You’ve Lost a Loved One…Now What?

What You Need to Do While You Grieve

It’s hard enough to go through the loss of a parent, spouse or other close family member or friend.

But when you’re the one who has to handle all of the arrangements…it can be even more stressful.

Suddenly you become the “go to” person for your family plus your loved one’s medical, legal and financial affairs. And at the same time, you need to process your own grief.

Nothing can make this time easy. But if you have a plan (even when your loved one is still alive and even healthy), you can make it easier on yourself and your family and friends.

Here are the most important tasks you will face and a few suggestions to make them more manageable:

As Soon As Possible After Your Loved One Passes

  • Contact a funeral home to arrange a viewing, memorial service, and burial or cremation. If your loved one left any instructions, be sure to follow them if possible
  • Locate your loved one’s will, trust, and estate plan (if they exist)
  • Request 10-12 copies of the death certificate from the county clerk or recorder. Seems like a lot, but you’ll need them. A funeral home director can help you with this.
  • If they left a will and you’re not the executor, contact that person as soon as possible

Next Steps

Start accumulating the following documents and information (in addition to the will and copies of the death certificate):

  • Financial statements (bank account, investment accounts, retirement accounts, etc.)
  • Real estate deeds or titles
  • Car titles or lease agreements
  • Storage unit keys, access codes, and account records
  • Any unpaid bills or credit card statements
  • A list of digital accounts and passwords

Once you get through the first few days, you’ll also need to get in touch with the following people or entities:

  • An attorney who manages wills and probate. If your loved one left a will or estate plan, it’s best to work with the attorney who prepared these. If your loved one didn’t leave a will or estate plan, you will still need an attorney to advise you during the probate process
  • The HR or personnel office at their job (if they were employed). They may need you to fill out paperwork for your loved one’s retirement plan, health benefits and unused vacation
  • Any creditors and credit card companies…they’ll need to know when any existing debts will be paid by you or the estate
  • Major credit bureaus like Experian, Equifax and TransUnion
  • Any companies receiving automatic payments…these may need to be put in the executor’s name until they can be stopped
  • Insurance companies and investment or retirement account brokers. Request payment to the named beneficiaries of your loved one’s policies or accounts. Fortunately, these payments don’t require probate.

Finally…and Most Important

It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you’re responsible for settling another person’s affairs. When it’s someone close to you, it’s even harder.

Don’t feel like you must handle everything yourself. Reach out to other family and friends to help with these tasks. A huge burden is more manageable when you get help.

Give yourself time to grieve…especially during the first weeks. Most of these tasks will take a while to resolve, even if your loved one left their arrangements in good shape.

And if you need help during your personal grief process, consult with a grief counselor or clergy. They can help you understand all the things you’re going through and the best way to process them.

Death of a loved one can be one of the most difficult things any person experiences in their entire life.  If you need help to manage the affairs of a loved one who has passed away…or you want to reduce the burden on your loved ones if you die, feel free to contact me either through my website ( email ( or via Facebook or LinkedIn.