Losing a loved one is one of the most difficult things to deal with. It is further complicated by the many responsibilities that fall upon the surviving family members or friends. If you have recently lost someone, here is a simple checklist for what to do when someone dies. This checklist will help you get your bearings during this difficult time.

What To Do When Someone Dies

People To Notify When Someone Dies

Step one involves notifying everyone that may be affected by the loss or may be able to help you.

Relatives and friends

This is an obvious one, but it is the most important. Friends and family members need to know about the loved one’s passing. Additionally, friends and family members will be a strong source of comfort and assistance.

The Funeral Director And The Cemetery Or Memorial Park

You will need to contact a funeral home to begin arrangements for the funeral or memorial service. Additionally, you will need to make burial arrangements with a cemetery or memorial park.


If the deceased was employed, make sure the employer knows about their death so they can plan accordingly and offer support to you. You should also inquire about whether there are any death benefits under a pension or other employment benefit plan.

Member Organizations

If the deceased was a member of any unions or fraternal organizations, make sure you notify them. Again, they may offer support and may be inclined to honor your loved one somehow.


Let the newspaper know of the death so they can report it in the obituaries.

Probate Attorney

If you have a family attorney, you should notify them as well. If you do not have a family attorney, it may be a good idea to contact a probate or trust attorney since they will be well versed on what to do when someone dies. Additionally, they will be able to help you determine whether or not you will need to file probate or administer a trust. If the death was a result of someone else’s negligence, an attorney may be able to help you determine if you have a claim for wrongful death.

Documents To Locate When Someone Dies

The next step involves locating and determining the contents of important documents.

The Will

If the deceased has a will, you will want to find it, read it, and determine who is named as the personal representative. If it is someone other than you, you will want to contact them and make sure that they have a copy of the will and that they understand they are in charge of administering the estate of the deceased. If you are named as the personal representative, you may want to contact a probate attorney at this time. A probate attorney will help you to know what your duties and responsibilities are as personal representative and whether or not you need to file for probate. They will also be able to help you understand the potential liability you are being exposed to by serving as a personal representative.

The Trust

– If the deceased had a living trust, you will want to find it, read it, and determine who is named as the successor trustee. Again, if it is someone other than you, you should contact that person and make sure that they get a copy of the trust and understand that they are in charge of administering it. If you are named as successor trustee, you may want to contact a trust attorney to help you understand your duties, responsibilities and liabilities as trustee.

Life Insurance Policy(s)

If the deceased had an insurance policy on their life, you will want to locate the policy and contact the insurance company so that you can ensure proceeds will be paid promptly. Ideally, if you are the beneficiary, you will have copies of the policies. If you don’t have a copy, look in the deceased’s office area or in their safety deposit box (if you have access).

In conclusion, this checklist is intended to give you a simplified starting point for what to do when someone dies. When your world has been turned upside down, it is difficult to perform even the simplest of tasks. Begin by contacting those who can assist you during this very difficult time.

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