When a Loved One Dies

Dave's picture

This topic most of us would like to (and do) ignore until we face it head-on.  What is the topic? The death of a loved one and it’s up to you to make or guide the decisions dealing with the passing.  What could be worse, you are faced with these somber issues while grieving your loss.  Maybe this can help.  It’s a list of 13 steps to following to ease you through this process.  The source of this list is the October 2012 issue of Consumer Reports.  Please refer to the article for the details as this article will just hit the highlights. Their website is consumerreports.org.  The steps span ten days, and are broken down into three categories; Immediately, Within a few days after death, and Up to 10 days after death.


  1. Get legal pronouncement of death.  If a doctor is not available, contact someone who can.
  • If the loved one dies at home under hospice care, call the hospice nurse.
  • If the loved one dies at home without hospice care, call 911.  If you know there is a “do not resuscitate” document, have it ready.  Without the DNR, paramedics will generally start emergency procedures and transport the loved one to an emergency room where a doctor can make the declaration.
  1. Arrange transportation of the body.  That can generally be done by a mortuary if an autopsy is not needed.
  2. Notify the deceased doctor or the county coroner.
  3. Notify the close family members and friends.  Ask them to tell others.
  4. Take care of dependents and pets.
  5. Call the employer of the loved one if he or she was working.  Make sure benefits and any compensation issues are addressed.

Within a few days after death

  1. Make funeral arrangements.  Determine burial or cremation.  Is there a prepaid burial plan?  Create the obituary.
  2. Is the person a veteran or belonged to a fraternal organization?  If yes, contact them, it may have benefits.
  3. Take care of the person’s home.  Arrange for someone to keep watch over the home, collect the mail, water the plants, etc.

Up to 10 days after death

  1. Get death certificates.  The funeral home can provide them.  Make sure you get several copies.  They will be needed when dealing with banks, insurance companies, and government agencies.
  2. Take the will to county or city office so it accepted for probate.
  3. If needed, the executor of the estate should open a bank account for the loved one’s estate.
  4. Contact the following:
  • Attorney.  They can deal with the transfer of assets and probate issues.
  • Police.  Periodically check on the vacant house.
  • Accountant or tax preparer.  Determine if any final income-tax returns need to be prepared.
  • Investment advisor.  Gather information on any financial holdings.
  • Bank.  Accounts and safe deposit boxes.
  • Life insurance agents.  Ask for claim forms.
  • Social Security (800-772-1213; socialsecurity.gov) and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits.  Payments need to be stopped.
  • Pension service agencies.  Stop payments and ask for claim forms.
  • Utility companies to change or stop service.
  • Postal Service to stop or forward mail.

Those are the items to consider when a loved one dies.  You may want to take care of these steps beforehand, create a check list, and ask a loved one or close friend to hold onto it so your wishes are respected when your time comes.  Speaking of wishes, if you have an elderly relative or friend, it would make sense to find out what their wishes are, somethings to consider are:

  • Know where the important documents are.  These include will, certificates (birth, marriage, and divorce), Social Security information, life insurance, financial documents, and safe deposit key.
  • Ask the person about their wishes about funeral arrangements, burial or cremation, and organ donations.
  • Have the person complete an advance directive including a living will.  The person should appoint a health-care proxy to make medical decisions if the person cannot make them for themselves.
  • Have a “do not resuscitate” order drawn-up if the person so desires.
  • Insure the person gives copies of these documents to his or her doctor and family members and friends.

rChance hopes this helps when facing these difficult issues at a difficult time.  Again, please refer to the October 2012 issue of Consumer Reports to fill in the specifics. 

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