Checklist of Tasks to Do After a Loved One Dies

In addition to the funeral itself, other matters require attention. Friends, coworkers, and fellow congregants can play a major role in relieving the bereaved family of many of these tasks.

What Must Be Done Immediately

  • If the deceased chose to be an organ donor, time is of the essence. Notify the attending physician and medical staff immediately.
  • A death certificate must be filed before cremation or burial takes place. It is issued by either the attending physician or a medical examiner or coroner. If the circumstances of death are at all questionable, the medical examiner is summoned.
  • Survivors must choose the funeral home. If you haven’t chosen a funeral home, and the death occurred in a hospital, it may be possible to keep the body in the morgue until you make a decision.

Other Tasks

  • Notify the deceased’s lawyer and will executor.
  • Make a list of everyone else to notify right away and get in touch with them.
  • If memorial donations are to be substituted for flowers, decide on the organization and announce it in the obituary.
  • Write an obituary. Include the deceased’s age, place of birth, cause of death, occupation, college degrees, memberships held, military service, outstanding work, and survivors in immediate family. Provide time and location of funeral services.
  • Notify insurance companies, including automobile insurance, for immediate cancellation and refund, if available.
  • Keep a record of all calls and visits. Arrange for friends or family members to answer the door and phone.
  • Plan hospitality for visitors, including transportation, if necessary.
  • Arrange childcare as needed.
  • Coordinate food service for the first days. Different friends might each bring a dinner.
  • Consider special needs of the household, such as cleaning.
  • Plan for disposition of flowers after the funeral—for instance, to a hospital or nursing home.
  • Check promptly on all debts and installment payments. Some may carry insurance clauses that will cancel them. If there is to be a delay in making payments, ask creditors about extensions.
  • If the deceased lived alone, contact the landlord, utility companies, postal service, and newspaper carrier, if necessary. Tell the police the home is empty, and ask neighbors to report unusual activity.
  • Prepare a list of people who should be sent notes or acknowledgments for helping, visiting, calling, writing, sending flowers, or making donations.