What To Do When Someone Dies

Someone has just died, and a million questions are running through your mind. Who should I call, and what should I do? Handling the emotional blow of someone’s death is hard enough – to also be shouldering the personal and legal burden of what to do next is overwhelming. That’s why we’ve made this checklist – to help turn a stressful time, into a simple one.


To Do Immediately After Death

1. Get a legal pronouncement of death

After someone has died, you need to have a medical professional officially declare them dead. You need to do this as fast as possible, and it must happen before you can move on to handling the will, the estate, the funeral home, etc. 

If the person died in a hospital, the doctor can handle this. If they died in hospice care, you should call the hospice nurse, who can declare the death and help handle transportation of the body

If the person died unexpectedly at home, call 911. They will generally bring the person to the ER, where a doctor will make a declaration of death. If the death was not unexpected, you might call the individual’s physician first. 

2. Arrange for transport of the body

If you know that you’re choosing Return Home, call us at (206) 888 HOME (4663) and one of our staff will help you through this process. 

3. Notify the person’s doctor, family, and friends

4. Handle care of dependents and pets

5. Notify the person’s employer

6. Give yourself space to grieve

This is a difficult time. Don’t be too hard on yourself. 


To Do In a Few Days After Death

1. Arrange the funeral, memorial service, and disposition method

If you’re choosing Return Home, you can call us at (206) 888-HOME (4663) around the clock, to arrange a terramation service.

2. Secure the persons home. Collect their mail, water their plants, throw out old food in the fridge, or ask a friend or relative to keep an eye on it.


To Do Within 10 Days After Death

1. Obtain the Death Certificate

This helps you navigate financial institutions, government bodies, and more. As a licensed funeral home, Return Home can provide you with death certificates. 

2. Locate the will and take it to a local government office to have it accepted for probate. 

3. Contact the following, when you are ready to do so:


A trust and estate attorney, to learn how to transfer assets and assist with probate issues.

Police, to have them periodically check the deceased’s house if vacant.

An accountant or a tax preparer, to find out whether an estate-tax return or final income-tax return should be filed.

The person’s investment adviser, if applicable, for information on holdings.

Banks, to find accounts and safe deposit box.

Life insurance agent, to get claim forms.

The Social Security Administration (800-772-1213; ssa.gov) and other agencies from which the deceased received benefits, such as Veterans Affairs (800-827-1000; va.gov), to stop payments and ask about applicable survivor benefits. The SSA, like the VA, recommends immediately reporting the person’s death, though in many cases the funeral home will handle this.

Agency providing pension services, to stop monthly checks and get claim forms.

Utility companies, to change or stop service, and Postal Service, to stop or forward mail. Reach out to other companies to stop recurring bills and subscriptions. If home is vacant, contact the insurer to switch to a vacant policy. If home is under a mortgage, contact the lender.

The IRS, credit-reporting agencies, and the DMV to prevent identity theft.

Social media companies, such as Facebook or LinkedIn, to memorialize or remove an account. 

6 Phases of human composting

Get the 6 Phases Of Human Composting guide - FREE