What to Do When Someone Dies

What to Do When Someone Dies main

When someone dies, there is a lot to deal with. You need to plan their funeral, pay their final bills, close their bank accounts, find a new home for their pets, etc.

Close relatives and friends are usually tasked with those personal and legal details. There is red tape to deal with on top of the loss and grief. The bureaucratic tasks can take more than a year to complete.

The challenge of settling final affairs

Settling their final affairs is rarely a one-person job. You might need a lawyer or a CPA to consult you on financial matters and your loved ones or friends for support. You could delegate the financial details to the executor. If you perform this role, you will be responsible for settling the estate and spend quite some time on paperwork.

This article provides a checklist of everything you need to do after a loved one dies. It is divided into urgent tasks (having them pronounced dead), things to do a few days later (make funeral arrangements), and things to do two weeks after the death (find the will, etc.)

Urgent tasks

You can’t even plan a funeral without having them pronounced dead. If they pass away in a home for the elderly or a hospital, the staff will handle the official death declaration. This is the first step in obtaining a death certificate.

If the person dies at home, you must call 911 and have them transported to a hospital, where they can be pronounced dead.

Inform friends and loved ones

You need to inform people that their friend or loved one has passed away. You can send out a mass email or a group text.

Find out about funeral plans

If you know their wishes for their funeral, you can proceed to honor them. If not, call their closest relatives or look for instructions in their documents. Consider what the family wants and what they can afford.

Make funeral arrangements

A few days later, you can start searching their documents to see if there was a prepaid funeral arrangement. If there wasn’t, you need to pick a funeral service, decide whether to cremate them or not, where to inter the body or ashes, and what type of urn or tombstone to order.

What to Do When Someone Dies

Organize property maintenance

Lock the deceased’s car and home and get someone to throw out old food, pick up the mail, etc. Lock away any valuable items in the home, like cash or jewelry.

Have their mail forwarded

Leave a forwarding order at the post office to send the mail to you or someone who’s helping you settle their affairs. It’s not a good idea for mail to pile up because everyone will know the home is vacant.

Around two weeks after they pass away, get copies of their death certificate. You will need them to register the death with state agencies, close bank accounts, file insurance claims, etc.

Locate the will and the executor

Their relatives must know where their property, money, or belongings will go. If you don’t know where they kept their will, look for it in a safe or wherever they kept important documents. Typically, people name an executor in their will. This is the person tasked with settling the estate.

The will is executed at a city or county probate court. The court’s office ensures the deceased’s debts and liabilities are covered and that their beneficiaries receive the remaining assets. The court appoints an administrator instead of an executor if there is no will.


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