When a Loved One Passes Away: Next Steps Checklist
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When a Loved One Passes Away: Next Steps Checklist

There’s nothing harder in life than dealing with the passing of a loved one. To make matters worse, there are all sorts of issues that familial survivors need to take care of during an already difficult time. Not only must funeral arrangements be made, but there’s also the heartbreaking task of notifying friends and family members—and this is all on top of grieving and coming to terms with your loved one’s death.

There are also legal and financial issues that must be taken care of, including getting access to documents and obtaining a death certificate. Here are the many steps you’ll want to take after losing a family member.

Legal Pronouncement of Death

Getting a legal pronouncement of death is one of the first things to do after losing a loved one. Generally, this is something provided by a doctor. However, if a loved one dies in hospice care, the hospice nurse should be able to declare the death of your loved one.

If your loved one died at home and wasn’t in hospice care, call 911. You’ll also want to have a do-not-resuscitate document on hand (if it exists); otherwise, the paramedics will start emergency procedures. With a DNR, the paramedics can take your loved one to the emergency room so that a doctor can make the death declaration.

Once there’s a legal pronouncement of death, you can work with a doctor or another medical professional to arrange for transportation of the body.

Notify the Correct People

Another important step after a loved one’s passing is to ensure the right people are notified. Of course, some of the first people you’ll want to notify include family members and close friends. To ensure word gets to the right people, you can ask them to share the news as needed.

Aside from friends and family members, it’s also important to notify your loved one’s doctor and employer of their death. If your loved one was a renter, it’s crucial to notify the landlord of their passing as well.

Make Funeral Arrangements

A few days after death, you’ll want to work on making the appropriate funeral arrangements. Check your loved one’s will or personal documents to learn about their preferences for burial, whether it is a burial or cremation. You’ll also want to find personal documents that may provide information about an existing prepaid burial plan.

When planning a funeral, there are many things that will need to be done, including:

  • Visiting the mortuary
  • Preparing an obituary
  • Selecting a casket/urn
  • Choosing a ceremony location (i.e., church, home, hall)

Making funeral arrangements can be one of the hardest parts of dealing with a loved one’s death, so make sure you have plenty of support and others who can help you.

Obtain Death Certificate

To obtain a death certificate, you’ll need to contact the California Vital Statistics office or the state in which the death occurred. You should request several copies of the death certificate. In some instances, you may also be able to request a death certificate from the funeral home.

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