Checklist: What to do when someone dies

Use this checklist to guide you through losing a loved one — from the initial moments to the first few weeks

You've just lost a loved one. You're consumed by grief and can't think what to do next. Use this outline to walk through what to do when someone dies, step-by-step, and keep track of where you are in the process with this FREE downloadable checklist.


Who to call first

  • Local law enforcement: should be contacted when someone dies and the death was due to unknown circumstances or not witnessed.

  • Attending physician, a coroner, or medical examiner: will be needed to legally pronounce the death. If the deceased is in a hospital or other care facility, the staff will arrange this step.

  • Next of kin or a legal representative of the deceased: to notify of the deceased’s passing and to learn whether the deceased had a prearranged funeral plan. If a plan exists, it will give direction on how to proceed with funeral arrangements.

  • Funeral director: to transfer the body from the place of death to a funeral home or crematory. 

Information to provide during first calls

  • Full name of the deceased

  • Deceased’s address and phone number

  • Time of death

  • Facility name, address, and phone number of current location of the body

  • Attending physician’s name and phone number

  • Your name, address, and phone number

  • Your relationship to the deceased

Who to notify next

  • Close family and friends: ask them to notify others

  • Employer of deceased: if applicable

  • Insurance agents: if applicable

  • Attorney, accountant, and executer of estate

First week after death

  • Arrange care for deceased’s dependents and pets

  • Start planning a funeral (For a detailed checklist, read How to Plan a Funeral Step-by-Step)

  • Gather information for obituary and documents:

    • Full legal name, address, and phone number of the deceased
    • Social Security number
    • Religious name (if any)
    • Date and place of birth
    • Marital status
    • Name of spouse (if married)
    • Spouse’s maiden name (if wife)
    • Father’s name and birthplace
    • Mother’s name, birthplace, and maiden name
    • Full names, addresses, and phone numbers of all children, grandchildren, etc.
    • Veteran’s serial/service number (if served in the military)
    • Date and place of military service
    • Date of military discharge
    • How long lived at current residence and former residences
    • Highest level of education completed
    • Occupation, job title, nature of work, and employment history
    • Current employer’s name, address, and phone number
    • Place obituary in newspaper or online
  • Locate documents and prepare paperwork (For a complete list of paperwork, read Forms You Need to Complete after a Person Dies)

    • Birth certificate/legal proof of age
    • Social Security card
    • Citizenship papers (if not born in the United States)
    • Marriage license (if married)
    • Veteran’s discharge certificate (if served in the military)
    • Insurance policies (health, Term Life, Final Expense, Preneed, accident, property, and auto)
    • Disability claims
    • Financial records
    • Account statements
    • Bank books
    • Stock and bond certificates
    • Business licenses
    • Cemetery deed or proof of ownership
    • Income tax returns, receipts, and canceled checks
    • Meet with lawyer to discuss estate planning documents, such as a will or trust
  • Notify:

    • Remaining family and friends
    • Church
    • Religious, fraternal, civic organizations, and unions

10 days and beyond

  • After receiving death certificate, notify:

    • Social Security Administration
    • Veterans Administration
    • Credit card companies
    • The bank of the deceased
    • Pension providers
    • Mortgage companies and lenders
    • Financial planners and stockholders
  • Pay bills for:

    • Estate/inheritance taxes
    • Funeral costs
    • Cemetery expenses
    • Hospital/nursing home bills
    • Current and urgent bills (mortgage)
    • Clean and sort through loved one’s home
  • Locate documents and prepare paperwork

    • Property deeds
    • Auto titles or bills of sale
    • Beneficiary designations

Download a FREE checklist to keep track of your progress.

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Photo credit: iStock

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