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Checklist: What to do when someone dies

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You’ll be well prepared if you use this checklist to guide you through losing a loved one — from the initial moments to the first few weeks

You've just lost a loved one. You're consumed by grief and can't think what to do next. Use this outline to walk through what to do when someone dies, step-by-step, and keep track of where you are in the process with this FREE downloadable checklist.


Who to call first

  • Local law enforcement: should be contacted when someone dies and the death was due to unknown circumstances or not witnessed.
  • Attending physician, a coroner, or medical examiner: will be needed to legally pronounce the death. If the deceased is in a hospital or other care facility, the staff will arrange this step.
  • Next of kin or a legal representative of the deceased: to notify of the deceased’s passing and to learn whether the deceased had a prearranged funeral plan. If a plan exists, it will give direction on how to proceed with funeral arrangements.
  • Funeral director: to transfer the body from the place of death to a funeral home or crematory.

Information to provide during first calls

  • Full name of the deceased
  • Deceased’s address and phone number
  • Time of death
  • Facility name, address, and phone number of current location of the body
  • Attending physician’s name and phone number
  • Your name, address, and phone number
  • Your relationship to the deceased

Who to notify next

  • Close family and friends: ask them to notify others
  • Employer of deceased: if applicable
  • Insurance agents: if applicable
  • Attorney, accountant, and executer of estate

First week after death

  • Arrange care for deceased’s dependents and pets
  • Start planning a funeral (For a detailed checklist, read How to plan a funeral step-by-step)
  • Gather information for obituary and documents:
    • Full legal name, address, and phone number of the deceased
    • Social Security number
    • Religious name (if any)
    • Date and place of birth
    • Marital status
    • Name of spouse (if married)
    • Spouse’s maiden name (if wife)
    • Father’s name and birthplace
    • Mother’s name, birthplace, and maiden name
    • Full names, addresses, and phone numbers of all children, grandchildren, etc.
    • Veteran’s serial/service number (if served in the military)
    • Date and place of military service
    • Date of military discharge
    • How long lived at current residence and former residences
    • Highest level of education completed
    • Occupation, job title, nature of work, and employment history
    • Current employer’s name, address, and phone number
    • Place obituary in newspaper or online
  • Locate documents and prepare paperwork (For a complete list of paperwork, read Forms you need to complete after a person dies)
    • Birth certificate/legal proof of age
    • Social Security card
    • Citizenship papers (if not born in the United States)
    • Marriage license (if married)
    • Veteran’s discharge certificate (if served in the military)
    • Insurance policies (health, term life, final expense, preneed, accident, property, and auto)
    • Disability claims
    • Financial records
    • Account statements
    • Bank books
    • Stock and bond certificates
    • Business licenses
    • Cemetery deed or proof of ownership
    • Income tax returns, receipts, and canceled checks
    • Meet with lawyer to discuss estate planning documents, such as a will or trust
  • Notify:
    • Remaining family and friends
    • Church
    • Religious, fraternal, civic organizations, and unions

10 days and beyond

  • After receiving death certificate, notify:
    • Social Security Administration
    • Veterans Administration
    • Credit card companies
    • The bank of the deceased
    • Pension providers
    • Mortgage companies and lenders
    • Financial planners and stockholders
  • Pay bills for:
    • Estate/inheritance taxes
    • Funeral costs
    • Cemetery expenses
    • Hospital/nursing home bills
    • Current and urgent bills (mortgage)
    • Clean and sort through loved one’s home
  • Locate documents and prepare paperwork
    • Property deeds
    • Auto titles or bills of sale
    • Beneficiary designations

Download a FREE checklist to keep track of your progress.

Photo credit: iStock

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Why advance funeral planning is important

Protect tomorrow by preplanning today

Kelly Rayburn, AVP national sales and distribution at Wellabe, and Olga Villaverde, from Lifetime TV’s The Balancing Act, explain the importance of preplanning your funeral. While a difficult subject, advance planning can alleviate financial and emotional burdens for your family members.

Learn more about preneed insurance

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