When Someone Dies, Here’s Who to Call and What to Do

when someone dies

It’s never easy to lose a loved one, but losing your spouse or wife is one of the most traumatic experiences you’ll ever have. When someone dies, there are many things you must do in addition to saying goodbye to your lifemate. When your spouse passes away, our checklists will explain what you need to do, who you need to contact, and which papers you’ll need.

While this tutorial outlines what to do when a spouse passes away, the advice is applicable to anybody who has lost a loved one.

Priority Checklists for When Someone Dies

There are several responsibilities that must be completed after someone passes away, and regrettably, many of them fall to the surviving spouse. Our checklists outline what you should do in the days, weeks, and months following the death of your spouse or wife.

Immediately After

Here’s what you should do as soon as your spouse passes away:

  • Get a legal pronouncement of death. A doctor or nurse will proclaim a time of death if your partner dies in a hospital, nursing home, assisted living facility, or hospice. Call 911 if they died at home while not under the care of a medical professional. Have your spouse’s do not resuscitate order (DNR) ready to present the paramedics if they have one. Depending on where you reside, a paramedic will proclaim your loved one dead or your loved one will be brought to a hospital to be declared dead by a doctor or nurse.
  • If the death was declared by a paramedic and there will be no autopsy, contact the funeral home, crematorium, or mortuary with whom you wish to work. They’ll carry the body to their facility after picking it up.
  • If your spouse died in a hospital or a care facility, or if they were taken to the hospital for a doctor to pronounce them dead, call a funeral home or another service provider to arrange for the body to be moved to their facility. This is generally something that a professional at the hospital or nursing home can assist you with.
  • If your spouse was an organ donor and died at home without the assistance of a physician, contact a local hospital to handle the process. They should be able to link you with the relevant authority for organ donation if they died under the care of a hospice nurse or paramedic. The funeral home may be able to assist you with this as well.

Within a Few Days

Here’s what you should do within a few days following your spouse’s death:

  • Inform your relatives and acquaintances that your spouse has died. Begin with your closest friends and family members, as well as your spouse or wife. They can assist you in informing others so you don’t have to do it alone. They’ll also be able to assist you with other tasks that you’ll need to do in the coming days and weeks, such as funeral planning. Wait a few days before making a social media announcement so you may personally contact as many individuals as possible.
  • Contact the Social Security Administration (SSA). Although most funeral homes do this, you should still check with your local SSA to be sure this is done. If you report your spouse’s death to the Social Security Administration, any government benefits they received will be terminated, and if you get any of these monies after your partner’s death, you will be required to repay them. You may, however, be entitled to a death benefit of $255.
  • Contact the Department of Veterans Affairs if your spouse was a serving or former military member (VA). You’ll get the funeral and burial benefits for veterans who were active or honorably discharged, in addition to the cancellation of payments to your loved one.
  • Notify your spouse or wife’s employer if they were working at the time of their death. They’ll tell you about any last paychecks you’ll get on their behalf, as well as any life insurance, pensions, and other business benefits they’re qualified for. Additionally, they should contact their work union to check whether they are eligible for any benefits.
  • Notify your employer of your partner’s death by calling them. You should allow yourself time to grieve and finalize your plans.
  • If you have school-aged children, contact their school. Assignments might be postponed or even canceled with the help of the administration and professors. When they return, they may be able to offer grief therapy to your children.
  • Start making final arrangements. You may begin planning funeral service plans now that you’ve called the funeral home, mortuary, or crematorium with whom you’ll be working. If your spouse pre-planned their funeral and has a pre-paid funeral plan, the funeral home will handle the details according to your husband or wife’s wishes. Look for this information in your loved one’s will or other end-of-life documents if you don’t know what their final desires were. Work with your close family members to prepare services that will offer you all comfort and serenity if no official preparations have been made.
  • To begin the claim procedure, they should contact their life insurance providers. Insurance payouts might take days or even weeks to arrive, and because this money can assist cover funeral costs, it’s essential to get started as soon as possible. Furthermore, you will not be required to continue paying premiums. You may need to contact various providers to lodge claims for different plans, depending on their coverage, such as:
    • Burial or funeral insurance: This policy, also known as last expense life insurance, was purchased by your loved one to cover their funeral fees as well as any other bills they left behind.
    • Term life insurance or whole life insurance: You may use these funds for anything you wish, including covering last-minute expenses and supplementing your partner’s wages.
    • Health insurance: You’ll need to make sure that all qualified final medical expenditures are paid, and you’ll need to stop paying premiums.
  • Write an obituary. If you don’t want to compose one yourself, enlist the aid of close family members.

