What to do When a Loved One Dies

Unfortunately, death is part of life. When someone close to us dies, the emotions and to-do lists can be overwhelming. Take time to take a deep breath. We have complied a very basic list of things to do.

1. Take time to grieve. 

Grief is natural and each of us do it in our own way.  It is normal and we need to do it. Spend time with family. Take a walk. Read a book. Take a nap. Go to church. Figure out what works for you.

Psychology Today: The Ways We Grieve

HuffPost: Healthy ways to Grieve

2. Notify extended family along with close friends.

All the brothers, sisters, cousins, aunts, and uncles will want to know and want to come to the funeral. Also be sure to inform any special friends or work colleagues. Your loved one was special to people you may not know, so make sure word gets around.


3. Follow any funeral instructions.

If your loved one prearranged the funeral, make sure all the arrangements are in place. Work with the funeral home to put together the obituary, if that is a service they offer. If there was not a pre-arranged funeral, contact a local funeral home. Locally, we have (in alphabetical order):

Clark Legacy Center

Kerr Brothers Funeral Home

Milward Funeral Directors

Smith & Smith Funeral Home

4. Get death certificates. 

Make sure you request several – get one or two more than you think you will need.  The funeral home will likely take care of this. You will need a death certificate for probate and for most financial accounts owned by the decedent.

5. Talk to your attorney.

Speak with an attorney experienced in probate matters.  Your loved one may have assets that need to go through probate.  The probate process is easier with an attorney.  If assets are not part of a probate estate, your attorney can advise you with how to handle any transfer.

Learn more about our probate services here.

Learn more about the probate process.

5. Contact Social Security. 

Inform Social Security of the death. Generally, the funeral home will do so, but you may want to check. Benefits need to be turned off for the decedent. If your loved one received social security, there may be some adjustment in the last month’s benefit including repayment to Social Security.

You should also check to see if a family member is entitled to survivor benefits

Social Security contact information: www.ssa.gov, 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778)


6. Make a list of the decedent’s assets. 

Assets include: Real Estate, life insurance, cars, retirement accounts, bank accounts, personal items, investments, stocks, bonds, etc.  Identify if any of these assets have a beneficiary listed.  The beneficiary designation may also be styled as “transfer-om-death” (TOD) or “pay-on-death” (POD). The beneficiary can contact the entity to have the asset transferred. 

7. Consider informing other entities.

Others that may need to know about the death are: health insurance, credit cards, banks, utility companies, home/auto insurance, etc.