Life throws curve balls, that much we know. The death of a loved one is an emotional and heart-wrenching time, and attending to all of the details that need to be addressed in the days, weeks and months that follow can feel completely overwhelming.

Unfortunately, the importance of checking these tasks off your to-do list cannot be overlooked. As many of them are time-sensitive, it can be helpful to break them into categories based on priority level. Here we have outlined some of the most important steps, broken down based on time-sensitivity. You can find a more detailed list here.

To do immediately

The first category of items should be things to be done as soon as possible after your loved one’s death. Of course, you’ll want to notify family and friends of the death as soon as possible, in addition to alerting any possible employers. You’ll also need to order a death certificate from your local town or city hall. This is especially important to remember if the death was sudden and unexpected, as a hospital or hospice care facility will only take care of ordering a certificate if your loved one was in their care. Also note that if you are working with a funeral home, they will most likely assist you with ordering the death certificate.

Making arrangements for your loved one’s remains is another high-priority task. If applicable, you’ll want to start the organ donation process as soon as possible, as it is time-sensitive. You can do so by alerting a nearby hospital, or if your loved one is inpatient, by alerting staff. Following, you should determine if there were any final wishes expressed. Did your loved one hope to be buried at a family plot? Did they wish to have their ashes scattered at a beloved location? Begin planning accordingly.

One important thing to remember, especially in the overwhelming initial aftershock of the death, is that you don’t have to do everything on your own. Delegate tasks to close friends or family members. From helping to make phone-calls to alert others, to contacting funeral homes and assisting with plans, to submitting an obituary, your support system is in place for unthinkable times like these.

To do within a week

Over the next few days, you should start taking care of household obligations such as forwarding mail, disposing of food that might spoil, watering plants, etc. It’s also the time when service arrangements should be made. From meeting with a funeral home director to plan for services, selecting and inviting pallbearers and other participants, ordering flowers, coordinating refreshments if desired, and alerting people about the service, planning a funeral or memorial service often requires many steps. Ensure that there is enough time to plan everything out by getting a head start.

To do within a few weeks

Once funeral or memorial service plans have been arranged, it’s time to start looking at the big picture. From a financial perspective, you’ll want to notify social security, any banks or mortgage companies, financial advisors, brokers, or accountants, in addition to paying any important or outstanding bills, canceling or restructuring any insurance policies, and canceling credit cards. It’s also very important to meet with an estate planning attorney and a financial advisor within the first few weeks to ensure that nothing slips through the cracks.

At WH Cornerstone, we understand that the death of a spouse can feel like an insurmountable challenge, and our promise to you is to be the second set of eyes that you need in your darkest hour. We appreciate that this phase of your life is a time to heal and we want to give you financial peace of mind so that you can focus on just that. And when you’re ready, our team will help you chart the course of the path ahead.

Download our detailed step-by-step checklist of what to do what a loved one dies.

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