Woman with lily flowers and coffin at funeral.

What to Do First When Someone Dies

Law Office of Rodney Gould July 22, 2022

The death of a loved one can be devastating news to receive. Even if they were elderly or in poor health, the reality can be hard to accept, and you may be unclear about what to do next or how to handle the estate. While 68% of people aged 65 and older have wills in place that can help surviving family members carry out the deceased’s wishes, fewer Americans overall are writing out wills, according to a new Gallup poll. Because of this, everyone should have a basic idea of what to do when a loved one dies. For help with any aspect of probate or estate planning, reach out to the ​​Law Office of Rodney Gould. From his office in Los Angeles, California, Rodney Gould is able to serve individuals and families throughout the area, including Sherman Oaks, Studio City, West Hollywood, and Beverly Hills.

What is the First Thing I Should Do When a Loved One Dies?

The first thing to do after a loved one dies is to obtain a legal pronouncement of death. If the deceased had been in a hospital or hospice care, then the staff should take care of this step for you. However, if they died at home, you will need to do it. Call 911 as soon as possible and explain that someone has died in your home. They will then contact the county coroner’s office and send an ambulance, which will take the deceased to an emergency room where they can make a formal declaration of death.

Who Do I Need to Notify?

Next, you will need to send out notifications of the death. This should include family, friends, employers, coworkers, church, bank, social clubs, social security office, and insurance companies. Some of these should be done in person or over the phone, but others you may choose to do over an email or social media posting. If you have access to the deceased’s social media accounts, you could make a statement there as well. 

What Funeral Arrangements Should Be Made?

If the deceased had an estate plan, there may be funeral instructions including whether they want to be cremated, buried, and what kind of memorial service they want. You may also need to ask other family members if they know of any last wishes and what funds are available to pay for it.

What About Children and Pets?

If the deceased had minor-aged children, they should have named a guardian in their will, but if there is no such document, you’ll need to make arrangements immediately. This is also true of any pets they have left behind. 

Do I Need to Get a Death Certificate?

You will have to obtain a death certificate, and usually, your funeral director or medical examiner can help with this. Try to get this done within a week of the death and order several copies since you’ll need them as you administer the estate.

How is the Will or Trust Handled?

You’ll first need to locate the decedent’s estate plan and identify the executor. This person will be in charge of administering the will or trust and distributing assets to the named beneficiaries. Wills must go through the legal process of probate, but trusts can be administered almost immediately. If you are the executor of a will, reach out to a probate attorney.

Do I Need an Attorney?

You don’t technically need to hire an estate planning attorney, but many people choose to assist with the administration of the estate. An experienced attorney can help ease the burden of sifting through all the tasks that must be accomplished after someone dies, can ensure you’re following state law and can help resolve any issues that arise.

Experience You Can Trust:

Law Office of Rodney Gould

If you’re in the ​​Los Angeles, California area and need to consult with a skilled attorney about the recent death of a loved one, call the ​​Law Office of Rodney Gould. You’ll receive guidance and support to make it through this difficult time.