What Do I Need To Do Right After a Loved One Dies?

The death of a loved one is an emotional and chaotic time.  You may not be thinking clearly and you may not know what to do.  Logistical tasks are probably the last things on your mind, but it is important to know what steps to take immediately after a loved one's death.  This list is for tasks in the immediate hours and days after death, prior to meeting with an attorney and beginning the probate process (if necessary).

  • Arrange care for decedent's children if necessary.
  • If the decedent lived alone, secure their homestead.  
  • Arrange care for decedent's pets.
  • Contact decedent's close family and friends.
  • Contact decedent's employer.
  • Check decedent's home or safe deposit box for a Will or other important documents.
  • Collect decedent's mail and keep it organized.  Have the mail forwarded to you.
  • Determine if decedent had a Health Care Directive.
      • A Health Care Directive may contain important information regarding organ donation or possible funeral/burial wishes.
  • Obtain certified copies of the death certificate.
      • A death certificate is needed for many things such as disposition of the body, access to bank accounts, and access to non-probate property such as life insurance.  Order several copies.
  • Make funeral arrangements.
      • Sometimes, decedents have set aside money specifically for funeral costs.  Know that whoever signs for funeral home services will generally be personally liable for those costs.  The decedent's estate is responsible for funeral/burial costs in the end, but the estate may not be solvent.  Avoid signing in an individual capacity if possible. 

This is only a general list to get you started, as there are obviously a great many things that need to be done when a loved one passes.  If you want guidance tailored to your specific situation, it is a good idea to contact a probate attorney to see what steps you should be taking to ease this difficult transition period.