10 Steps to Take Immediately When Someone Dies

May 18, 2022

Losing a loved one can be a painful experience, especially if it happens suddenly and without warning. You and other family members and friends will likely experience a flood of emotions. Everyone grieves in their own way, but most people tend to share one thing in common – confusion as to what steps to take. Below are the ten steps (in order) to take immediately when a loved one passes away.

1. Make plans for the body. Depending on the place of death, different plans may be appropriate to care for the body. Check the drivers’ license to determine whether the person was an organ donor to determine whether successful donations are still possible. Based on the circumstances of the death, the medical examiner determines whether an autopsy is needed. If so, the body travels to a county morgue where a pathologist conducts a detailed internal and external examination of the body as well as toxicology tests. Once the body is released, most people choose to employ a funeral director transport the body to the funeral home where it will remain until services and final disposition are decided.

2. Secure Dependents. Arrange for the immediate care of any persons or pets that the deceased was responsible for. This can be temporary solutions until more permanent arrangements can be made.

3. Notify close family, friends and employers. This is often done in order of those closest and with the most urgent need to know. Do not announce the death on social media until all of the closest family and friends have been personally contacted.

4. Secure valuables. Once it is known that someone passes away, that can make their home and belongings enticing to those with criminal intent as well as ill-intentioned family members. Best practice is often to have two or three trusted family members walk the home together to collect and secure valuables. During this walk-through, throw out perishables from the refrigerator and make sure the home is securely locked.

5. Locate the Last Will & Testament. While a formal reading should not be done until after the funeral, many wills and accompanying legacy letters provide wishes for funeral services and burial/cremation. This will help with the planning involved in the next step.

6. Funeral Planning. Select a funeral home and plan the funeral and/or end of life celebration. Determine location and manner of the body’s final resting place. There are many creative alternatives to burial, but the choices should be consistent with the wishes made known by the deceased.

7. Write and publish the obituary. The obituary can be drafted in short form (for newspaper publication where you pay by the line) and long form (distributed for free via social media). The obituary should be a tribute to the deceased as well as inform the community about the logistics of services and how to pay their respects.

8. Notify the neighbors. Ask trusted neighbors to keep a watch on the property for any signs of unusual activity. Enlist their help in collecting mail, newspapers and trash cans so that the home does not appear unoccupied.

9. Contact Executor. Notify the named executor or personal representative chosen in the will. He or she may want to contact an estate administration attorney for a consultation on the steps to take to initiate the probate process.

10. Pause and grieve. Unfortunately, there are nine steps before this one, which can be difficult or a needed distraction depending on the person, but it is vital to take time to mourn and care for your needs. Rely on your support system and know that there is not one way or a right way to grieve. Take the time you need to heal.

If you are experiencing the death of a loved one and need guidance from compassionate and knowledgeable probate attorneys, contact Stouffer Legal in the Greater Baltimore area. You can schedule an appointment by calling us at (443) 470-3599 or emailing us at office@stoufferlegal.com.

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