10 Steps to Take When A Loved One Has Passed Away in Ontario


This list is for informative purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. Please refer to a specialist in Ontario law to provide specific advice about your unique situation.

When a loved one has passed away, the emotional trauma can make it incredibly difficult to think straight during the moment, so we’ve created this guide to help you go through the steps that need to be done now, and then focus on taking care of yourself and your family.

For your peace of mind, here is a list of the 10 steps to take when a loved one has passed away in Ontario–and a comprehensive overview of which local authorities to contact to help facilitate each step.

1. Report the Death

The most time-sensitive of these action items is reporting the death. This is due to two reasons: the first being legal purposes, and the second being facilitating organ donation, as that has anywhere from just four hours post-death to 72 hours post-death

If the death was expected (such as with old age or a terminal illness), you should call your family doctor or the assigned doctor in charge of caring for your loved one to report it. For unexpected deaths, however, emergency services should be called first.

There may be circumstances when there are no available doctors or emergency services in the area–and this applies to some remote Ontario communities. If this applies to you, please report the death to your local coroner’s office. If you are uncertain about who you should call in your specific situation, Ontario’s Chief Coroner’s Office can be contacted online or called toll-free at 416-314-4000.

2. Notify the Deceased’s Friends and Family

When you are notifying friends and family of the deceased, try to reach out to immediate loved ones first. While a personal phone call or in-person visit is best, an email or other variation of electronic message can be used if the circumstances require it. Why? Because no one wants to receive the news of a loved one’s passing impersonally. By taking it upon yourself to notify others, you are doing the kind act of ensuring that they don’t receive this news from a third party.

After their loved ones have been notified and have had time to digest the news (typically a minimum of two to three days), the public can then be notified via:

  • Sending a mass text or email
  • Starting a phone tree, where respondents help by spreading the news
  • Posting the news on social media
  • Contacting employers or coworkers
  • Alerting the local papers, if the deceased was a notable member of the community
  • And/or reaching out to local religious groups or social organizations the deceased belonged to

Notifying the friends and family of a deceased loved one can take its toll. The government of Ontario has a variety of online and over-the-phone mental health support available at no cost for those who find themselves struggling.

3. Finish the Remainder of the “Seven Day” Checklist

Once you’ve notified everyone to the best of your ability, it is time to finish the remainder of the “seven day” checklist–named such due to each step within it requiring to be done, ideally, within seven days of a loved one passing on.

This checklist encompasses:

  • Securing a minimum of six proof of death certifies from your chosen funeral provider or coroner (these will be required frequently, so it’s best to have them on hand from the start)
  • Determining who is the executor or administrator of your loved one’s estate (if this role falls to you, we have further tips for you below)
  • Creating a record of all decisions made, steps taken, and financial transactions handled for legal purposes
  • Locating estate assets and related safety deposit boxes
  • Notifying all beneficiaries

During this time, please do not hesitate to reach out to other trusted loved ones for assistance to make this tasklist more manageable within the given timeframe.

4. Lay Out Funeral Arrangements

Ahead of making any funeral arrangements in Ontario, these arrangements should first be laid out.

This includes determining if there is a funeral pre-plan in place. A funeral pre-plan commonly includes general instructions for how your loved one wanted their funeral to be conducted, final arrangement contracts, confirmation on whether the arrangements have been pre-paid or not, and instructions for your chosen legal representative.

If your loved one has no funeral plan or written instructions, laying out funeral arrangements is up to the discretion of friends and family. The Bereavement Authority of Ontario frequently helps those unsure about the ins and outs of funeral arrangements get started, and can be contacted via email at info@THEBAO.ca or over the phone at 647-483-2645.

5. Plan the Funeral

Once funeral arrangements have been laid out, it is now time to plan the funeral itself.

Consider the following when it comes to planning a funeral in Ontario:

  • Will the funeral will be conducted by family or a service provider?
  • Who will be the main point of contact for the funeral home (if choosing a service provider)?
  • What elements should be included in the funeral?
  • How the deceased will be laid to rest (a crematorium or a cemetery)?
  • Did the deceased have any life insurance or social insurance policies?

If you opt for family-led deathcare, the name suggests, that will mean that post-mortem care or funeral services will be conducted in part or entirely by family members of the deceased–without or with only minor assistance from a funeral home. If you opt for this route, please note that it entails tasks such as body preparation, death registration, and transportation to a crematorium or to a cemetery.

The government of Ontario provides a thorough checklist of who is eligible to plan funerals in the province, your rights, how to choose the best service provider for your situation (if not electing to be family-led), and general funeral assistance.

