Gregory S. DuPont
What to Do When a Family Member Dies
If you've recently lost a family member or other loved one, you're probably feeling overwhelmed and confused about what to do next. The last thing most people want to think about is making phone calls or funeral arrangements. While some things can be put off until later, other steps should be taken as soon as possible after the death of your loved one. We hope the following will guide you through the grieving process.
You don't have to do anything right away after your loved one dies. It is OK to sit with them for a while, even if he or she died in a hospital. Just let the hospital staff know if there are any religious customs or ceremonies you would like to carry out before your loved one's body is removed. If you find it comforting, set aside time to call your pastor, rabbi, priest or other religious advisors, as well as any close family members or friends.
Note: If your loved one wanted to be an organ donor, it's important to take action right away. In this situation, the hospital where the death occurred, or if it occurred at home, a nearby hospital, should be informed as soon as possible so that appropriate action can be taken. If you are unsure, check your family member’s driver’s license or health care directives. Even if your loved one has joined a state or national organ donor registry, family members remain responsible for making the final decision.
As soon as you can, you should obtain a legal pronouncement of death by a doctor or hospice nurse. If no one is immediately available to make an official declaration of death, the body may be taken to an emergency department, where a doctor can make the pronouncement. Barring the need for further medical examination or autopsy, the pronouncement of death will enable a death certificate to be prepared. You must get a death certificate before some of the later steps can be taken.
If your loved one died at home, make arrangements for the body to be picked up. This is typically done by a funeral home. If your loved one died in a hospital or nursing facility, the staff are usually able to make those arrangements for you. Your loved one may have already chosen a funeral home and made funeral plans, but if not, the choice can be made by you and other family remembers.
If necessary, arrange for the care of any dependent children, adults, and/or pets. If your loved one had a will, it should include instructions for guardianship. If there was no will or guardianship nomination, you may have to request a court to issue an emergency order to ensure that any children or dependent adults are properly taken care of.
Make arrangements to secure your loved one’s house and car, and if the home will remain vacant, notify the a neighbor or landlord to keep a closer eye on it. A friend or family member should also regularly check for mail or phone messages, clean out perishable food, and water plants.
Find out if your loved one made pre-arrangements for a funeral or memorial service, and if not, ask a family member or friend to help you make those arrangements. Remember, you shouldn't have to do this alone. If the decedent was a member of the military, let the funeral home know if you would like a military funeral and they make those arrangements for you.
Prepare an obituary and send it to any local newspapers in which you would like for it to appear.
Following Your Loved One's Estate Plan
Once you’ve taken care of these initial concerns, it is time to begin the estate administration or trust administration process. Although taking care of some aspects of probate administration on your own may seem simple, this process can actually be quite complex, and small mistakes can lead to major headaches down the road.
It is important to contact an experienced probate attorney to help you with the process, as well as any other legal matters that may arise during this difficult and emotional time.
If you have recently lost a loved one and need to take care of their probate estate, or other legal matters, The Law Offices of DuPont and Blumenstiel can help. We understand that this can be a stressful and difficult time, and we are here to support you every step of the way. We will help guide you through the entire legal process so you an your family members can focus on healing. Please don't hesitate to contact us at 614-389-9711 to speak with an attorney.