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Funeral Planning & Other After-Death Arrangements | Virginia

pink and white flowersWhat to Do After the Death of a Loved One

It can be difficult when a loved one passes, may it be due to an accident, illness, or natural cause. Depending on your beliefs and traditions, there can be several things to arrange even while you are grieving. Learn the essential steps to take after someone dies, including funeral planning and legal paperwork. The things you’ll need to settle  are the following:

Step 1: Get a Legal Death Pronouncement

The official declaration of death is crucial in getting a death certificate. If your friend or relative passes away in a hospital or nursing home, the doctors and staff declare this on site. If your loved one dies at home, you have to call for a medical professional or have the body transferred to an emergency department to get a pronouncement.

Step 2: Make the First Arrangements

When a loved one is pronounced dead, you will have to arrange the body’s transfer from the place of death (like a house, nursing facility, or hospital) to a funeral home. However, if you are not the immediate representative of the deceased, you have to promptly inform their family or whoever is the executor of their estate.

Step 3: Check for Pre-Planned Funeral Arrangements

In case you don’t know the funeral wishes of the deceased, it is best to look for the last will or an agreement for a prepaid funeral plan they might have. You can also check with their lawyers or estate administrators before picking funeral and interment services.

Step 4: Set the Funeral Services and Final Interment 

If your departed loved one did not leave specific instructions or an existing agreement with a funeral home, you have to choose the memorial, burial, or cremation arrangements. Funeral planning includes taking care of the following:

  • Where to hold the funeral or memorial
  • Will the body be buried or cremated
  • What casket or coffin to get
  • What gravestone or urn to buy
  • What to write and where to post the obituary
  • Who to invite

Step 5: Property Safekeeping

There can be a significant number of properties the departed will leave. They are commonly their vehicle and home, including plants and pets. You or another representative can make sure to clean the trash and leftover food, sort out the mail and packages, water the plants, and take care of or rehome pets. It is also necessary to account for valuables, such as cash and jewelry.


Step 6: Inform Their Place of Work and Professional Affiliates

Officially notify the deceased’s employer or business partners. It is also imperative to check on company policies on death benefits if there’s any.


Step 7: File All the Necessary Paperwork

Our lives are full of ways to participate in product consumption, from subscriptions for essential services to bank accounts and memberships. All of those don’t automatically go away when someone dies. You have to first secure copies of the death certificate and trace the following to file for their cancellation or closure:

  • Bank accounts
  • Brokerage accounts
  • Mobile phone plans
  • Internet plans
  • Credit cards
  • Entertainment plans
  • Gym memberships
  • Club memberships
  • Health insurance

File the forms and death certificate to government agencies like the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as well. Eligible families can file for death benefits from the SSA, but if the departed was receiving checks, it needs to stop. The DMV also needs to be informed immediately to remove the validity of the driver’s license and avoid identity theft.

Step 8: Dealing with Their Digital Footprint

Social media accounts, such as Facebook and Instagram, can either be deleted or kept active. You will have to contact the companies and show identification and the death certificate if you choose to memorialize their accounts.

Closing email accounts and other digital profiles would be best to prevent possible identity theft and fraud. Depending on their email service provider, they might require other verification methods aside from the death certificate to delete the accounts.

The amount of paperwork can get overwhelming, especially when you are bereaved, but you don’t have to do it alone. Contact a lawyer, CPA, and funeral director to help you through these challenging times.