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Responsibilities When Someone Dies

Page history last edited by Holly Swyers 5 years, 4 months ago

What are important things to take care of when someone you are responsible for dies?

While we don't like to think about death, each of us at some point in our adult lives are likely to have to confront the loss of a friend of loved one, and it is possible that we will be responsible for elements of their funeral arrangements and estate. 


Planning for death

When people are getting older or when they experience an illness that could be terminal, it is often a good idea to have conversations about what they would like to have happen after they die. While this may feel morbid or defeatist, it can be reassuring to someone who is facing death to know that there is a plan to take care of any business they may be unable to take care of themselves. It can also be comforting to you after a person has died to know you are doing exactly what they wanted.


Obtaining a death certificate

One of the earliest things you will need to do is to get a death certificate for the person who has died. Many of the other things you need to do to settle the obligations of the deceased require that you have a death certificate to verify the person has died.


Making funeral arrangements

If the person who died has given instructions for their funeral, then you'll want to do your best to honor those wishes. Some people may have already bought burial plots or put aside funds to cover funeral expenses, so you'll want to check their records to see if that is the case. 


Contacting friends and acquaintenances

Close friends, family members, and employers/employees should be contacted directly, but it is unlikely that you will know the deceased's entire network of acquaintances. You should craft and submit an obituary or death notice to an appropriate newspaper or online source. 


Closing accounts

This is perhaps the most complicated aspect of handling a death beyond the real challenge of grief. You will need to know all of the deceased's accounts and passwords in order to cancel and close accounts. You will want need to settle their debts, pay off their last bills, potentially cancel a lease, and decide on how to handle assets that are not covered by a will or probate. You will need to manage life insurance and social security accounts, as well as any bank accounts and safety deposit boxes.


Executing a will

In the event that the person who died had a will, that will guide the process of how their assets and possessions should be disbursed after they died.


Deciding how to manage the deceased's belongings

While many things may be covered by a will, it is likely that the deceased has left many things in their home that have little value and will need to be disposed of. For many people, sorting through a dead loved one's things is profoundly difficult and stirs grief in complicated ways. While there is no way to entirely prepare for the process, be aware that it is something that needs to be done. 


This page was developed from interviews with: 

Joyce Barry, Arlene London, Melissa Adams, Julia Caldwell, Dennis Powell, Arthur Miller, Olga Rushdie, Gustav Dos Passos, Isaac Irene, Percy Ida


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