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After Your Loved One's Death: A Timeline

When a loved one dies unexpectedly, you feel overwhelmed by shock and grief. You know there are many things you need to care of, but you can't keep track of all of them, especially with the emotional toll of losing your family member.

Here is a simple timeline to help you with all the details.

Immediately After the Death

After you've said your goodbyes to your loved one, there are a few tasks you should do as soon as possible.

Spread the Word

Of course, you'll want to let immediate family members know about the death as soon as possible. But remember to let the following people know as well:

  • 911, if your loved one died outside a hospital or nursing home
  • Your loved one's doctors
  • The county coroner
  • The executor of your loved one's estate
  • Your loved one's religious leaders
  • Your loved one's insurance company
  • Your loved one's employer
  • The Social Security office

After you've contacted these people, you'll also want to let others know, such as your loved one's landlord, banks, credit cards, and utility companies.

Don't feel like you have to handle all of these phone calls alone. Divide these phone calls among your other family members if possible.

Collect Information for the Death Certificate

You'll need a death certificate to move forward with the funeral and take care of any legal issues. Your funeral director can help you obtain the certificate, but you'll need the following information about your loved one:

  • Time and date of death (as declared by a medical professional)
  • Social Security number
  • Birthday and birth place
  • Parents' full names
  • Occupation and workplace
  • Insurance policies
  • Military discharge information (if applicable)

Once you have this information, you're ready to start planning the burial details.

Within the First Two Days

Due to health codes, your loved one's body must be taken care of within about 48 hours. Thus, you need to do the following as soon as possible.

Choose a Funeral Director

The funeral director will prepare your loved one's body and help you organize all the details for your loved one's funeral, so it's important to find one you can trust. You might wish to call several different funeral homes before you decide. Choose a funeral director who respects your religious traditions. Your family members and friends might know someone they can recommend.

Make a Burial Decision

Your funeral director will ask you how you prefer to bury your loved one. Hopefully, your loved one left a will to let you know what his or her preferences. If not, you and your family members can decide between the following:

  • Burial. The body is placed in a casket and buried in a cemetery plot.
  • Cremation. The body's ashes can be scattered or placed in an urn.
  • Entombment. The body is housed above ground in a tomb or mausoleum.

No matter which option you choose, there are costs involved. If you choose burial, for example, you need to purchase a cemetery plot, casket, vault, and grave marker. The options at funeral homes are often high in price. Fortunately, you can find more affordable options when you order from a casket company.

Before the Funeral

As you work with the funeral director, you'll need to make some important decisions. Besides the date, time, and location, funeral decisions include who will speak, who will play music, and who will serve as pallbearers.

You may also need to set details about the burial or any other remembrance events. You'll also need to write an obituary. Your funeral director can help you make these decisions.

A family member's death can make you feel overwhelmed. Gain some sense of control by following this timeline.

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