When you learn of the death of a loved one, after "When? and How?", the very first question to ask is, "who is in charge of carrying out their final wishes?" This might be you or a parent, a sibling, a spouse, a close friend, or their lawyer…
At that moment...
Take a minute for your grief...
Breathe through the shock...
Clear your mind...
Then start to gather the appropriate information, make a list, and order of the most critical tasks.
The very first question when you learn of the death of a loved one, MUST BE who is in charge of carrying out their final wishes. Possibly you or a parent? A sibling? A spouse? A close friend? Their lawyer?
Are there any personal papers clarifying their final wishes? A will? Their lawyer’s name? Any mention of an Executor or Executrix? People to notify? Insurance papers?
Also, try to locate a record of telephone numbers – family members, close friends, etc. and a way to access to computerized records.
If you know the deceased's lawyer, that is likely to be the easiest place to start. Their lawyer retains the original will if you can't find a copy.
Finding the will or the lawyer's telephone number tops your list. The lawyer or document will identify who has the responsibility to manage the distribution of the deceased’s estate (i.e., the Executor or Executrix).
After those first calls, depending on the neighborhood or building, it is a good idea to advise the surrounding neighbors or police if a house is being left empty.
While there is nothing good about delivering sad news, a family member, close friend, or neighbor may be able to support you as you start to review what needs to be done. They may be able to take some of the calls off your shoulders. Or maybe, just make you a cup of tea, or something stronger.
Also, eventually service providers (housekeeper, lawn care, dog-walker) and employers will need to be notified.
Are there children or pets that need immediate attention? Is there an elderly parent or infirm spouse or relative who will need special care?
Hopefully, you will find the paperwork or documents that the deceased prepared for emergency situations, but if not, after making the preliminary arrangements for the mortal remains (a funeral home, crematorium, or green funeral), care arrangements for those close to the deceased are imperative.
Travel considerations may need to be handled – especially for celebration of life services.
Do you need to travel from out of town? Out of state? Outside the country?
Will family and others need to travel for the funeral?
Are there prescribed drugs in the house that need to be properly disposed of?
A special bed or rental equipment that needs to be returned?
Determine which First Steps can be done by phone - probably more than you expect!
While everything seems overwhelming at this point, these initial decisions start the momentum of ticking things off your list.
Take short breaks as you check off your First Steps list and congratulate yourself for what you have accomplished.
Admit that it is an emotionally difficult time and accept help. Delegate where you can.
Follow our First Steps online guide or download the First Steps Checklist to ease your burden and avoid missing steps.
Detailed guide to prepare or fulfill funal wishes...
Where do you start? Physical remains, funeral options, death certificates, memorial services and more
Next- hurdle - how to handle financial records and accounts
Key reminders on securing residences - owned or rented, apartments or houses - after a loved one's death
What you need to know to protect and eliminate the deceased's digital presence
Don't forget subscriptions, memberships and more...
Funny, helpful and special stories that others have shared to help you through the process
For each section, download and personalize a pdf checklist