What Has To Be Done Right Away!

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Losing a loved one has been described to be as hurtful to the heart/spirit as getting hit by a car can be to the body. Not only does it hurt like heck and will take a while to heal, suffering such a blow can leave one in an ongoing daze, whether it was expected or not. Sometime, it can be very difficult to even figure out what to do next, especially right away.

The following FTF – What Has To Be Done Right Away! will provide some initial items which need to be addressed right away. A list of contents for 2 additional sections can also be found below, but the full, expanded GUIDE is in the VIP ACCESS area. Also, add anything else that may come up in your situation.


  • If the decedent passed away at a medical or hospice facility, they have procedures for handling the situation. Notify facility staff who will advise if and when you need to do something more. You will likely need to contact the funeral home to have them pick up the deceased’s body once the hospital has given clearance.
  • If the deceased passed away at home or away from a medical/hospice facility call 911, the local law enforcement agency or hospice (if involved). Once death has been confirmed by a proper authority, THEN contact a mortuary or funeral home to pick up the deceased’s body.
  • Final arrangements may already have been made with a funeral home so look for paperwork (pre-need agreement or card) at the residence, in the wallet/purse or in other places personal records may be found.
  • If you do not know if arrangements have been made with a funeral home already, then you may need to contact one of your choosing.


  • Decide which family, friends and acquaintances to contact right away and which to contact later. Not everyone has to be contacted at once. Have others help with contacting others as is fitting. Also remember to contact others who need to know, like an employer or others (i.e. doctors) the decedent may have an upcoming scheduled appointment or meeting with. AEF’s “ AEF FAMILY GUIDE” has a section to help determine who to contact and when.
  • Take care of yourself, dependents and others. We are sorry you have lost someone you loved and cared about. Accept our condolences and wishes for your wellbeing as you deal with your loss. It is a highly emotional time so take the time needed to deal with personal emotions and needs, being sure everyone has what they need and will be safe and cared for. Respect that your feelings and those of others may be fragile for a fair amount of time and that everyone grieves in different ways. The decedent’s matters will need to be addressed, but in due time. Many things can be put off until later. For the moment, much of the primary focus needs to be where it is needed: on yourself, the others and your grief.

SEARCH TO LOCATE A WILL AND/OR TRUST, AS SOON AS YOU OR SOMEONE IS ABLE, TO DETERMINE WHO IS IN-CHARGE OR LEGALLY RESPONSIBLE OF THE DECEDENT’S ASSETS AND AFFAIRS. These documents will name the legal representative who should “assume control” as soon as possible. If no documents are found, designate the most appropriate person, usually a spouse, child, parent or person having a kinship relationship to the deceased, to assume responsibility for now.

ASSIGN SOMEONE TO IMMEDIATELY SECURE THE RESIDENCE AND ALL ASSETS. At death, unless there is a spouse and no sole property, all assets at the home or in the deceased’s storage, are usually assumed to be the property of the decedent’s estate or sole trust. No assets, even personal belongings, should be removed or taken until properly addressed and never without oversight and approval of the person with legal authority to manage the estate or trust. All items will be properly distributed in the process of settlement per the legal documents or applicable laws, but for now, taking things needs to wait with everyone agreeing to be patient.



Don’t forget to address security when everyone may be gone at the same time (such as when attending a memorial service) as it can present a good opportunity for robberies and thieves who watch the newspapers.

ASSIGN SOMEONE TO MAKE FOLLOW-UP CONTACT WITH THE FUNERAL HOME. Typically, the funeral home will want to meet with the next of kin and/or legal representative the day following your loved ones passing. The mortuary or funeral home will advise on the next steps needed for the deceased and request information needed to help you obtain certified death certificates. Double check that the decedent’s social security number gets put on the death certificate to avoid potential issues later.

  • The number of death certificates needed will vary depending on estate matters and who in the family will want one but asking for 3-5 from the funeral home would be a reasonable start for handling affairs. Be aware there is a charge for each one and more can be obtained later if needed. The funeral home will need to have the next of kin and/or legal representative available to sign papers.
  • Be prepared to spend at least an hour at the funeral home – longer if you are planning a fuller funeral service and burial. You will likely be escorted into a room where you may be asked to decide on items like urns and caskets if such has not already been determined. Be prepared with a social security number as well as family and military information (as applicable).
  • Also, be prepared that someone may need to view and identify the body of your loved one. This can be very emotional but essential to the funeral home to verify the decedent.
  • For financial planning purposes, funeral costs can be in an estimated range of $2,000 for a simple cremation, with no services, to $10,000+ for a visitation, funeral service and burial bundle. If you shop around, consider the quality and type of services you will receive as price, quality of service and types of services offered can vary from place to place.

