Give yourself adequate time to experience what has happened.  The mortuary does not need to be contacted immediately, allow enough time to call immediate family or close friends to say goodbye and hold or touch your loved one.

When you have said your goodbyes, it is time to call the mortuary, funeral home, or medical school to take your loved one into their care.

Once the body has been moved, you can begin planning the funeral or memorial service. If your loved one bought burial property and paid for funeral prearrangements you will want to locate this paperwork.

If your loved one was a Veteran, they are entitled to burial benefits in a national or state Veteran’s cemetery.  For more information you can visit or call 1-800-827-1000.  You will need the following information:

❑ Date and Place Entered Service

❑ Service Number

❑ Separated from Service Date and Place

❑ Grade or Rank

❑ Organization and Branch of Service

Once the arrangements have been made the family may want to write and submit an obituary to the local newspaper and include information on donations, flowers, etc. You should ask friends or family members to assist calling people to inform them and provide the details for the service.   

The following documents should be located:

  • The Last Will and Testament should be given to the named Personal Representative;

  • Birth certificate

  • Social Security card

  • Marriage license, if you are the spouse you will need proof of marriage when applying for Social Security benefits as well as receiving some insurance and investments.

  • Military discharge papers

  • Life insurance policies for death benefits.

    The attending doctor or medical examiner will supply and sign the death certificate, but the following information about your loved one will be needed for the funeral home to finalize the death certificate:

    ❑ First, middle, and last name

    ❑ Residence and length of time at residence

    ❑ Father’s and Mother’s Name

    ❑ Social Security Number

    ❑ Birth date and Birth place

    ❑ Whether they are of Hispanic origin

    ❑ Race/Ethnicity

    ❑ Tribal Affiliation

    ❑ Marital Status and spouse’s name

    ❑ Highest level of education attained

    ❑ Occupation/Industry

    ❑ Whether they were a member of the US Armed Forces


A Survivor’s Checklist
When a Loved One Dies

  • If employed, contact the employer and inquire about death benefits.

  • If applicable, notify the agent under a Power of Attorney.

  • Notify organizations, church, or clubs your loved one was a member of.

  • Arrange for the care of any pets.

  • All perishable food items, plants, and garbage should be removed from the home.

  • A change of address form needs to be completed in person or by visiting

  • Remove loved one’s name from marketing and mailing lists

  • Contact the Social Security office and other government agencies that may have been making automatic deposits. If you are the spouse, you must apply for Social Security benefits; they are not automatic.

  • File beneficiary claims with life insurance companies.

  • Cancel all automatic payments and home services (cable, newspapers, etc.)

  • Cancel all auto-refills on prescriptions.

  • Cancel the driver’s license.

  • Notify all three credit bureaus.

  • File any claims for health insurance or Medicare.

  • Notify the Registrar of Voters.

  • The Personal Representative should inventory and remove all valuable items, secure the home, and take steps to make the home appear to be occupied.

  • Within forty (40) days of your loved one’s death, the personal representative named in the Will should call the attorney regarding the probate of the estate.

  • The Personal Representative should take the following with them to meet with the probate attorney:

    • Death Certificate

    • Names, addresses and ages of all heirs, legatees, and beneficiaries

    • Original Last Will and Testament

    • Basic understanding of the location and value of assets

  • The probate attorney will eventually also need:

    • Real estate deeds

    • Automobile titles

    • Stock certificates

    • Loan paperwork

    • Bank and retirement account statements

    • Last 2 years of tax returns

    • List of all creditors

    • List of personal property



Attorneys at Law
1201 Pacific Avenue, Suite 1900
Tacoma, WA 98402-4391

253-383-3791 Phone
253-383-6377 Fax







1-800-685-1111 •


1-800-888-4213 •


1-888-397-3742 •


Create a Logbook

Take notes of each contact made on behalf of your loved one.  Include the following:

  • Date
  • Person Called/Number
  • Purpose/Outcome