (if there is no Will) a form showing the close family tree (for intestate succession).  These forms, together with the original Will, and a certified copy of the Death Certificate, need to be submitted to the Master.
  • Once you have found the Deceased’s Will, establish the name of the Executors and contact them to advise on the death of the Deceased. The appointment of the Executors needs to be confirmed by the Master of the High Court.
  • If the Executors do not have the experience or professional competence to wind up the Deceased Estate (e.g. family members), they can appoint an administrator (who may be an Attorney or Accountant, or other professional) to act on their behalf (with a power of attorney).
  • A Power of Attorney given by a person ceases upon death. Thereafter the affairs of the Deceased can only be conducted by the Executors (or their appointees).
  • After death the Deceased’s bank accounts are frozen. This is usually effected by the Executors, but may be done by the bank if it hears about the death. (If a family member with access to the Deceased’s bank account, pays medical, funeral or other bills after death, he/she needs to be able to account to the Executors).
  • If no Executor has been nominated in the Will, then the next-of-kin or close family members can propose suitable persons to the Master. An Attorney, Accountant, Trust Administrator or suitably equipped relative are options.
  • Estates worth less than R250 000 are administered under Section 18(3) of the Estates Act – a simpler process. A nominated Executor or other suitable person needs to apply to and be appointed by the Master to do this.
  • Sometimes there can be disputes over money or possessions. Death can bring out the worst in people.  Be prepared for this.


Bills and accounts to be paid


  • Once the Death Certificate has been issued, advise the nominated Executor or Estate Administrator of bills that need to be paid, bank accounts to be closed or debit orders stopped -medical aid, cellphone, mortgage bonds, household and car insurance, the bank.
  • Contact the Deceased’s Financial Advisor, stockbroker, etc.
  • Cancel the Deceased’s driver’s licence, TV licence, email, social media and website accounts,and memberships of clubs and organisations.


Die prepared


It may seem macabre, but pre-planning your funeral or memorial service will make life so much easier for your loved ones when they are going through a difficult emotional time.  Draw up a document stipulating an end-of-life plan.  Also, make financial provision for your funeral: a funeral policy, prepaid funeral, or cash amount held by your Attorney, Financial Adviser, or a family member for this purpose.



Constantiaberg Funeral Home (Pty) Ltd

Serving the bereaved with sensitivity, Attending to the deceased with dignity

Member of National Funeral Directors’ Association of Southern Africa (NFDA)

85 Kenilworth Road, Kenilworth, Cape Town. 

P O Box 53366, Kenilworth 7745

Tel: 021 671 2400 / 073 628 9125 (Office/ 24hr call-out)

Email: and



Updated:  July 2023
You’ve Earned It/YEI – the digital media platform for SA 60-plussers


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  • Neville Kendall says:

    Good day
    I would like to make financial provision for my funeral. I would like to be cremated and have a memorial service only.
    Please could you advise me on what the cost would be.

  • Neville Kendall says:

    Sorry supposed to send to

  • download says:

    Great post.

  • Bob says:

    What if We only want a cremation and no service?

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Bob

      Your query will be sent to the experts for response.

      Kind regards

    • Marilynh says:

      Hi Bob

      Alan Lindhorst, the author of the article, has responded as follows:

      There is absolutely no need to have a service or ceremony. A private ‘behind the scenes’ (non-attended) cremation is fine, and many people go this route. They may have a separate memorial gathering or wake (which may not have any religious aspect to it). This is entirely up to the family.

      Hope this helps

      Regards, YEI

  • Coleen says:

    I have a 89 year old mother who has nothing, except her, two pensions that will stop on her death.
    I provide in all her other needs.
    Does she need a will?

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Coleen

      Your query has been sent to the author of the article.

      Kind regards, YEI

    • Paula Bongers says:

      Dear Coleen
      Regarding your query about your Mom needing a Will. Where there are no assets it is not absolutely necessary. Are her pensions being paid into a bank account? If so, it is better to have a Will in place, as her bank account would need to be dealt with. There is a short cut procedure for estates under R250 000,00 where the family can handle it themselves, but it is always better to have a Will in place. Each situation is different and an intestate estate (without a Will) can become messy if there are a number of children and a small amount must be divided up between many. Without a Will, there are also additional documents that would need to be lodged with the Master in order to obtain the authority to act in the Estate (called Letters of Authority for these smaller estates), and without a Will it also causes an unnecessary delay in obtaining this appointment. If you need further help, you are welcome to contact us.
      Kind regards
      Paula (Bongers)
      Proactive Wills & Estates
      021-5511741 W.

