Creating a to-do list following the death of a loved one may seem overwhelming and insensitive. However, the grief you’re likely dealing with can make day-to-day decisions unbearable. That’s what makes it necessary to get out your checklist and make sure everything gets done.
This way, you can keep some of the emotions out of your decisions and leave no room for error. Using our checklist will help you keep your thoughts in order to prepare you for the days ahead.
If your loved one passes away at home, you’ll need to call 911 as soon as it happens. Even if the death was expected, they’ll have to dispatch a medical professional or justice of the peace to pronounce it. They will then either remove the body or recommend you call the funeral home, depending on the circumstances.
Either way, you’ll have to arrange for the funeral home to pick them up, whether it’s from your home or the hospital morgue.
Call a close friend or family member
If you’re alone at the time of your loved one’s death, it’s important to call a trusted friend or family member to be at your side. This person can help you make phone calls to other family members, go with you to the funeral home, or just offer general support during this difficult time.
After the initial shock wears off, it’s important to call your loved one’s employer. This isn’t just for their benefit; it’s also to find out how to receive any outstanding salaries due or life insurance policies you may not have known about.
They’ll usually direct you to the HR department, who can tell you more about their benefits. If this call is too difficult for you to make, you can ask another family member to make it for you, but they’ll likely need to hear from a spouse or next of kin to release any information.
Make funeral arrangements
If the death was expected, you may already have some funeral arrangements in place. If not, you’ll have to meet with a funeral director within the next day or two to discuss the details. During this time, you’ll be making some difficult decisions, so it’s important that you don’t do it alone.
One choice you’ll have to make includes whether to cremate or bury your loved one. Cremation is often much cheaper, but it’s a very personal decision that no one should pressure you into making.
Next, you’ll have to choose a casket. This is true regardless of whether you pick cremation or burial, but the type of casket will vary. The variety of casket selections today might surprise you. Not only can you choose from metal or wooden caskets, but you can also add amenities like hidden compartments (often called “memory drawers”, where you can add personal items) and team logos.
Take care of legal matters
The next step is to gather all important paperwork and consult with the family attorney if you have one. If not, you’ll need to find a probate lawyer to handle your affairs. This lawyer will help you through the probate process of your loved one’s estate.
This process should be simple, as long as they had a will in place. If they didn’t, your state laws will govern how it’s handled. Most states automatically award everything to the living spouse if there is no will. And if there is no spouse, it will likely go to surviving heirs.
Your probate attorney will probably help you settle most of your financial matters, but it’s important to make sure you’ve included everything. You’ll need to gather things like insurance policies, bank statements, real estate deeds, loan papers, stocks, bonds, and other important documents.