What to Do When Someone Dies

You are grieving a loss. But stressful, bureaucratic tasks have to be dealt with. The piles of paperwork can take survivors by surprise. Settling the affairs of a deceased family member is not a one-person task. You will need the help of others, ranging from lawyers and CPAs to advise you on legal and financial matters to a network of friends and relatives to lean on for emotional support and to whom you can delegate tasks.

You may take the lead on planning the funeral and then hand off the financial details to the executor. You may be the executor, which means you will be settling the estate and dealing with the paperwork.

Here is a checklist of things that will need to be done:

Get a legal pronouncement of death. In a nursing home or hospital, the staff will handle this. An official declaration of death is the first step to getting a death certificate, a critical piece of paperwork. If someone has died at home, you will need a medical professional to declare them deceased. If this is an at-home hospice care situation, a hospice nurse can declare them deceased.

Tell friends and family.

Send out a group text or mass email or make phone calls to let people know, asking everyone to spread the word by notifying others.

  • Inform co-workers, members of social groups, and the house of worship the deceased belonged to.
  • Notify the family member’s employer.
  • Post about the death on social media — if the immediate family is in agreement on this.

Find out about existing funeral and burial plans.

  • Did the deceased make his or her wishes clear to immediate family or an executor? If it is not clear, a family meeting is needed to discuss what the deceased would have wanted and how that dovetails with family wishes and budget. Look to see if the deceased had a pre-paid funeral contract. Check the deceased’s records to determine if the deceased executed documents with respect to cremation or burial.  In Connecticut, individuals have the ability to self-authorize their cremation by signing a Cremation Permit prior to death. 
  • If the person was in the military or belonged to a fraternal or religious group, contact the Veterans Administration or specific organization to see if burial benefits exist.
  • Determine who wants to eulogize, be pallbearers, write an obituary, or arrange a post-funeral gathering.

Secure the property if no one is living there anymore.

Lock the home and any vehicles. Remove valuables like jewelry or cash to a safe place. Arrange for someone to collect the mail or have it forwarded.

Get 10 copies of the death certificate.

  • Find the will and the executor.
  • Meet with a trusts and estates attorney.
  • Contact a CPA.
  • Contact the following companies and agencies. You will need a death certificate and policy numbers:
  • The Social Security Administration, to stop checks if the deceased was receiving benefits. (Most funeral homes in Connecticut will do this for you if you ask.)
  • Life insurance companies.
  • Banks.
  • Credit card companies, to cancel the accounts.
  • Credit bureaus, to lock deceased’s credit.

This is just the beginning! Consider this a guide to planning for your own future and encouraging your loved ones to do the same. The more you do in advance, the easier it is for your heirs and executors to deal with all of the above during a time of grief. Let us know how we can help you and your family make plans.

You can count on Ericson, Scalise & Mangan, PC to provide you with sound guidance and experience in these uncertain times. For assistance with your legal needs, please contact us today at (860) 229-0369, or email us at info@esmlaw.com.