Within 10 Days

Here are some things you should do within 10 days of your spouse’s death:

  • Locate their will. The executor (also known as the administrator) of your partner’s estate is named in the will. Many times, spouses are designated executors, but in order to settle the estate, you’ll need this verified in writing. Keep in mind that most assets and debt are jointly owned by married couples, so the survivor obtains all of the assets they owned together and is responsible for paying off their shared debt when one of them dies. However, it’s still common to leave a will to distribute any property that wasn’t jointly held. Even though solely-owned property and funds are typically left to the surviving spouse, you’ll need your loved one’s will as proof in case someone challenges your right to it. If there is no will, you’ll need to go to probate court to have a judge name an administrator of the estate through letters testamentary, which will most likely be you. Whether you can’t find the will at home, see if it’s in a safe or bank safe deposit box, or get a copy from their lawyer.
  • Obtain a minimum of ten copies of the death certificate. These will be required to notify various entities of your partner’s death, and while some institutions may accept copies, many will want the original.
  • Consult a lawyer who specializes in estate planning. It is possible to settle your spouse’s estate without the help of a lawyer, but because this may be a difficult scenario with numerous beneficiaries, it is advisable to consult with a professional, especially if their estate is worth $50,000 or more.
  • Make contact with your spouse’s estate executor. Husbands and wives are often appointed executors of their partners’ estates, but if you aren’t, you’ll need to contact the person who is to assist in the distribution of their assets according to their will. Your estate attorney can help you get started and assist you through the process.
  • Contact your certified public accountant (CPA). The first year after a spouse dies, your filing status is unlikely to change. Because many widows and widowers file joint tax returns the year their husband or wife dies, you may not need to contact your CPA right away. However, calling them within a few weeks after your partner’s death might be beneficial since they are likely to have financial records that can assist you with insurance and benefit claims. They may also assist you with immediate and long-term financial planning, such as determining if you qualify for extra deductions on your next tax return, how to pay off your spouse’s existing obligations, and what to expect on future tax returns.


In the Months After

Unfortunately, taking care of everything that has to be taken care of after your husband or wife passes away may take months, so be patient. The good news is that there are some things you can put off for a few months, and in some circumstances, waiting is really preferable. It will be easier to seek and get the records you need to make claims if you keep your loved one’s email account open until you’ve collected all of the death benefits you’re entitled to.

When you’re ready, here’s what you’ll need to do in the months after the death of your spouse:

  • Update and make a living heir a part of your will.
  • They should close their email accounts.
  • Close their social media profiles or make memorial sites for them.
  • Cancel any subscriptions that you are no longer interested in.
  • Remove them from your financial accounts as a co-owner and beneficiary. You can want to be the single owner or add a new joint owner, such as a grown kid.
  • Cancel any insurance plans that are purely in the name of your partner and remove them from joint coverage.
  • Remove them from real estate documents, such as your house and automobile.
  • Notify your local election office that they have passed away.
  • Contact the financial assistance offices of your children’s schools if they are attending college or university. Your children may be eligible for financial assistance, even if they weren’t when your spouse died. If they have any school loans, contact those lenders as well; they may be able to decrease or erase the amount. Finally, make sure your children’s Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) for the upcoming school year is completed. Even if your children were not qualified for student aid before to your partner’s death, they may be now that your financial situation has altered.
  • Consider hiring a financial adviser if you don’t already have one. This is especially crucial if your spouse’s death may have a significant financial impact on you as a result of lost income from their employment or work-related benefits. A financial advisor will assist you in creating a new daily budget and give ideas on how to cut your expenses and save for the future.

If you’re having problems coping with your loss, get help. Even though we are surrounded by friends and family shortly following a loved one’s death, they must all return to their normal routines at some time, leaving many individuals feeling solitary in their grief. This is especially difficult for spouses who have lost their husband or wife. Reach out to your loved ones for support if you think you need it to move through your grief. Joining a bereavement support group or working with a mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist, can also be beneficial. One of the most difficult aspects of your spouse’s death will be coping with their loss, but you don’t have to go through it alone.

When a Spouse Passes Away, You’ll Need These Documents

You’ll need a number of paperwork to take care of all you’ll need to do in the days, weeks, and months after your spouse passes away. Whether you don’t know where any of these are, ask your lawyer, CPA, family members, or friends if they have them. Check your loved one’s file cabinets, personal safe, and bank safe deposit box if you’re still missing some after checking with these people. You may need to contact legal or corporate institutions in the worst-case situation, such as the city clerk for a marriage license or a doctor’s office for medical records.

