What to do when someone dies

What to do when someone dies

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Last goodbye

Thinking about what you need to do when someone dies may seem fairly obvious. Register the death, share the sad news, plan the funeral and grieve – right? Absolutely correct. Yet until you are faced with dealing with a death, most people often do not realise the overwhelming amount of tasks needed in the weeks and months that follow.

Arranging a funeral at short notice will be difficult, however it maybe the task that is the easiest to navigate. You can be guided and supported through this process by funeral planning services. You may even have an idea of the persons funeral wishes, as well as support from family and friends who may have themselves planned other funerals.

It is often the other practical tasks needed after a death that can be unexpected and stressful. Working through the process of unravelling a life can be complicated and distressing. This is not something we do often so it is no surprise that this does not come naturally to most people. Depending on your relationship and closeness to the deceased, can often indicate what your role will be in dealing with their affairs.

Here we consider what you need to do when someone dies.  

Register the Death and Funeral Arrangements

Once you have registered the death, the next steps will be to make funeral arrangements. Check to see if the person had recorded their funeral wishes and if they had any pre-arranged funeral plans. If so, this will assist you in planning the funeral.

You will need to contact people to let them know and share with them the funeral plans.

You may be able to share some of this role with other family members. It can be difficult to repeat the circumstances around the death over and over again.

However it may give you comfort to hear peoples condolences and fond memories of your loved one.

Image of graveyard

If there are any complicated family circumstances for example if you are estranged from others that need to know, consider if there are other ways that you can communicate the news to them to alleviate any further stress for you. Again consider asking a neutral person to do this for you if this would help you.

Wakes and gatherings can be emotionally challenging however does give people the chance to come together to mourn their passing and reflect on their life. Consider the most appropriate way to mark their life and make arrangements that you feel comfortable with.

Notifying services and companies

There will be lots of different people and companies that will need to be notified of the death – some more urgent than others. Create a list of all of the people that need to be notified and arrange them in order of urgency. This will help you prioritise who to contact first and spread out the tasks needed so as not to overwhelm you.

Image of man at funeral with flowers


  • Local Authority
  • Department of Work and Pensions
  • Health care and Home Care services
  • Banks and financial services
  • Employers
  • Solicitors
  • Accountants
  • Executors of the will
  • Other services they had in place such as gyms, memberships of clubs and societies and home services

Locate important paperwork

A soon as possible, gather important information and paperwork. This is even more important if their house will be empty for security purposes.

  • Bank cards, statements, paying in books and cheque books
  • Wills
  • Legal paperwork including birth, death and marriage certificates, property deeds and vehicle ownership paperwork
  • Executors contact information
  • Life insurance paperwork
  • Financial paperwork such as stocks, shares, pensions and loan agreements


Image of old folders

Practical tasks

Now you will need to think about the practical arrangements for their home, family, pets and valuables.

You should consider if there are any legal implications around these issues. Discuss the following areas with the Executor(s) before taking any action. Doing any of this, disposing of items or removing items of value may lead to future complications if not planned properly or agreed first.

Important tasks to consider:

  • Property – does the property need to be sold or returned to the landlord?
  • Family responsibilities – make sure that routines can be kept where possible while alternative arrangements are being made.
  • Pets – who will be able to care for their pets in the short and long term?
  • Utility accounts will need to be contacted
  • General household bills will need to be dealt with
  • Insurance accounts may need to be amended or cancelled
  • Clothing and personal possessions – what would you need to do with these?
  • Are there any valuable items in the home? What should happen to them and can they be kept safely elsewhere in the meantime?
  • Vehicles
  • Stopping mail and letting non-urgent companies and services know of the death

Take care of yourself

This process will not be completed in a matter of days. The process of dealing with someone’s life after a death can take months if not years. Life does go on and after taking any compassionate leave, you will probably be back at work, leading a busy family life with lots of responsibilities. All of this whilst grieving the loss of your loved one.

Take time to look after yourself, practice some positive self-care and be kind to yourself. Speak to someone about how you are feeling and reach out of things become too much to deal with. If people do offer to help you with any parts of the process, do not be afraid to accept this and share the burden with others.

Plan ahead

Consider your relationships and what your role would be if someone close to you died. Could you have these discussions regularly to get people thinking about what their wishes are? You may be able to gently encourage others to organise their affairs for the future.

We are not saying you should live your life just waiting for death. Instead we encourage people to have the conversations and a broad idea of what your role would be. If you are aware of what you would need to do, this can alleviate some of the uncertainty in the future.

Create your own Sunset Plan. Our secure digital vault service provides structure when storing and organising your important information in one convenient place. Getting organised now, may just help ease some of the pressure on others in the future.

Why not share this post on social media? If you know someone who is recently bereaved, this post may support them when tackling the practical tasks needed after their loss.

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