Ask questions. Most funeral homes are well aware of what a family or people are going through after a loved one has passed and will be appropriately sensitive as they help guide you through decisions which will need to be made to take care of the decedent. Funeral homes do make money on their products and services. That is a known. But their priority is assisting the family as best they can through a very difficult time.

ASSIGN SOMEONE TO ADDRESS THE NEEDS OF PETS, PLANTS, MAIL, UTILITIES, HOME SERVICES, BILLS AND OTHER MATTERS OF PRIORITY OR URGENCY. Every situation is different and will require someone becoming aware of and addressing issues which need immediate or ongoing attention. When needed or appropriate, ask others to share tasks. Trying to do everything, without help, can become overwhelming.

ASSIGN SOMEONE TO KEEP TRACK OF RECEIPTS AND PAYMENTS MADE ON BEHALF OF THE ESTATE. Funds paid out for the benefit of the estate are generally reimbursable by the estate if there are funds to do so, at some future time, and proof of payment is provided. Paying for costs to keep assets maintained, funeral expenses, death certificates, preparation of taxes, etc., are examples of paid items which should be submitted for reimbursement, but it is the personal representative or court who will determine if they are reimbursable and give final approval. Airline tickets or travelling expenses for family and friends are not typically considered reimbursable expenses though they may be for the personal representative. If there is a question, check with the Personal Representative or Attorney.

DETERMINE WHAT TO DO NEXT. Having a plan to go forward will be extremely helpful and greatly reduce stress. Spend a little bit of “quiet” time, and with help, if possible, put yours together, at least the start of one. The next section contains 2 lists which are some of the key things to address. Remember that things will get done in due time. Most things can wait a bit and everything does not have to be done in a week.

These additional lists below will help you establish plan priorities. Your situation may also dictate there should or could be more or less than mentioned here so add or take away as appropriate. There are many good resources to help someone discover and work through these if they are not familiar with how to do these things. Reference to them can be found in the Connections & Resources area.

There is additional help available. AEF has put together a VIP ACCESS (Very Informed Person) area with more key and helpful information for those who want to save time doing their own research. Becoming a VIP ACCESS member involves a nominal charge to cover costs, but members have access to much more hands-on and how-to information to make things simpler and easier. For instance, the items below are expanded in the VIP ACCESS Membership area with more information and detail on how to do them. Simply click the button here to see how to become a VIP ACCESS member and gain access to this area.




  • Protect and Maintain Assets Going Forward
  • File the Will when required
  • Notify Social Security
  • Determine of Probate is Needed (will need how assets are titled and values for attorney office to decide)
  • Create a “Date-of-Death” Inventory of all “significant” assets
    • (smaller items with no significant value usually can be grouped with a general value, such as home and personal belongings,but more significant items such as artwork, special collections, collectibles, jewelry, firearms, etc. may need separate estimated values or to be appraised individually)
  • Located and Inventory Any Safe Deposit Boxes
  • Deal with Incoming Mail (Creditors, Medical)
  • Notify & Resolve Creditors
  • Notify Pensions/Annuities
  • Settle Retirement Accounts and Life Insurance Policies
  • Close Accounts/Return Equipment
  • Apply for an EIN Number
  • File Taxes
  • Order Additional Death Certificates as Needed
  • Note any specific terms of the will or trust which need to be addressed sooner.
  • Distribute Assets at the Appropriate Time

FTF – WHAT SHOULD BE DONE! (Recommended)

  • Take Photo and/or more detailed Inventory of Residence/Assets of Value, Record Serial Numbers
  • Update Financial Accounts and Asset Titles
  • Provide Obituary to Media for Publication
  • Order Credit Report
  • Update Spouse Medical Insurance
  • Develop New Household Budget & Determine Cash Flow
  • Cancel Unwanted/Unnecessary Clubs/Memberships
  • Close Unnecessary Online Accounts
  • Re-title Assets per Attorney advice