After your spouse passes away, you’ll require the following documents:

  • Birth certificate
  • Death certificate
  • Will
  • Marriage certificate
  • Checking and savings accounts, retirement accounts, pension accounts, loan accounts, and investment accounts such as trusts are all examples of financial account records.
  • Deeds and leasing agreements are examples of real estate records.
  • Other real estate deeds, such as those for automobiles, boats, and recreational vehicles (RVs).
  • All three credit agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) have recently issued credit reports that contain outstanding debts.
  • Records of military service and discharge papers
  • Returns from the previous three years
  • Medical records

What to Do If Your Spouse Passes Away at Home

If your spouse dies at home:

  • If there is no doctor, nurse, or other competent medical professional present, contact 911 for a legal declaration of death, and make sure the paramedics have their DNR. It’s possible that your loved one will be transported to the hospital to be declared dead.
  • Pick up your loved one’s body from your house or the hospital by contacting a funeral home, mortuary, or Crematory.

After you’ve completed these steps, utilize our checklists to take care of the remaining items on your to-do list following the loss of a loved one.

*Note: Some funeral houses are open 24 hours a day, while others are only open during regular business hours. If your service provider refuses to pick up your loved one’s body during off-hours, the ambulance will have to transport it to the mortuary, where it will be picked up the next day.

What to Do If Your Spouse Passes Away Late at Night

If your spouse passes away in the middle of the night:

  • Call 911 unless they’re on hospice or have a full-time caretaker. They’ll send a paramedic to provide you a formal death certificate, or they’ll transfer your partner to the hospital so that a nurse or doctor may do so.
  • Please contact your funeral service provider to arrange for the corpse to be picked up from your home or hospital and transported to their facility.*

From here, use the checklists above to complete the remaining tasks.

*Note: Some funeral houses are open 24 hours a day, while others are only open during regular business hours. If your service provider refuses to pick up your loved one’s body during off-hours, the ambulance will have to transport it to the mortuary, where it will be picked up the next day.

When a spouse passes away due to natural causes or while sleeping, who should you call?

If your companion passes away from natural causes or while sleeping:

  • Call 911 if you don’t have a medical professional with you. This will begin the process of obtaining a legal death pronouncement, whether from a paramedic at your house or from a doctor or nurse at the hospital.
  • Make a call to your funeral home. They’ll arrange for the body’s transportation to their location.*

After that, utilize the checklists at the beginning of this tutorial to take care of the remaining tasks.

*Note: Some funeral houses are open 24 hours a day, while others are only open during regular business hours. If your service provider refuses to pick up your loved one’s body during off-hours, the ambulance will have to transport it to the mortuary, where it will be picked up the next day.

When a Spouse Passes Away, Who Should You Call?

After your spouse dies away, you’ll need to notify people of his or her death, in addition to phoning 911 and your funeral service provider.

When a spouse passes away, call family members, friends, and other personal contacts.

  • Your closest family members. The first individuals you should contact are your children, parents and parents-in-law, siblings and siblings-in-law, and any close relatives. They can assist you in making contact with other family members as well as the experts and agencies you’ll be working with to finalize the estate’s arrangements.
  • Your spouse’s employer.
  • Your employer.
  • Your children’s teachers and school administration.

When a Spouse Passes Away, Who Should You Call?

  • The funeral planner.
  • Providers of your spouse’s life insurance, including the holder of their burial insurance policy.
  • HR departments of your spouse’s prior workplaces are a good place to start. They may be eligible for life insurance or a pension from firms where they previously worked.
  • Your estate attorney.
  • Your CPA.
  • You work with personal finance specialists and financial institutions where your spouse held accounts. Checking and savings accounts, credit cards, investments such as 401(k)s and individual retirement accounts (IRAs), and loans such as mortgages and vehicle loans are all account kinds that need to be updated.
  • Utility businesses whose account is held by your spouse.
  • Companies to which your spouse was a subscriber.

When a spouse passes away, government agencies should be contacted.

  • The Social Security Administration (SSA). Your spouse’s Medicare, Medicaid, and other government benefits will be terminated as a result of this action.
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Notifying the DMV of your loved one’s death helps to avoid identity theft by deleting their name from the agency’s database, ensuring that no more mail is issued to them.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). Once you report the death to the SSA, the VA will be notified. However, you should contact the VA directly to get the life insurance and death benefits your loved one was qualified for via their military service as soon as possible.

What to Do If a Spouse Passes Away Without Leaving a Will

If your spouse died without a will, you’ll need to go to the probate court within a few weeks after their passing. There is no authorized agent to settle their affairs because there is no will. A probate court judge will appoint an administrator to handle these responsibilities, which is frequently the spouse.

It’s a good idea to deal with an estate attorney for this procedure since settling an estate through probate court can be more challenging than doing it through a will, where the beneficiaries and last desires are clearly expressed. Probate can take years to complete, so look for an existing will before going through this procedure.



One thought on “When Someone Dies, Here’s Who to Call and What to Do

  1. Zachary Tomlinson says:

    I had no idea that a funeral home could help you plan out the final service for your loved one before his burial or cremation. I want to learn more about this topic after hearing my uncle talking about his plans once something terrible happens to him. Maybe we should look around for these facilities in the future so he’d consider which service fits him.

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