What Should You Do After a Loved One Passes Away?

When a person passes away, survivors almost always remember the need to take several important actions. Often, some of these actions are time-sensitive and must be performed within a narrow time window. Given the substantial emotional repercussion of losing a loved one, the process is often overwhelming and can even be difficult to navigate. To better prepare you for what happens after an elderly loved one passes away, this article reviews some important steps that you will likely need to take or at the very least consider taking. 

Actions Immediately After a Loved One’s Death

Many people find themselves in shock immediately following a loved one’s death. During this period, it’s critical, however, to take some important steps, which include the following:

  • Assess whether your loved one was an organ donor. 
  • Determine if the deceased individual left instructions regarding their funeral or service.
  • Inform family as well as friends that your loved one has passed.
  • Distinguish if your loved one prepaid for any part of the disposition of their last remains
  • If your loved one has not done so, choose a funeral home.
  • If your loved one is a veteran, contact the local VA office to apply for benefits.
  • Write your loved one’s obituary, if desired.
  • Determine the future care of any pets your loved one left behind.
  • Decide what will happen to your loved one’s residence in the short term. Someone might decide to briefly reside at the location to deter potential burglars. 
  • Forward your loved one’s mail.
  • Dispose of any perishable items your loved one left behind.

Actions You Might Have to Take Over the Next Few Weeks

Following your loved one’s funeral, you will need to take several critical actions, which will likely include all or some of the following:

  • Locate your loved one’s estate planning documents and other personal paperwork.
  • Obtain duplicates of your loved one’s death certificate.
  • Determine the names of your loved one’s financial advisors. 
  • Find your loved one’s stored user names and passwords to digital accounts.
  • Assess whether your loved one left behind a safe deposit box.
  • Contact your loved one’s employer’s human resources department to determine if your loved one had any death benefits.
  • Cancel various accounts that your loved one left behind including credit cards, home services like the internet, voter registration, membership in clubs, social media accounts, any scheduled appointments.
  • Report the death to credit reporting agencies. 
  • Inform anyone your loved one owed money about the death.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration to assess whether a death benefit exists.
  • Report your loved one’s death to insurance carriers.

Take Estate Planning Steps

In addition to all of these important steps, you will likely also need to take some steps involving your loved one’s estate plans. These steps might include:

  • Meeting with your deceased loved one’s lawyer to review the terms of their will, trust, and any other estate planning structures
  • If probate is required and you are appointed a personal representative, pursue probate administration with your loved one’s lawyer’s help
  • If probate is not required but a trust exists, initiate trust administration with the assistance of your loved one’s lawyer. 
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