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Steps to Take After a Loved One Passes Away

Steps to Take After a Loved One Passes Away

Losing a loved one can be emotionally devastating for family members and friends. In this extremely emotional, grief-stricken time many people do not know what important steps they need to take following the death of a loved one. You do not know who to call, what needs to be done, and ultimately you are wondering, "Where do I start?" To help ease your stress in this extremely difficult time, we have created this list of important steps to take following the death of a loved one.

Get a Legal Death Certificate

This is one of the first things you should do following the death. Many institutions such as the IRS, banking and other financial companies require a copy of this certificate in order to properly handle the deceased's accounts. You will want to get at least a dozen or more original copies (not copy machine copies) of the death certificate.

Based on state laws there are a variety of professionals who can help with this certificate. Common choices include a hospice care worker, emergency medical technician (EMT), registered nurse (RN or APRN), physician, coroner, or medical examiner. Check your local laws to see what healthcare professional can officially pronounce someone dead. After the official pronunciation of death, you will be able to work with this professional to get copies of the death certificate.

People to Notify

There may be a variety of people to notify and here are a few to note:

  • Close friends and immediate family members. Ask these people to help you to contact others if they are okay doing so

  • Business associates and/or employers

  • Minister, pastor, or priest

  • If not within your capability, arrange for someone to look after the deceased's home and/or pets

Contact the Funeral Home / Arrange the Funeral

Even if you do not plan to have a "traditional" funeral, contacting a funeral home is beneficial to help with planning and transport of the body if need be. You will have to let the funeral home know the deceased's "final disposition", essentially where they want their body buried or cremated. Alternatively, a crematorium can often handle transporting the deceased to their facility. This may be preferable if you are not planning on using the services of a funeral home.

If you are planning the arrangements on your own, try to enlist others who can help with preparations for the service by assisting you arrange for flowers, funeral programs, caskets, cremation urns, religious leaders or whatever else you may need.

Schedule an Obituary

When you write the obituary make sure that you include the location of services, where to donate, where to send flowers, etc. You will want to contact the local newspapers of the death and to schedule when to print the obituary.

Start the Process of Settling the Estate

If there are assets to be settled, they will need to go through probate court. A probate court ensures that the deceased person's debts are paid, and assets are allocated to the correct beneficiaries. Contact a lawyer and/or executor of the estate. This may not be something on your mind immediately following your loved one's death but remember the funeral home needs to get paid and there are other bills that may be due.

Others to Contact

Here are some other offices, agencies, and service providers that you should contact:

  • Credit card companies and credit reporting agencies

  • Subscriptions and automatic bill payments

  • Social Security Office

  • Life insurance company

  • Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel driver's license

  • Organizations the deceased has a commitment too