Checklist: What to Do When Someone Dies

Practical steps to take after a death
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Within the first hours

Notify the attending physician or, if the death occurs at home, the local police or coroner.

Locate written instructions or arrange for organ, tissue, or body donation.

Within the first day

Request ten copies of a death certificate (you'll likely need them to settle life insurance claims, stop credit cards, etc.).

Request an autopsy and autopsy report if applicable.

Notify friends and relatives of the death.

Determine whether the deceased had prearranged wishes specifying burial or cremation or had any prepaid final arrangements.

Choose a mortuary or funeral home, if desired.

Within the first days to weeks

Locate estate planning documents, such as a will or living trust.

Appoint people to provide care for surviving family members and relatives.

Safeguard the deceased's valuable property.

Choose a casket, urn, or other container.

Appoint someone to keep track of all final expenses -- including funeral, burial, and cremation.

Contact the Veterans Administration about possible burial and funeral benefits.

Choose an organization or fund to receive memorial donations.

Arrange for a cemetery headstone or columbarium marker and epitaph.

Write and place a death notice or obituary.

Plan a funeral or memorial service.

Keep a list of people who provide help or send gifts or donations.

Arrange to forward mail and stop subscriptions.

Notify businesses, agencies, and organizations of the death.

Barbara Kate Repa

Barbara Kate Repa, a lawyer and journalist, has devoted her career to editing and writing about legal issues for consumers. See full bio

11 months, said...

I recommend visiting this website: It generates a checklist for your unique situation. It's completely free and only takes about 10 minutes! It was VERY useful for my family when my grandmother passed away.

almost 5 years, said...

Ummm, practical steps for those living at a distance--some are obvious TO ME (at that distance...Seattle to Kansas), but maybe not to others. Arrange flight(s) (ask if bereavement rates are available.); arrange housing/hotel while dealing with things. If deceased is in assisted living of some kind and it is necessary to vacate apartment quickly, locate storage facility and movers. If you have pets, arrange for their care while you are gone. Request the death certificates from whom?? (sorry, but I don't know.)

over 5 years, said...

For a more detailed checklist of what you need to take to the funeral home with you, and what institutions/agencies you need to notify of the death, visit this extensive article about what to do when someone dies. You should also check the very vital information about how to protect your loved one's identity after death, as this is a growing issue in today's digital world.

about 6 years, said...

Reminders about automatic payments and auto-fil prescriptions.

almost 7 years, said...

Watching my Mom's great will to live slowly deminish is heartbreaking. She is 96 and has outlived 3 husbands and many friends. I am happy I could take care of her all these years. She lives with me and I will make sure her last days on earth are spent knowing she is loved.