What to Do After Someone Dies: A Simple Checklist to Follow


It’s never easy when a loved one passes away. But even in the most difficult of times, it still helps to know what actions need to be taken.

We all experience death at some point or another. But knowing what to do after someone dies is not necessarily common knowledge.

Many people wonder: what do you have to do legally? What arrangements need to be made? And what if they didn’t leave a will?

In this article, we’ll help set your mind at ease. Follow along with this simple checklist to take care of everything that needs to get done.

Contact Immediate Family Members Right Away

It’s hard to know what to do legally after someone dies. But the first step has nothing to do with the law.

Letting those closest to the deceased know that they are no longer with us is an important but necessary step early on.

Of course, different circumstances call for different actions. If, for example, you happen upon the body unexpectedly, you may feel like you’re taking on responsibilities that someone else already agreed to.

In that case, it might be best to make that one phone call and turn over responsibilities. Since you’re reading this, there’s a good chance you’ve got more work to do.

Get Legal Documentation of the Death

It may sound like the last thing you want to do. But collecting the necessary paperwork and documents is key when someone dies.

Legal documentation is necessary for several reasons. You won’t be able to gain access to financial accounts or file life insurance claims without them.  So the sooner you get the process started, the better.

Things you will have to do in the coming days, like contact social security and begin going through their will, will all be easier.

It might help to look into your state’s laws surrounding when you need them.

Square Away Immediate Plans

Immediate plans include things like finding someone to care for pets or children. This also is the time to make phone calls to funeral homes if that is the plan.

It can be easy to overlook simpler tasks, too. If the person died in their home, it might be a good idea to take out their trash or put away anything that could be hazardous. Look around the yard and see if anything needs to be returned to storage.

You’ll likely be back there in a few days—but it’s still a good idea to take care of the simple tasks now if you can. (This is a good time to ask for help if it’s too much.)

For what it’s worth, this tip and the next one can be switched. Some find it easier to take care of logistics, while others find help and support from family to be the best step for them. Do what feels right for you.

Make Arrangements for the Body

Transportation, the purchasing of a casket, and finding the right funeral home for your budget all factor under the category of “making arrangements.”

The more information you have from the will, the better. But if you’re left on your own to decide these things, consult someone close to you. A group of minds operates better than one in trying times.

Basic questions, like if there will be a memorial or a wake, need to be answered. Also, take into account the budget for these things. (You can ask the funeral home directly for this information.)

Contact Others

It’s better to wait a few hours at least to contact others after a passing. This gives you time to get your head in an okay place and time to carry out your duties like making arrangements.

Keep in mind there is no “correct” process for this. It can be hard to discuss or even know what to do after someone dies at home (or elsewhere, for that matter).

Only those closest to you need to know about the death right away. Save yourself the time and energy by focusing on your closest relatives and loved ones. Contact others via social media, phone, or email later on.

Carry Out the Duties of (or Find) the Will Executor

After someone dies, their assets and belongings become a part of their estate. The executor of the will is the person who takes care of the person’s assets.

If this is you, then it’s your job to start gathering information and taking care of the responsibilities. Paying off debts, identifying assets, distributing anything specific left in their last will and testament.

It’s also good to read up about probate and estate administration.

Carry Out Any Other Wishes

In some cases, the deceased may have left behind other wishes. These could be included in their last will and testament or have been verbally discussed beforehand.

Unfortunately, some wishes, especially those that go undocumented, can cause tension among family members and loved ones. One study found that as many as 64 percent of American adults do not have a will.

During periods of grieving tensions run high and it can be easy to get overwhelmed or frustrated.

The only thing you can do is follow the instructions left for you and do the best you can otherwise. Allow yourself space here to grieve and breathe and don’t let any problems distract you from the tasks at hand.

What To Do After Someone Dies 

It’s not easy to know exactly what to do after someone dies. Even though death is something we all face and deal with, the passing of a loved one is never easy.

Contact immediate family first and get the support you need. Then proceed onto the other duties you have, like getting legal documentation, making funeral arrangements, and carrying out the deceased’s will and last wishes.

This time will be a heavy one for you, but we wish you all the best.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here