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The First Three Months

If the death occurred at home, contact the coroner or local police. Inquire about obtaining copies of the death certificate.

Notify friends and family. Ask immediate family members to each call several people. There’s no reason you should have to do this on your own.

If there is a will, find it and look for funeral instructions and direction about the donation of organs. If there is no will, speak with family and friends about the Deceased’s wishes.

Contact companies with whom the Deceased had accounts and credit cards to cancel them.

Locate important papers such as the will, birth certificate, death certificate, marriage licenses, social security card, and tax forms. You may need to reference such documents.

Contact a local funeral home to start making arrangements. Consider religious and cultural traditions in your planning.

Obtain many copies of the death certificate; you may need as many as a dozen.

Contact the Social Security Administration and benefit programs to notify them of the death as well as the Deceased’s employer and insurance companies.

If you plan on keeping the Deceased’s vehicle, transfer the title into your name. Note that the vehicle is part of the estate and may be included in probate proceedings, but some states do have exemptions for vehicles. If there is a loan or lien on the vehicle, it must be paid before the title of the vehicle can be transferred.


  • Local police or coroner
  • Friends and family - consider using a phone tree to make sure everyone is notified
  • Local funeral home
  • County Records Office
  • The Deceased’s primary care physician
  • The Deceased’s employer and benefit programs
  • The United States Social Security Administration 1-800-772-1213

The contents of this checklist are intended to provide helpful suggestions to a family member or other survivor who has assumed the duties of concluding the affairs of a loved one/decedent. The list is not intended to be exhaustive. It is not intended to provide legal or financial advice nor to be relied on in lieu of such services.  If you have specific questions relating to an estate you are handling, you may find it helpful to consult with a probate attorney or financial professional.