What to do Following a Death

What to do Following a Death

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When a loved one dies, the family is often not prepared to deal with the legal steps that they must take following a death. If you’ve lost a loved one, it’s important that you understand what you need to do and when you need to do it. The proper steps must be taken in order to make a very trying time a little less stressful. Here is a list of the common things you will need to do following the loss of a loved one.

Get a Death Certificate

A death certificate is a vital document that declares a person is legally dead. Without this document, you will be unable to close the deceased’s accounts, collect on life insurance policies, or much of anything else. You will receive the death certificate from the doctor who declared the person legally deceased.

Contact a Funeral Company

Once you have the death certificate, the deceased can be released to the funeral company you have chosen to handle the proceedings. If your loved one wished to be cremated, a funeral company is still often involved because many of them handle cremations as well, plus you may want to have a small service before the cremation is done.


Some funeral companies have several directors, while others have only one. The director you work with will handle the steps necessary to register the deceased as dead with the appropriate government office. However, if you have chosen not to use a funeral service, you will need to register your loved one’s death by yourself with the correct office. If you are unsure how to do this, the doctor who provided the death certificate or the Department of Human Services can assist you.

Read the Will

The next thing to do is to discover if the deceased had a will. If he or she did make a will, it may contain information regarding what funeral arrangements should be made, if the funeral was pre-paid, and how the loved one wanted his or her property distributed. The executor of the will, who should be named, is responsible for handling the requests within a will. There is a chance, at this point, that someone may contest the authenticity of the will or its contents. Contesting a will is a legal challenge that is often done if a family member feels that the will was unfair towards him or her. A challenge may also be filed if someone believes that the executor is not following the person’s wishes or has been influenced in some way to act against the will.

If there is no will, the law has a set formula to determine how the deceased’s estate is to be divided.

Contact Insurance Companies

The will should list the deceased’s insurance policies and provide the policy numbers and contact information of the insurance companies. With this information and the death certificate in hand, you will be able to contact the insurance company and learn how to collect on these policies. The funds are paid directly to whomever the deceased has named as the beneficiaries, but they cannot be released until the company has received a copy of the death certificate.

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