Ask A Lawyer

Tell Us Your Case Information for Fastest Lawyer Match!

Please include all relevant details from your case including where, when, and who it involoves.
Case details that can effectively describe the legal situation while also staying concise generally receive the best responses from lawyers.


By submitting this lawyer request, I confirm I have read and agree to the Consent to Receive Email, Phone, Text Messages, Terms of Use, and Privacy Policy. Information provided may not be privileged or confidential.

The Most Important Steps To Take When a Loved One Dies

by Rachel A. King on Jul. 14, 2017

 General Practice 

Summary: Coping with the death of a loved one can be a very painful time for anyone. In a perfect world, you’d be able to mourn your loss in peace.

Coping with the death of a loved one can be a very painful time for anyone. In a perfect world, you’d be able to mourn your loss in peace. Unfortunately, we don’t live in a perfect world; when a loved one dies, there are a litany of personal and legal matters that must be attended to in a timely manner. The following are the most important steps you’ll need to take within weeks of a loved one’s death.

1. Report the death and request multiple certified copies of the death certificate
You won’t be able to do much else until you acquire a death certificate. Several of the agencies you’ll be contacting will request a copy to have on record. You’ll also want to acquire a letter of testament, which tells government and financial agencies that you have been named to handle the deceased’s affairs.

2. Arrange funeral (or cremation services) and write an obituary
Before speaking to a funeral director, find out if your loved one has pre-paid burial arrangements, especially if they’re a veteran. From there, you’ll arrange what type of service will be conducted, how the body will be prepared, and personally contact friends and family. It’s a good idea to appoint certain people to inform larger groups so as to keep your emotional turmoil to a minimum. Writing an obituary or death notice will also allow you to spread the word on a larger scale, but be aware that releasing too much personal information in an obituary or on social media platforms may lead to malicious attempts to steal the deceased’s identity.

3. Begin the probate process
Probate begins by checking whether your loved one has a will or trust in place. After taking the will to the county or city office, a court date will be set to name an executor to take care of all the deceased’s affairs. If no will is in place, this process can be a lot more complicated. It’s also a good idea to open a separate bank account to handle the deceased’s assets until the process comes to a close.

4. Contact authorities of the deceased assets
There are a lot of agencies you’ll need to contact to close out personal accounts, cancel memberships and end monthly billing. These may include: accountants, banks, life insurance agencies, pension agencies, utility companies, mortgage agencies, credit card companies, loan providers, creditors, unions, veteran’s affairs, the social security office and the post office. You will also want to find out what legal filings the state requires.

Above all else, being overwhelmed can easily lead to mistakes and cause liability issues to arise, so it’s always a good idea to contact a lawyer who specializes in wills, trusts and probate, even if it’s simply for a consultation. They’ll be able to save you time, money and help guide and support you in this arduous process.

Legal Articles Additional Disclaimer

Lawyer.com is not a law firm and does not offer legal advice. Content posted on lawyer.com are the sole responsibility of the person from whom such content originated and are not reviewed or commented on by Lawyer.com The application of law to any set of facts is a highly specialized skill, practiced by lawyers and often dependent on jurisdiction. Content on the site of a legal nature may or may not be accurate for a particular state or jurisdiction and may largely depend on specific circumstances surrounding individual cases, which may or may not be consistent with your circumstances or may no longer be up-to-date to the extent that laws have changed since posting. Legal articles therefore are for review as general research and for use in helping to gage a lawyer's expertise on a matter. If you are seeking specific legal advice, Lawyer.com recommends that you contact a lawyer to review your specific issues. See Lawyer.com's full Terms of Use for more information.