What to do when death occurs

There are many important tasks and decisions that must be undertaken when a death occurs. We have compiled the following list to help guide you through these items. 

  1. Determine the number of copies of the death certificates that you will need.
  2. Gather obituary information, including a photo, age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships held, military service, outstanding work and a list of survivors in the immediate family. Include the time and place of the funeral services. The funeral home will usually write the obituary and submit it to the newspaper(s)
  3. Decide on an appropriate charity to which gifts may be made (church, hospice, library, organization, school)
  4. Make a list of family, friends and business colleagues, and notify each by phone. You may wish to use a "branching" system: make a few phone calls to other relatives or friends and ask each of them to make a phone call or two to specific people
  5. If Social Security checks are deposited automatically, notify the bank of the death
  6. Notify insurance companies of the death.
  7. Carefully check all life and casualty insurance and death benefits, including Social Security, credit union, trade union, fraternal, and military. Check on possible income for survivors from these sources.
  8. Locate the will and notify the lawyer and executor.
  9. Check promptly on all debts and installment payments, including credit cards. Some may carry insurance clauses that will cancel them. If there is to be a delay in meeting payments, consult with creditors and ask for more time before the payments are due
  10. If the deceased was living alone, notify the utility companies and landlord and tell the post office where to send the mail.
  11. Prepare the necessary Social Security forms.
  12. Coordinate the food supply in your home for the next several days
  13. Delegate special needs of the household, such as cleaning, food preparation, etc., to friends and family who offer their help
  14. Arrange for child care, if necessary
  15. Arrange hospitality for visiting relatives and friends
  16. If there is to be a service, contact your clergy. Decide on a time and place for the funeral or memorial service.
  17. Arrange for family members and/or close friends to take turns answering the door or phone. Keeping a careful record of visitors and flower deliveries will make it easier to thank people later on
  18. Plan for the disposition of flowers after the funeral (to a church, hospital or rest home)
  19. Prepare a list of distant friends and relatives to be notified by letter and/or printed notice
  20. Prepare a list of people to receive acknowledgments of flowers, calls, etc. Send appropriate acknowledgments, which may be a written note, printed acknowledgments, or both. Include "thank you’s" to those who have given of their time.