Upon the death of a loved one you may feel grief, pain, regret, anger, or a combination of all of them.
Oftentimes, these emotions temporarily recede once you realize that you have no clue what to do next. It begs the question…
What do you do when someone dies?
It’s a big question that everyone must answer.
Today we are going to answer it, so you will know exactly what to do when someone dies. From what to say and how to say to dealing with their estate, we’ll touch on it all. Truth be told, there are many matters to tend to when a loved one dies.
With a combination of planning an effort, you can get everything done in a timely matter, so you can focus on remember the loved one who moved on.
Article Quick Navigation Links
- Who To Call And What To Say When Someone Passes
- Making Funeral Arrangements
- Legal Steps And Handling Final End Of Life Tasks
Upon the passing of a cherished family member, someone will have the unfortunate task of delivering the sad news to everyone else.
So who you call and how do you deliver the unfortunate news?
Let’s talk about it…
Who To Call
To figure out who to call, it’s best to start by making a list. The goal with this list is to identify all the types of people known by the deceased, so that you can fill in the names.
The following list covers most people who need to be contacted, but obviously tailor it to your needs.
- All family members
- Frequent acquaintances
- Professional relationships
- Old friends whom they may not communicate with anymore (old college friends, military friends, etc)
What To Say When You Deliver The News
Here are 5 key points to keep in mind as you become the messenger of this bad news.
- Face to face communicate is best if possible. The emotional distress someone will endure upon hearing this news will be reduced if you are able to deliver it in person. Obviously, this will not always be possible or appropriate (you wouldn’t fly across the USA to tell an old friend of the deceased).
- Prepare for lots of questions. It’s quite common for people to rapid fire questions about everything related to the passing of the deceased. You don’t have to have all the answers, but be prepared for inquisition. Most frequently, the questions will revolve around how they passed away.
- Avoid the words “dead” and/or “died”. These words, although accurate, offer far less tact relative to some alternatives. Instead, offer phrases such as “passed on”, “moved on”, or “no longer with us”. These phrases are much easier for a grieving loved one to process and accept, and elicit a lesser emotional response.
- Keep it short and simple. The sheer gravity of the news will overwhelm most people. Tell them what happened, but don’t go too deep into it. For example, you don’t need to go into great detail about the weeks leading up to their passing. Later you can, but the initial communication should be concise.
- Give them space. Everyone reacts differently when someone moves on. Don’t assume a person wants a hug or wants you in their personal space to comfort them. Allow them to choose where their boundaries begin and end when dealing with this news.
Breaking The News On Social Media
In today’s world, it’s incredibly common for consumers of social media to post touching tributes honoring the death of someone the loved.
But here’s the thing.
Before you rush to Facebook to announce the unfortunate news, consider the deceased first. Ask yourself one simple question.
Would they want their passing announced on social media for all to see?
Some do, and some don’t. Try your best figure out if it’s something they would want done.
Keep this in mind if you do announce a death on social media.
- Always post the day, time, and location of the funeral service when you make the announcement
- Leave out details about how they passed away
- Make honorable mention to those whom they are survived by
- Pay tribute to their time in the military (if applicable)
Making Arrangements To Care For Or Adopt Out Surviving Pets
When a pet owner dies, their animals need a place to go. Cars, houses, and other belongings can be sold, but pets are just like people. Pets need a caring home to transition to.
Here’s the bottom line
For pet owners, their pets are basically children, and they love them as such.
The loved one who passed away would be absolutely heartbroken if their pet was not shown the same love and care as they were.
Don’t think of yourself.
Think of the person who passed away, and how they would do anything to see their pet was properly cared for, and placed with a good home.
Here are some steps you can take to transition surviving pets to a loving home that will care for them properly.
- Check their will to see if they included their pets. Some pet owners do include their pets in their will.
- Whomever you ask, verify they have the financial means to provide food, supplies, grooming, and other expenses associated with a pet. If they can’t afford the pet, they shouldn’t accept them.
- In the short term, try to place the pet with some friend or family member who can care for it while you try to place them in a permanent home
- Reach out to all family and friends to see if they would be willing to accept the pet on a permanent basis (assuming they can afford it).
- If you cannot locate anyone to take in the pet, utilize a “no kill” shelter as a last resort. Be sure to verify the shelter has a no kill policy. For example, The Human Society is one such organization that will not euthanize pets. Virtually every city in America has some sort of dog rescue that could take the animal, and will not put them down at any point. Remember, the deceased would be crushed if their pet was put to death because nobody could care for them.
Dealing With Password-Protected Accounts
Most of the time, you won’t be able to access any sort of online account for most businesses. However, you can and should close these accounts out.
Most providers will allow you to cancel the service with the required documentation. Every business is different, so don’t expect two companies to have the same requirements.
In the end, it’s best to contact them to find out exactly what their requirements. You can also search the topic on any given providers website. Most of them today have a webpage dedicated solely to answering questions about what you can do when someone dies.
We’ve taken the liberty to provide some quick links below of some of the most common services people use. If you don’t see the one you need to contact listed her, just give them a call.
Cell phone providers
There are many elements to planning a funeral for a loved one. From creating a budget, to dealing with leftover possessions, you have a lot of work ahead of you.
The best thing to do is tackle one task after another. You know the saying- The best way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time 😎
Find And Follow Any Advance Instructions Or Will
It’s not at all uncommon for people to document their final wishes long before the end of their life.
