what happens when someone dies

Guide to What Happens When Someone Dies

Burial Services May 7, 2024

Losing a loved one is among the most profound and challenging experiences we go through in life. At AfterlifeHQ, we extend our deepest sympathies and condolences if you are reading this during such a difficult time. It is our hope that this guide serves as a compassionate and informative resource to assist you as you navigate the myriad tasks and decisions that accompany the passing of someone close to you.

The process can feel overwhelming, compounded by grief and the necessity to make significant decisions quickly. To help alleviate some of this burden, we have created a structured checklist of the most important steps you need to take following a loved one’s death. This checklist is intended to guide you through the immediate and necessary actions, reflecting common legal and procedural requirements in the United States. Please note that some details may vary by state.

1. Inform Close Family, Friends, and Coworkers

The first step is to let those close to the deceased know about their passing. It can be emotionally taxing to notify everyone individually, so we recommend selecting a trusted friend or family member to help disseminate the information. This not only helps manage the emotional load but also ensures that all necessary parties are informed promptly.

2. Obtain Legal Documentation of Death

Securing a death certificate is an essential next step. This legal document is required to settle the deceased’s estate and to notify various institutions of their passing. You can obtain death certificates through the funeral home that assists with the arrangements or directly from the local vital records office. Typically, it’s advisable to request multiple copies as banks, insurance companies, and government bodies will each require one.

3. Notify Formal Institutions

You will need to inform several formal institutions of your loved one’s death. This list typically includes banks, credit card companies, insurance providers, and government agencies such as Social Security and the IRS. Each institution will have its own process for closing accounts or adjusting records, and they will require a copy of the death certificate to do so.

4. Gather Necessary Paperwork

Locate important documents such as the will, trusts, insurance policies, real estate deeds, and personal letters that outline the deceased’s wishes. These documents will guide many of your decisions and are necessary for legal processes and financial settlements.

5. Make Arrangements for the Body

If the deceased had specific wishes for their body’s handling and funeral, adhere to these as closely as possible. If no clear instructions were left, you will need to make decisions regarding burial or cremation. Tools like AfterlifeHQ can be invaluable in comparing funeral home services and costs, helping you make an informed decision that respects your loved one’s memory and your family’s needs.

6. Take Care of Yourself and Dependents

Remember to look after your own well-being. Delegate tasks like coordinating messages, meals, and daily responsibilities to close friends or family. If there are children or pets who depended on the deceased, make immediate arrangements for their care and support.

7. Secure Assets and Document Everything

Begin securing the deceased’s assets and compiling a list of all pertinent financial information. This includes bank accounts, investment portfolios, and personal property like vehicles and real estate. If you are the executor or have power of attorney, you may have easier access to this information. If not, start gathering documents and contact names of financial institutions and advisors.

8. Make Funeral Plans

Planning a funeral can be a poignant way to honor your loved one. If their wishes are known, follow them as closely as possible. If not, consider what they might have preferred and consult with family. Use AfterlifeHQ to find and communicate with funeral homes and to plan a service that feels appropriate.

9. Settle the Estate

If there is a will and it clearly distributes the deceased’s assets, you might be able to avoid the probate process. However, if there is no will, or the estate’s distribution is not clearly defined by it, probate will likely be necessary. Consult with a legal professional to understand how to proceed based on the specifics of your situation.

We understand this is a painful time filled with many tasks that require attention. Our goal at AfterlifeHQ is to make this period as manageable as possible for you. By using our comprehensive pricing data, helpful guides, and extensive funeral home directory, you can find the support and resources you need to navigate this challenging phase of life.


This article was compiled with information from various reliable sources to ensure accuracy and relevance. Please consult a legal or financial advisor for specific guidance related to your personal situation.

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