6. Complete the Remaining Funeral-Related Paperwork

Before planned funeral services can proceed, your loved one’s death must be registered and a burial permit must be provided.

To register a death in Ontario, your funeral director will provide a Statement of Death and the Medical Certificate of Death to your local municipal clerk’s office. This may take up to 12 weeks to register the death in Ontario. 

    Burial permits, on the other hand, must be obtained even if the funeral arrangements are to take place outside of Ontario. Funeral directors will oversee the process of obtaining said permit, and if you have chosen to conduct a family-led funeral, then your local municipal clerk’s office will help you complete the required paperwork and acquire the permit.

    7. Handle Your Loved One’s Finances

    If you have been assigned as the executor or next of kin, you will also be required to handle your loved one’s finances–as well as the following steps in the sections below.

    In Ontario, finance-related responsibilities include:

    • Using this online government guide to file tax on behalf of your loved one
    • Notifying all applicable banks and other financial institutions, such as life insurance companies, financial advisors, and credit agencies
    • If the deceased pays child or spousal support, contact the Ontario Family Responsibility Office online or toll-free at 1-800-267-4330

    Please be prepared to provide these institutions with a funeral provider’s Proof of Death, legal will, and/or letters of probate. To release funds for funeral-related expenses, talk with the manager of your loved one’s financial institution, as accounts (like banks, credit cards, and investments) held solely in the name of the deceased will likely be automatically frozen for a period of time.

    For loans and mortgages that are life-insured, outstanding monthly payments will be halted; for loans and mortgages that are not insured, payments will continue to be withdrawn on their normal schedule. For investments where the deceased is named as a beneficiary, this may be changed via a meeting with a representative from the institution.

    8. Cancel All Outstanding Services and Accounts

    Common outstanding services and accounts that need to be cancelled in the wake of a death are as follows:

    • Accessible parking permits (due to Service Ontario within 30 days after the passing of a loved one in Ontario)
    • Their driver’s license (done for free within six months or more of the license expiring; a death certificate or notification of death can be provided to your local police department, judiciary, or lawyer in order to enact this cancellation or receive a refund if done after this allotted time frame)
    • Applicable heat, water, electrical, and Internet bills (unless they are being transferred to you or another recipient. The process of this will depend on your utility providers)
    • Active email and social media accounts, as well as subscriptions like magazines (which is important to be done to protect against potential fraud. Oftentimes, companies will require a death certificate and proof of executor status to be submitted via mail or email to trigger these changes)
    • Rental properties or leases (which may need to get modified or cancelled)

    As a final step, send a letter with the proof of death certificate to Elections Canada at 257 Slater St., Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0M6 and a proof of death certificate to Passport Canada, Foreign Affairs Canada, Gatineau, Quebec, K1A 0G3.

    9. Contact All Remaining Government Services

    Last but not least, contact all remaining government services to protect your loved one’s identity from being used by potential fraudsters in the future.

    Do this by:

    • Contacting Citizenship and Immigration to cancel your loved one’s citizenship or permanent residence card toll-free at 1-822-242-2100
    • Alerting the Canada Revenue Agency and cancelling benefit payments in the name of the deceased at 1-800-959-8281
    • If applicable, phone the Canada Child Tax Benefit at 1-800-387-1193 to halt recurring payments
    • Cancelling HST/GST Tax Credit and Ontario Trillium Benefit by sending a copy of the proof of death certificate to the Summerside Tax Centre, 275 Pope Road, Summerside, PEI, C1N 6A2
    • If applicable, call the Veterans Affairs Canada office at 1-800-522-2122 to alert them of your loved one’s passing
    • Filing a final income tax return no later than April 30th of the year following the death (please note that a proof of death certificate will be required alongside all pertinent tax slips)
    • Returning your loved one’s OHIP card in person at a Service Ontario office, which can be contacted at 1-800-267-8097–a proof of death certificate will be required upon forfeiting the card
    • Transferring the ownership of any applicable vehicles to surviving spouses or named beneficiaries, which can also be done at your nearest Service Ontario office. A proof of death certificate, a signature of the executor or next of kin, and proof of vehicle ownership will be required before the transfer can be completed

    10. Allow Yourself Time to Grieve

      While all of the above steps to take when a loved one has passed away in Ontario are non-negotiable, don’t neglect to allow yourself time to grieve.

      Even amongst these post-death tasks, you must consider and prioritize your mental and physical health. This can be done by giving yourself the time to process and grieve the loss of a loved one.