It’s a fog when a loved one passes, but if you are the responsible party, you best take the right steps. The following is a combination of personal suggestions with other published lists.



First of all, get a pronouncement of death. If you are in a medical facility, they will handle this. Otherwise:

  • Call Hospice, because they will arrange for the declaration of death and transport of the body.
  • If the person passes at home, call 911 and present their do-not-resuscitate document to those who respond.  If none exists, they will most-likely start CPR and transport the body to an emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration.
  • Arrange for transportation of the body by a mortuary (by-law). They are a phone call away and therefore helpful.
  • Notify the person’s doctor or the county coroner. Notify close family, employer, religious leader or friends (use your best judgement and know with social media, the news spreads fast!)
  • Take care of dependents or pets that remain in the house.
  • Secure the house.
  • Stop for a minute and Breathe – this is challenging, stay in the moment, take care of yourself and you will get through this

Within a few days

  • Arrange for a final send-off (funeral, burial, cremation). You’ll want to do this according to your loved one’s wishes, so ask questions and search for their instructions. Sometimes they are with a family member, a lawyer, or handwritten in a journal in the underwear drawer.
  • Tell the funeral home staff if your loved one was in the military – they may arrange for special activities at the funeral.
  • Prepare an obituary. Be advised that sometimes people pre-write these, so ask questions or review documents so you can proceed.

Next few days

  • Obtain death certificates (usually from the funeral home). You’ll need multiple copies – we suggest 10-ish and keep them in a file in your car or with you. You’ll need them for insurance, banks, government agencies, etc.
  • Take the will and the death certificate to the appropriate city or county office to begin the probate process. Your funeral home staff will help you with local contacts.
  • Open a bank account for the estate, if necessary.
  • Other tasks:
    • Talk with a trust/estate attorney to determine probate duties.
    • Annual tax return, in general should be prepared and filed in the same manner as when they were alive.
    • Talk with the person’s investment adviser.
    • Bank, credit union, etc. to check on accounts and safety deposit box.
    • Life insurance agent to get forms. Note: do everything in accordance to the policy instructions!
    • Notify Social Security 800-772-1213 or and other agencies to stop payments and determine survivor benefits.
    • Notify any companies pertaining to pensions. Ask questions if there are survivor benefits, for example some companies pay a partial medical benefit to a surviving spouse.
    • The house is a separate topic. Meantime handle the property insurance company, post office and utilities.