What to do When a Loved One Dies (Free To-Do List)

The first and most important thing to do when someone you love passes away is to take time. You do not need to call an attorney right away, you do not need to find the will within forty-eight hours, or anything else. You need to focus on getting through that first week.

If you're looking for support during that difficult period, please consider seeking help from any of these free resources.

How to Cope


The 5 Stages of Loss and Grief

Info for Kids about Death

After a few days or a week, it's probably time to call an attorney and set up a meeting for an estate administration. Before the meeting, I recommend getting a binder to keep yourself organized. You should also fill your binder with the following documents before you meet with an attorney. If you can, try to get the following:

1. A copy (or original) of the Death Certificate. If you can, try to get several.

2. A copy (or original) of the decedent's Will, Trust, or any other legacy planning document

3. A rough list of your loved one's assets. Include things like house(s), bank account(s), car(s), life insurance, etc.

Please don't over-exert yourself because this list is bound to change throughout the process. But it's a great place to start.

During your meeting with the attorney, you can likely expect the following:

1. You will be asked to provide a copy of any Will and/or Trust that you know about

2. You will be asked about what your role is in the estate (Are you named as the executor or administrator? Are you a surviving spouse?)

3. The attorney will review the estate's assets with you and then describe the probate process to you. This is because there are different ways to administer estates depending on how large they are, where the assets are located, and what kind of special features the estate has.