In most cases, funeral planning guides are kept in a safe or anywhere other important papers such as life insurance policies, birth certificates, or house deeds are kept.
If your deceased loved one took the time to document how they would like to be remembered, it’s vital you do your best to adhere to their final wishes.
Now, if financially it isn’t feasible to carry out their desires that’s another story, but follow them if there are the financial means to do so.
Now this is important.
A final wishes guide is vastly different than a will. A final wishes guide is nothing more than a set of instructions regarding how the deceased would like to be remembered.
A guide like this will detail preferences such as: casket, flowers, song, people to be invited, music, colors, viewing, type of monument, etc.
A will is a legal document that outlines what’s to be done with the deceased’s property. For example, a will typically designates the owner of items such as: real estate, pets, personal belongings, cash, investments, any many more.
Whatever provisions are stipulated in the will are to be followed to a T.
It’s best to consult a wills and trust attorney on how to proceed with executing a will.
Make A Budget For All Final Expenses
Technically, the deceased is responsible for paying their final expenses. Hopefully they took steps to ensure there were appropriate provisions in place to cover the financial aspect of their funeral.
Here’s the deal.
They may have set aside life insurance or cash specifically to cover end of life costs. Then again, they may not have.
Ultimately, the total money available for funeral costs could be a combination of final expense life insurance, their cash, your cash, or money from another party.
Either way, once you know the total amount of money you have specifically for the final expenses, stick to your budget!
Funerals can get really expensive really quickly. If you go into a funeral parlor and just start picking out every shiny object you see, you will bust your budget right away.
Be mindful and committed of your budget so you don’t overspend.
Insider Tip: If your parents don’t have life insurance or the financial means to pay for their funeral expenses, you may want to consider a funeral policy for parents. You’ll find the cost of burial insurance is affordable. More importantly, you’ll avoid having to come up with thousands of dollars upon their passing.
Plan An Estate Sale And Clearing Out Belongings
First, make sure you abide by the commandments of a will if one exists. Wills will regularly dictate who gets what especially when it comes to personal property.
For everything else, it’s best to have a family discussion to democratically decide who would like to take any leftover items.
Once everyone has claimed all the belongs they are interested, you must do something about all the leftovers.
This is where an estate sale comes in really handy.
Plan a massive estate sale to sell off as much stuff as you can. Do your best to put an ad in local newspaper classified section under estate sales, craigslist, signs around the neighborhood, or any other resource where people can learn about the estate sale.
Hopefully you will be able to sell off most of the leftover belongings. The remaining stuff can be merely donated to a local Goodwill or donation center of some type.
Death is actually a very significant legal matter. From getting a death certificate to going through probate, dealing with a lawyer is almost inevitable.
In short, there’s many legal matters to tend to, and you don’t want to take short cuts.
Do it right so you don’t end up owing taxes or put yourself in a position of legal liability.
Get A Death Certificate
The most important document you must attain after someone has died is the death certificate. This official document legally certifies that someone is no longer living.
It will allow you to cancel bank accounts, utilities, claim a life insurance benefit, and much more.
Who Prepares It?
The organization that handled the final arrangements (funeral home, crematory, etc) will prepare and formally file the death certificate. As you can see, it’s not something you do personally do.
Getting Copies Of It
You’ll need multiple copies, so be sure to order at least 10.
You can order death certificate copies from:
- The entity who filed the death certificate
- From the state where it was filed
- A third-party company that specializes in ordering copies of death certificates
Contact Trust Or Estate Attorneys
As mentioned earlier in the article, you should definitely consult with a wills and trust attorney if there is an established will or trust in place.
The reason is simple.
A will or trust is a legal document. If it’s not followed properly, you open yourself up to liability.
Having an attorney to guide you through the probate process is also particularly helpful and reassuring. We outline what probate is a little lower in this article, but trust that you don’t want to make mistakes during this process.
Probate aside, the last thing you want is some legal battle over property because family members didn’t follow the will’s instructions.
And guess what
The party that has the will on their side almost always wins.
You can Google wills & trust attorneys in your area, or you can consult resources like Nolo.com to find one.
Probate: What It Is and How to Deal With It
Essentially, probate is the process where the state supervises authenticating a last will and testament if one exists.
It will involve identifying, locating, and determining the value of the deceased assets, paying any outstanding bills or local/state/federal taxes. Finally, it will ensure the beneficiaries of money and/or property receive what’s rightfully theirs according to the will or trust.
Every state has a unique probate process. This is a very good guide to quickly access your state’s probate rules.
How Do You Deal With The Probate Process?
Truth be told, this is easier said than done. Have no fear however because it’s not as daunting of a task as you might think if you have the right help.
If you consult the advice of an attorney, they will basically tell you what you must do. You can completely relax because they will know what to do and when to do it. Just follow their advice.
In all honestly, there is an incredible amount of paperwork involved and steps to be followed. For this reason, we strongly urge you to consult an attorney who can properly advise you.
Should you decide to embark on this journey without legal help, at least consult some sort of guide like this to help you.
Just know, the probate process can take a long time (months) depending on the complexity of the estate and parties involved.
Have we mentioned that you should get an attorney?
We know we said that before, but boy its vitally important you get professional help dealing with probate the probate process. You really shouldn’t try to do this all on your own.