      • Gladden Fortuin says:

        I Gladden Fortuin is in need of an Letter of Authority so that I can get access to his bank, policy, and other information of my death husband who died on 17 February 2021 Thanks

    • Marilynh says:

      Hi Coleen

      The author of the article has replied as followed.

      There is no legal obligation to have a will. Without a will, one’s assets will be distributed according to SA’s laws of Intestate Succession. If the Deceased Estate is worth less than R250 000, the process is simpler, with usually a family member appointed by the Master of the High Court to do this. But if there are no assets, one might still be obliged to report the death to the Master; but in practice I guess people don’t bother. (One should maybe check that kind of detail with an attorney who works with deceased estates).
      Hope that helps. Alan

      Alan Max Lindhorst
      Constantiaberg Funeral Home
      021 674 1443 / 021 672 2400 / 083 653 6536


  • Sally Grindley Ferri says:

    I have found this very informative without one needing to be morbid we need to get our facts together to make things easier for one left behind. I do have a question My husband and I are state pensioners and do not have a private doctor and also live in a rural area – Treatment is from Hermanus and Stanford clinic. Who would we contact if a death occurs at home?? Thank you for advice Sally

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Sally

      Here is the response to your query:

      They would need to call the Police and Paramedics to come to the house. Police will satisfy themselves that death was by natural causes, and issue a SAP180 firm. Paramedics will check for vital signs etc, and issue a Declaration of Death firm (that includes date and time of death). The Funeral Directors can then be called to remove the Deceased. The family or surviving spouse must then take these forms and the clinic card and deceased’ ID to the clinic (probably the one most recently visited). A doctor there will normally then issue the Notification of Death document (4 pages) called the DHA-1663 (previously BI-1663), as well as a Cremation Certificate if applicable. These documents and the Police and Paramedics forms must be handed to the Funeral Director together with the deceased’s ID. The Funeral Director will take these (duly completed) to the Dept of Home Affairs for the registration of death and issue of the official Death Certificate.

      If the Deceased has not visited the clinic in the past six months there is a risk that the doctors will not be happy to issue the DHA-1663 or Cremation Certificate. (The length of time may vary for different clinics). In such a case the Funeral Directors will advise. A private doctor may be asked to help.
      Alan Lindhorst
      Constantiaberg Funeral Home
      021 674 1443 / 021 672 2400 / 083 653 6536

      Kind regards

  • Sally Grindley Ferri says:

    We are state pensioners and do not have a private doctor. We live in a rural area and attend a clinic for meds etc. Who would we contact if a death occurs in the home?

    • Marilynh says:

      Dear Sally

      We are sending your query on to Alan Lindhorst to see if he can respond to you.

      Warm regards, YEI

  • Mbali nkosi says:

    Hi, my father past away a month ago and left behind a less than 120000 estate. He was living with a woman he paid partial lobola to and no further cultural ceremonies were made. She says her lawyer said everything belongs to her and does not have to share with his children. According to us the court does not recognise their marriage so she is not the legal wife and the children should share. Please help me what is the truth of this matter.

  • Dean says:

    Good day, my name is Dean, I have an elder brother who has a heroine addiction, I was really shocked recently as I received information that he was busy over dosing in a shelter, i went to see him and there’s no body fat left on his body, i could see his entire chest rib cage, we lost our mother in 2019, and don’t have family here now, im really worried about what happens should he pass away as ive got no financial means for a funeral and service, is there any way that a person in my situation can deal with this?

  • Cathy Muir says:

    My 92 year old is dying please can you advise me I am a Sassa pensioner I would like a cardboard coffin mommy to be created so service what will it cost me

    • Marilynh says:

      Hi Cathy – we are so sorry to hear about the difficulties you are going through with your Mom. Unfortunately, we are unable to assist with advice in this regard, and recommend that you contact your local undertaker to ask him/her how you should go about this, and also google “cardboard coffins” and see what you can find out. Wishing you all the best in this difficult journey.
      The YEI Team.

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