What You Need to Know About a Death in the Family

What You Need to Know About a Death in the Family

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Losing someone you love dearly is one of life’s most traumatic events. However, you have to pull yourself together enough to take care of the necessary steps before you can let yourself mourn.

Many people are unaware of what they should do until someone dies. They then find themselves scrambling. Use this guide to learn what you need to know about a death in the family.

1. Contact the Appropriate Authorities

Few things are more traumatic than going to wake up someone you love only to realize that they won’t be rising again. However, if they die at home, you need to call 911 and have a medical professional provide a legal pronouncement of death and move your deceased dear one to a funeral home.

Your job is a bit easier if your loved one passes away in the hospital or hospice. The facility doctor or nurse will prepare this form, which acts as a legal document like a birth certificate. They’ll also walk you through the next steps, easing your burden at a time when you probably aren’t thinking straight.

2. Call Everyone Who Should Know

Once the authorities have declared your loved ones legally dead, it’s time to start the communication chain. The best way to inform others is in person or by phone. A text message or email is far too impersonal. However, if you find it difficult to reach someone who should know, it’s okay to message them to return your call as soon as possible.

The personal touch is more important today than ever. While you can find online scripts for posting to social media after someone dies, you can unwittingly start a family feud if you act rashly. Other close relatives and loved ones may justifiably ask why they had to read the news on Facebook instead of getting a phone call.

Keep in mind that not everyone uses the same tools that you do. Some older generations might still request that you place an announcement in your local newspaper. You can often use the same phrasing for online and print publications if you choose to go that route.

3. Discern the Decedent’s Final Wishes


Some families have a tradition of planning their funerals so that everyone knows each member’s wishes when the time comes. Others are hush-hush about how they would like to be remembered after they pass.

Funerals are expensive, with the average one costing over $7,000 — a serious chunk of change for many families. If the person who passed has life or final expense insurance, it can help to ease the burden, although you’ll need the death certificate to claim your benefits. You can use an online policy locator if you aren’t sure if they have coverage.

Other options exist besides the traditional. Some people now have their remains cremated and turned into fertilizer for trees. Their loved ones can visit their memorial tree in a special forest. Others donate their bodies to science or opt for cremation, which weighs in at a fraction of the cost of a traditional burial.

4. Manage the Estate Details

If the person who died left property behind, you’ll have to manage their estate details. The process depends on whether they die with a will or without one (intestate).

If they die without a will, the legal process for dividing their estate will take longer. The court will divide the property according to the laws of the state. In many cases, it passes to the surviving spouse and then the children.

Things get tricky when you have blended families, with the person who passed having children with different partners. Furthermore, you could find yourself suddenly struggling to pay the bills if your live-in partner dies and all of their property passes to their children from a previous marriage. In such cases, a will is best. If the deceased didn’t leave one, prepare yourself for what could be a lengthy battle.

5. Give Yourself Time to Grieve

Finally, you need to give yourself time to grieve and process your loss once you complete the necessary legwork. Hopefully, you have a compassionate employer. The U.S. stands alone among wealthy nations in not guaranteeing a single day of paid leave like other countries — not even if your spouse passes away.

Explore your options. If the thought of showing your face at the office reduces you to tears, request that you telecommute for a while. If your employer could make such arrangements during the pandemic but won’t for your bereavement, that’s a sure sign of how little they value you. Please sleep on any life-altering decisions during this time — but make a mental note to dust off your resume while there’s still a labor shortage.

If you have a customer-facing role, see if you can arrange for a few days’ leave. If that’s not possible, could you move to a position with less chance of potentially triggering interactions with others, perhaps silently bussing tables instead of serving?

What You Need to Know About a Death in the Family

Losing someone you love is one of the most traumatic events you can experience. Sadly, many people don’t know what to do when the inevitable happens.

Consult this guide when you need to know what to do about a death in the family. Tend to your responsibilities, then take the time you need to mend your broken heart.