Updated: September 7, 2022
There are tasks that should be done as soon as possible after your loved one’s death. You want to notify immediate family for many reasons, but there are a few time-sensitive tasks that can’t wait. Some of them may have been planned and arranged ahead of time. If you are not sure, you can look for specific documents, check the will and advance directives, or (if it is not you) consult with the executor or healthcare power of attorney.
After your loved one has died, someone will need to confirm and report their death to the proper authorities. This is usually a medical professional such as a doctor or coroner, although in some states it can be done by registered nurses, nurse practitioners, or physicians’ assistants.
Your loved one has to be pronounced dead before you will be able to obtain the death certificate that is necessary for settling their estate.
The death certificate is usually completed by this medical professional and a funeral or crematorium director. If your loved one dies in a hospital, nursing home, or other facility, these will be taken care of by staff.
If your loved one and family prefer a death at home, these arrangements will fall to you. If there is an opportunity, plan and arrange for a pronouncement of death in advance.
Organ donation is time-sensitive, so it’s important to act quickly.
If your loved one died in a hospital, nursing home, or other facility, they usually require the removal of the body within a few hours after death. The staff will help you make arrangements for transportation of the body.
If your loved one dies at home, it will be up to you.
It is legal in all states to keep your loved one’s body at home after they die until a coroner or representative from the funeral home, mortuary, or cremation service you are using arrives to get it. If their death was expected, there is no need to call right away. You can spend some time with them before you call.
When you are ready, call a funeral home, mortuary, or cremation service to claim their body for burial or cremation.
If your loved one made arrangements to donate their body to a medical school or other institution, you could contact them to transport the body if the authorities will allow a direct transfer.
If an autopsy is needed, the coroner will arrange transportation to the appropriate facility.
While it is important to inform those closest to your loved one about their death, this will also allow them to provide support, comfort, and assistance with the many tasks that need to get done. You may need them to help make decisions about a funeral or burial if none had been made beforehand and come with you to make arrangements.
At this point, you may want to contact clergy for support and/or if your faith or culture have a death ritual. You, someone who volunteered, or was designated by you can notify the rest of the family as time permits.
If your loved one had any children or other dependents, you must arrange care for them right away.
You may need to make arrangements to care for pets.
After your loved one has died, their property may be at risk of being stolen or vandalized.