What to do Within a Few Days

Once you have gotten the urgent tasks and decisions out of the way, there are many tasks that you should move on to. After you have decided on the wake, funeral, and disposal of remains, it is time to plan and arrange them. In order to make plans, arrange for, and pay for these, you have to locate certain documents and ensure the executor is involved.

  • The Last Will and Testament, plus any attachments, will have information about many of your loved one’s wishes, such as caretakers for dependents, and property that needs to be attended to.
  • Advance Directives, such as Final Instructions, Disposition of Remains Authorization, Healthcare Proxy, and/or Designated Agent forms will most likely have details about your loved one’s preferences for organ/tissue donation, their remains, and who is responsible for carrying them out.
  • Certain documents, such as a funeral trust or contract for a prepaid funeral, will inform you about handling the cost of these services.
  • A life insurance and/or final expense insurance policy may provide other financial resources to offset costs.  

There are family and friends to contact that will need to know, so that they can have the opportunity to attend any wake, funeral, or burial service that’s been planned. Your loved one may have had a list of their names and contact information. Others, such as employers, will need to know to make their own plans.

There are other tasks that need to be done soon to protect your loved one’s estate, such as discontinuing mail, notifying the local newspaper, and doing a thorough examination and survey of their property. Families of veterans may want to contact the VA to see what help they can offer.

Who to Notify

Family and friends

In this age of connectivity, it is difficult for news to not travel fast, so most of your extended family and friends will probably already know, but you should make sure.

  • Notify close friends and extended family that you or your designated assistant haven’t heard from.
  • Make a list of as many people as you can and cross them off as you go.
  • If your loved one did not make a list, you may be able to find contact information through email accounts, mobile phone contacts list, Facebook friends list, personal telephone books, etc.
  • You can use many different methods to spread the word.
    • Direct contact with a phone call, text, or email may be best for those closest to you.
    • An online funeral announcement is often the easiest way to share event details with other friends and family.
    • For people who may not use the internet regularly, you can send a paper funeral announcement or arrange for them to be called and informed.
    • You can also provide these details in an obituary in your local paper.

Executor of your loved one’s estate

If you are not the executor of your loved one’s will, you will need to notify them. They will be required to do many of the tasks, such as getting the will, accessing other records, dealing with finances, and settling the estate. They will probably need to set up an estate bank account for expenses.

Clergy or other spiritual leaders

If you have not already, contact any religious leaders who can provide spiritual support and/or will be involved in ceremonies.

Employers, military units, and volunteer organizations

There may be others that depend on your loved one who will need to be informed.

  • Employers may be expecting your loved one to arrive to perform their job, so it is a courtesy to inform them before your loved one would be due to return for work. 
  • It could be a good time to ask employers about pay owed, benefits, and life insurance through the company.
  • If necessary, contact any other organization that would note their absence.

Veterans Affairs (VA), if applicable

Many additional services and options may be available for military veterans through the VA. A range of benefits can assist you and help you make final decisions about your loved one’s service.

Post Office

Mail accumulating in your loved one’s mailbox, front porch, or post office box will attract attention. The knowledge that the residence is unoccupied puts the property at risk for theft or vandalization.

  • Stop delivery of mail to your loved one’s residence or post office box.
  • Initially you will want to provide them with forwarding information to you or another designated person, if necessary, until you can stop the mail at the sources. Their mail can inform you about subscriptions, creditors, and other accounts that need to be looked into or canceled.

Contact the local newspaper

Like the mail, accumulating newspapers is another sign that their residence is unoccupied. Stop delivery before this happens.

If you want an obituary or death notice printed, it will usually be in the local newspaper. Death notices and obituaries can have varying amounts of information; the information you include is entirely up to you.

  • Obituaries are articles written by a newspaper’s staff offering a brief biography of your loved one based on the information you provide.
  • Death notices are paid announcements in a newspaper that are typically written by relatives or friends. They are usually brief and provide the full name of your loved one and details of the funeral service, as well as where donations can be made. 
  • The basic information usually includes:
    • maiden name or nickname;
    • date and location of death;
    • cause of death (optional);
    • names of surviving family members (optional);
    • details of the funeral or memorial service (public or private); if public this will include date, time, and location of service; and/or
    • name of charity to which donations should be made.
  • Additional information in an obituary or death notice may include:
    • date and place of birth;
    • names of parents;
    • date and place of marriage, and name of spouse;
    • names of children and grandchildren;
    • educational history, including schools attended and degrees or honors received;
    • military service, including any honors or awards received;
    • employment history, including positions held, awards received, or special achievements;
    • membership in organizations, including religious, cultural, civic, or fraternal;
    • special accomplishments;
    • hobbies and interests; and/or
    • personality and character of the person who died.


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