What Should I Do When Someone Dies?

Estate planning lawyers help people prepare for the inevitable by drafting plans to deal with the realities of aging and death. Yet even though you might have an estate plan in place, you can be totally unprepared for what to do after a close friend, loved one, or family member dies.

No matter how much planning you have done, or how comprehensive an estate plan your deceased loved one had, the practical realities of dealing with a death in the family are often overwhelming. This is doubly true because people who learn that a loved one has died are often in shock, and can have a difficult time making sure they do what needs to be done. Here are some practical steps you can take when someone close to you dies.


Upon learning of a loved one’s death, one of the first things you will want to do is make a number of calls. The calls you make will depend upon the circumstances of death. For example, if the loved one dies in the hospital, the hospital staff will often notify a funeral director as well as make arrangements for an autopsy, if necessary.

You will probably have to make calls to other friends and relatives to notify them of the death. You can start by making a list of people you should call. This should include close relatives, friends, coworkers, clergy, and other people who were close to the deceased. If there are a lot of people on your list, you can help ensure that everyone gets called by asking some of the people you call to also make some calls. For example, you can ask each person to call two or more people on your list, and then mark those names off.

Notify the Executor

If the person who died had an estate plan, he or she likely named an executor. The executor is responsible for managing the estate, and will typically know important details about what the decedent wanted after he or she dies. If you know who the executor is, or know who the deceased’s estate planning lawyer was, contact that person as soon as possible. The executor will typically know, for example, what kind of funeral or burial arrangements are appropriate, whether there is an obituary prepared, and will be able to help you identify other people that need to be contacted after someone dies.

Gather Documents

If there is no executor or the deceased person didn’t have an estate plan, you’ll probably need to begin collecting documents. One of the most important is the death certificate, but insurance policies, tax returns, and similar documentation will also be important in the days ahead. For better understanding of what you need, call our offices at 719-520-1474 or at 303-736-6060.

Author Bio

Catherine Hammond is the CEO and founder of Hammond Law Group, a Colorado-based estate planning law firm she founded in 2005. With a strong focus on protecting families from the legal consequences of disability and death, she creates comprehensive estate plans that minimize taxes, costs, and government interference.

A native of Denver, Catherine completed her undergraduate studies at Coe College in Iowa, and her Juris Doctorate from the University of Denver College of Law in 1993, concentrating on estate planning, tax, and mediation. Catherine is a member of various professional organizations, including WealthCounsel, ElderCounsel, the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys, the Colorado Springs Estate Planning Council, and the Purposeful Planning Institute. Beyond her legal expertise, Catherine provides transformational coaching to support clients and their families through life transitions.

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