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What to Do After a Death: 3 Steps to Take

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The thought of death is overwhelming. Perhaps that’s why we rarely ever talk about what happens when a loved one passes.

Death may be a hard subject to talk about, but when it hits, you may not know what to do if it’s your first time planning arrangements for a loved one. 

Survivors are tasked with the overwhelming responsibility of making final arrangements and notifying close friends and family in the midst of their own grief.

To give you and your family peace of mind during this process, we’ve outlined three steps to follow below.

1. Notify a funeral home or crematory.

The very first step following the death of a loved one is to notify the selected funeral home or crematory. If possible, take time to visit the facility and meet with professional staff to prearrange services prior to the death.

If no arrangements were made in advance, you’ll have to choose a funeral home or crematory to arrange services with. They will coordinate for transportation of the body to the funeral home or crematory.

Once there, a staff member will walk you through your options between burial and cremation. Burial is the process in which a deceased body is placed in a grave and buried in the ground, whereas cremation is the process of applying intense heat to a deceased body in a crematorium.

2. Contact immediate family and close friends.

When a loved one passes, you’ll also want to contact immediate family members and friends. Avoid posting anything on social media until you’ve been in contact with each of these individuals. 

When you inform people of the death, be sure to include information about the time, date and location of the planned service, as well as pre-service or post-service events. If you’re accepting donations in lieu of flowers, you’ll also want to specify the charity of choice. 

Additionally, you’ll want to contact financial institutions, government agencies and others about your loved one’s death. These include: 

  • Social Security Administration
  • The deceased’s employer
  • Insurance companies
  • Credit bureaus
  • Post office
  • Utility companies
  • Mortgage companies and banks
  • Creditors

Depending on the provider, a funeral home or crematory may help you complete these items.

3. File appropriate paperwork.

Now, it’s time to secure your loved one’s death certificate and other related documents. 

To do so, seek assistance from the funeral home or crematory staff. They will help you fill out the death certificate form and file it with the correct parties like the local registrar or medical examiner.

Other potential items a funeral home or crematory may help you in completing, include the following: 



Beyond arranging services and retrieving the necessary documents, experienced staff members are also available to help you cope and heal before or after a death occurs. If you or a loved one has questions about death, seek grief support.

Facing the death of a loved one can be a daunting task. Knowing what to do can bring comfort to surviving family members during an already emotional time.

Preplan to Document Final Wishes 

While there are many decisions and steps to take after the death of a loved one, you can lift the burden from your own family after you pass. Preplanning your final arrangements helps alleviate your surviving loved ones from sudden financial or emotional decisions. 

If you or a loved one is interested in preplanning, we encourage you to download the Seniors’ Guide to Funeral Arrangements: How Preplanning Can Save Time, Money and Worry. Our guide explains what preplanning is, and offers insight on the financial benefits of arranging a funeral ahead of time.

Download our preplanning guide


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