What to Do First

What to do first

When someone dies in a hospital or similar care facility, the staff will usually take care of some arrangements, such as contacting the funeral home you choose, and if necessary, arranging an autopsy.


Who To Call

Where a death has been anticipated, call the Decedents physician.

If the death occurs at home, you may need to contact a local police officer or coroner.

If the death is unexpected, call emergency services first. If you are concerned or uncertain about the circumstances surrounding a death, contact your local coroner’s office.

Make a list of immediate family, close friends, and employer or business colleagues. Inform them by phone, if possible. Oftentimes a trusted friend will handle these calls. Select and notify pall bearers and honorary pall bearers if desired. Notify lawyer and executor as well.


Documents to look for:

  • Will
  • birth and marriage certificates
  • property deeds and mortgage papers
  • home loan details (latest statement of loan account containing details about finance for the deceaseds property)
  • lease (rented property)
  • tax records
  • all insurance policies
  • bank account details
  • any documents about pre-paid funeral arrangements or burial plots


Organ Donation

If the Decedent wished, a donation of body parts and tissues should be considered.


Death Certificate

A death certificate is the official registration of death which is needed to deal with money or property left by the person who has died. The funeral director will issue several copies of a proof of death.



If there will be an obituary notice, write or make notes for its content. This will often includes age, birth date, date of death, cause of death, occupation, immediate family, and other appropriate information. Remember that lengthy obituaries can be expensive and too much information can sometimes lead to identity theft.


Organizing the Funeral

A licensed funeral director can arrange the funeral for you as well as other things such as newspaper notices, flowers and services.  The Executor and/or next of kin are responsible to make the arrangements with the funeral director.


Pre-Arranged Funerals

If you think there were arrangements made to prepay a funeral, contact the organization or business that the deceased may have made arrangements with for the funeral service plans.



A will is a written document that controls the disposal of a person’s property after death.  Check for the deceased’s personal effects at home or in their safety deposit box, or contact persons that may be in possession of the will.


Insurance policies

Find out if the person who has died had any private health, life or accident insurance policies that may contribute towards the cost of a funeral.  Then contact the company to inquire if there is any payment available.


Public Trustee

In the case of estates of people who have died with no one else capable or willing to act as administrator or executor, contact the Public Trustee.


When There Is No Will

In cases where no will has been made by the deceased, then the next of kin will need to apply as Estate Trustee in order to handle the affairs of the deceased.


Settling the Estate

You need to make sure that all the change-of-status paperwork is completed.
Deal with the insurance companies and government agencies.
Create and inventory of the home and evaluate all assets. Declutter, downsize and organize.
Sell or donate the furnishings, clothing and collectables.