At Time of Death

Tasks Checklist:

1. Family Meeting for Planning.
2. Completion of forms, see below.
3. Book burial or cremation.
4. Order coffin.
5. Assess transportation requirements.
6. Plan laying out of body.
7. Arrange viewing of body.
8. Make service arrangements.
9. If cremation is chosen, arrange disposition of ashes.
10. Send obituary to newspaper.


Depending on the circumstances of death, each set of activities will be slightly different.

  1. Family meeting. This is to initiate communication between a Nelson End of Life representative and family member or friend responsible for making burial arrangements. If the death is expected, this meeting could take place before the death occurs, and may include the person who is dying.
  1. Completion of Forms Three BC Government official forms are time related and must be obtained, filled out as soon as possible after the death has occurred.

Medical Certificate of Death.  The completed form is obtained from the attending physician.  If you are planning on transporting the body you will need the Medical Certificate of Death along with 2 pieces of ID from the deceased.

One primary ID:

  • BC photo driver’s licence
  • BC Services Card with photo
  • Acceptable Canadian birth certificate
  • BC ID Card
  • Canadian citizenship certificate
  • Permanent Resident Card / Record of Landing
  • Study Permit
  • Work Permit
  • Canada Identity Card (issued by Foreign Affairs Canada)
  • Canadian Passport (containing full legal name
  • Visitor permit

One secondary ID:

  • Canadian photo (non-BC) or US drivers licence
  • Passport
  • Canadian Forces identification
  • Police Identification Card
  • Canada Identity Card (issued by Foreign Affairs Canada)
  • BC Services Card or BC CareCard
  • BC Driver’s Licence and Services Card with photo
  • Foreign birth certificate
  • Department of National Defense 404 Driver’s Licence
  • NEXUS card
  • Certain other signed identifications may be accepted if there is no other secondary identification (ie credit card, debit card – if the name is on the card)

These 3 documents are taken into the offices of:

Services BC

310 Ward Street

Nelson, BC

Monday – Friday 8:30 – 4:30

They will provide and fax back:

Registration of Death forms are provided by the Vital Statistics Agency through Services BC. The particulars for this form can be provided by:

  • nearest living relative of the deceased person present at the death or last illness;
  • If no such relative is available, by any relative of the deceased;
  • any adult present at the death, if no relative is available;
  • other adult having knowledge of the facts;
  • adult occupying the premises where the death occurred
  • coroner who has been notified of the death, made an inquiry or held an inquest regarding the death

Private Transfer Permit Application This form is required as well as the Burial Permit, because a commercial funeral provider is not involved. The application form must be filled out and faxed before moving the body, and can be started in anticipation of the death.

  1. Book burial or cremation Burials are legally required to take place in a designated cemetery.  They usually take place within 72 hours of death.  If the time is longer sanitation issues may require embalming, which is only carried out by a commercial funeral provider.

CREMATION cannot take place prior to 48 hours after death. It must be done in a designated crematorium, arranged through a commercial funeral provider. Prior to cremation, pacemakers have to be removed; this is usually done by the attending physician.

  1. Order Coffin A ‘rigid, combustible, leak-proof closed container’ (coffin or casket) is required for either burial or cremation. This can be made locally from any kind of wood, including particle board or plywood.  If it is not possible to have one made, one can be obtained from a commercial provider. If the body is to be cremated, the head end of the coffin must be marked. If people wish to decorate the coffin, any paint applied should be water based.
  1. Assess transportation needs Transportation in a coffin must be arranged from the site of death to wherever the body needs to go. A sheet may be used to lift the body into the coffin. A coffin containing a body should not be visible during transportation. Three or more adults will be required to lift the coffin containing an adult. A truck or van should be measured to ensure that it is long enough for an adult coffin. A child’s coffin will fit in larger cars.
  1. Laying out the body This process is optional, and may include washing and dressing the body for viewing and burial, or for cremation. Laying Out may take place at home, or in a community building with many people participating. It helps if the people gather beforehand to discuss with an experienced person what to expect and what they will do. Items need to be assembled such as water, disposable gloves, towels and clothes.
  1. Arrange viewing If desired viewing can occur at home or in a community building. If the viewing period is to be greater than 72 hours, embalming may be necessary to preserve body tissues. In situations of sudden death, or when family or friends have not seen the deceased person for some time, the opportunity to see the body can be a crucial component in coming to terms with the reality that death has occurred.
  1. Make funeral, ceremonial or memorial service plans Ceremonies serve various purposes including community acknowledgement of the death, providing support, sharing the grief with bereaved family and friends, and celebrating the life of the person who has died. The body or cremated remains may be present at the service but do not need to be. Arrangements can be made entirely by the family and friends, or may include a religious leader. An ‘order of service’ may be prepared that includes biographic or other information, and whatever rituals, readings, music etc are chosen.
  1. Disposition of cremated remains Arrangements will be needed to pick up the cremains (commonly known as ashes). Cremains weigh 4-8 pounds, and are returned from the crematorium in a plastic bag or cardboard box. They may be transferred to an urn, buried, or scattered as desired. Urns may be made of various materials, eg pottery, brass, wood. It is possible that if cremains are scattered on water they may not sink and the water will move them to the shore.
  1. Arrange notices If desired, write and place a funeral notice or obituary in a newspaper.