After a loved one dies, in addition to planning the funeral itself, a number of associated details 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, notify the attending physician and medical staff right away.
  • 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 decide.

Other Tasks

  • Some religions forbid cremation or embalming, require burial within a day or so, or conduct specific rites. If the decedant wanted their funeral to adhere to specific religious practices tell the funeral director right away.
  • Notify the deceased’s lawyer and will executor.
  • Make a list of everyone else to notify and get in touch.
  • 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 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.

Necessary Documents and Papers

Application for death benefits will require obtaining a number of documents. In addition to his or her social security number you’ll need several copies of:

  • Certified copies of the death certificate (typically five to 10 copies).
  • Birth certificates of surviving spouse and minor children.
  • Marriage certificate.
  • W-2 form or federal income tax return for the most recent calendar year.
  • Veteran’s discharge papers.
  • Receipted bill from funeral home.

Become a Smarter Consumer Get free, expert advice delivered to your inbox every Wednesday when you sign up for the Weekly Checklist newsletter.