What To Do When a Loved One Dies: A Checklist

sad senior lady holding picture looking out window
When a loved one dies, there are many tasks that need to be completed.


When a loved one dies, the very last thing you want to do is complete a list of to-dos. The pain and loss alone are overwhelming enough. Taking the time to work through your grief is vital. Yet there are, unfortunately, a number of tasks that need to be taken care of, at various intervals after the person’s passing.

To ease this process, we have put together a detailed checklist and timeline of items to address.

What Do I Need to Do After My Loved One Passes Away?

Just after death:

  • Obtain the legal pronouncement of death by a medical professional. In a nursing home or hospital, this will automatically be taken care of. In the case of death at home, call 911 for transport to the hospital for the pronouncement.
  • Alert family and friends. Use whatever method is most comfortable for you. You can contact one person and ask them to spread the word, or it may be more cathartic for you to speak with each individual yourself. Use email or social media if that works for you. There’s no right or wrong way to accomplish this.
  • Contact the funeral home of your choice (or, if final wishes were preplanned, your loved one’s choice) to advise them of the death.

In a few days:

  • Work with the funeral home, the person’s religious organization, and, if applicable, the Veterans’ Administration, to finalize plans for the service.
  • Determine who you would like to assist with funeral-related tasks, such as writing the obituary, serving as pallbearers, helping with thank-you notes, and making arrangements for a post-funeral gathering.
  • Contact the post office for a forwarding order for the individual’s mail.
  • Make long-term arrangements for any pets.
  • Lock up any valuables in the home and discard any perishable food.

In two weeks:

  • Obtain ten copies of the person’s death certificate (or, ask the funeral home to take care of this for you).
  • Notify the Social Security Administration, bank and financial advisors, life insurance company, a credit bureau for example, Equifax, as well as the DMV. Many of these organizations will require a copy of the death certificate.
  • Locate the person’s will and identify who the executor is.
  • Close the person’s email account, and either memorialize or close their social media account(s).
  • Make a list of all assets and bills, and cancel accounts: electric, phone, internet, streaming services, etc.
  • Speak with an attorney to discuss estate settlement.
  • Contact a CPA to arrange for a final tax return to be filed.
  • Take a copy of the will to your county or city probate court office to start the process of ensuring the person’s wishes outlined within the will are followed and that all outstanding debts are resolved.

Golden Harmony is here to assist you through this difficult time if the individual leaves behind a spouse who requires care help. Our caregivers can step in to fill any gaps in care while you manage the numerous final tasks and arrangements needed. Contact us any time at 919-426-7522 for assistance in Raleigh, Cary, Wake Forest, and other Triangle communities.