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When a Loved One Dies

Who to Contact - Steps to Take and When

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What to do When a Loved One Dies

Additional Lifestyle Articles

Whether it's expected or accidental, the death of a loved one can shake you to the core. The last thing you'll want is to have to interrupt grieving to deal with mundane tasks, but unfortunately there are many actions that must be done on behalf of the deceased. Some must be taken immediately, while with others you can take your time and reflect on the best path to follow.

Below is a simple checklist which you may find useful as a reminder of what needs to be done after someone has died. Some of the arrangements will need to be done by the executor or administrator of the estate and others can be done by family or friends.



  • Get a legal pronouncement of death. If no doctor is present, you will need to contact someone to do this.
  • If the person dies at home under hospice care, call the hospice nurse, who can declare the death and help facilities to transport the body.
  • If the person dies at home without hospice care, call 911 and have in hand a do-not-resuscitate document if it exists. Without one, paramedics will start emergency procedures and, except where permitted to pronounce death, one can take the person to an emergency room for a doctor to make the declaration.
  • Arrange for transportation of the body. If no autopsy is needed, the body can be picked up by a mortuary (by law, a mortuary must provide price info over the phone) or crematorium.
  • Notify the person's doctor or the county coroner.
  • Notify close family and friends (ask them to contact others for you)
  • Call the person's employer, if he or she was working. Request info about benefits and any pay due. Ask whether there was a life-insurance policy through their company if you do not know.
  • Handle care of dependents and pets

Within a Few Days After Death

  • Arrange for funeral and burial or cremation.
  • Search the person's documents to find out whether there was a prepaid burial plan.
  • Ask a family or friend member to go with you to the mortuary.
  • Prepare an obituary.
  • If the person was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact that organization. They may have burial benefits or conduct funeral services.
  • Ask a friend or relative to keep an eye on the person's home, answer the phone, collect mail (or stop mail), throw food out and water plants.

Up to 10 Days After Death

  • Obtain death certificates (usually from the funeral home). Get multiple copies, as you will need them for financial institutions, government agencies and insurers.
  • Take the Will to the appropriate county or city office to have it accepted for probate.
  • If necessary, the state's executor should open a bank account for the deceased estate.

Who to Contact

  • A trust and estates attorney to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues.
  • Police, to have them periodically check the deceased's house if vacant.
  • Accountant or tax preparer to find out whether an estate-tax return or final income-tax return should be filed. Call the persons's investment adviser, for information on holdings.
  • Bank to find accounts and safe deposit box.
  • Life insurance agent to get claim forms.
  • Social Security and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans fairs, to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits.
  • Agency providing pension services, to stop monthly check and get claim forms.
  • Utility companies, to change or stop service, and postal service to stop or forward mail.

Most Important: Know the following ahead of time

  • Location of the Will, birth certificate, marriage and /or divorce certificates, Social Security information, Life Insurance policies, financial documents and keys to safe deposit box or home safe (or combination).
  • Ask their wishes about funeral arrangements, organ donation, and burial or cremation. Have the person complete an Advance Directive, including a Living Will, which specifies wanted and unwanted procedures.
  • Also have the person appoint a Power of Attorney for Health and/or Financial. Have the person draw up a Do or Do Not resuscitate order.
  •  Make sure the person gives copies of the documents to his or her doctor and family members or friends.
  • Take the document to the hospital if the person is admitted.

All couples or family members need to sit down and talk with their particular loved one(s) their Wishes....and be sure the information is done quickly as we see many families who do not have Power of Attorney for Medical/Financial if their loved one(s) have not specified. Make sure a Will is completed or if other assets a Trust set up (seek attorney advice).

This article is brought to you by Brenda Dever-Armstrong CEO/Owner, The Next Horizon Senior & Military Locator / Resources (serving the state of Texas) is dedicated in providing a unique one-on-one FREE evaluation for seniors and/or their families needs including independent and assisted living options, Alzheimer's and respite, personal care homes, nursing homes, home health and caregiver agencies throughout the state of Texas.

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