What to Do When Someone Dies At Home
Published March 11, 2021
No one is ever mentally prepared to face a loved one’s death. Dealing with a relative or friend’s sudden death can cause a whirlwind of emotions. The grieving process may take some time, but you may face handling legal matters regarding what to do next sooner than you think. The process may include notifying all relatives and close friends, checking for any last wishes, and the likes.
Even though you are not immediate family, if you were present during a person’s death, you carry significant responsibility of knowing what to do next. These things would be much easier if a person dies in a hospital because experts will be there to guide you. How would you handle the situation if someone dies in your home? This article will discuss the procedures you need to take and all you need to know on what to do when someone dies at home.
Handling a Death at Home
1. Share the News to Relevant People
An essential step following a person’s passing is to inform any other family members and friends related to them. Regardless of where they died, sharing the news, especially to immediate family, is crucial. You may share the information by sending a text or, better, making a phone call. Not all people will react the same way so prepare to deal with various emotions that may also influence your own.
Informing the deceased person’s parents can be dreadful as they may get too upset and react hysterically. Informing them as soon as possible is better than prolonging the process and avoiding sharing vital information. It is also essential to tell anyone the person worked with, such as a colleague or their boss. Telling them will prevent confusion when colleagues and coworkers start to look for the person or try to get a hold of them.
2. Call the Hospital and Check if the Person is an Organ Donor
If a person dies at a hospital, doctors would usually try to find out if the person is an organ donor or not. When a person dies at home, you may still proceed to this step. Some individuals register to become organ donors when they pass while they are still alive. People usually do this because they want to help other people and do one last good thing for the world.
Even if a person dies at home, you may still look for any documentation or proof that the person was an organ donor by looking through their driver’s license, living will statement, and such. If you already know that the person wished to donate their organs before they died, you may inform the people in charge at the hospital.
3. End-Of-Life Requests
One of the saddest parts of dealing with a loved one’s death is figuring out what to do next. Some people will have a list of things they want after they die. Most individuals, especially older adults, will have their final wishes ready, including who will receive their properties and belongings. Also, if the person had any pets, you may need to organize a new living situation. If the death was sudden and occurred before the person could write their final wishes, the closest family members will decide what to do.
4. Plan a Funeral
The next step is to plan a funeral. Planning a funeral includes deciding what type of ceremony and burial will occur, the type of visitations, and such. The deceased may have wanted to be buried at sea, buried traditionally, or cremated. Whatever the procedure may be, you will have to decide the funeral details, from food to the burial service.
Funerals may seek help from professional funeral planners by researching funeral services online. If you have preferences you’d like to add or some details that you know the person would like to add, you may discuss it with whoever is in charge of planning the funeral.
5. Publish Obituary
Obituaries are an efficient way of announcing someone’s death. It usually tells the story of the deceased person and what their life was like in a nutshell. These may include the person’s life accomplishments and achievements. You may write an obituary and publish it in newspapers or online. Posting an obituary will usually cost you, so it’s advisable to keep it as short as possible. You may also opt for posting it online, which is typically free, or distribute copies of the post to family and friends.
6. Last Will & Testament
A last will & testament is an official document stating the final wishes of a person regarding their properties, rights, material things, etc. The form dictates what will happen to the person’s things once he or she passes. Usually, properties and essential belongings get passed on to the person’s children or grandchildren, but they can put any kind of condition they want since it is their right. The process may get emotional as you have just recently dealt with a loss, so make sure you have the last will & testament reviewed by a professional or a lawyer. Having the guidance of a professional may help make things easier and less confusing.
Once you’re done reviewing the will & testament thoroughly, finalize the process by contacting any person associated and mentioned in the will. Inform the right people about their rights and what the deceased person has left for them. The process may get confusing, so always ask for help from professionals to avoid doing anything that may complicate and prolong the procedure.
7. Give Yourself Time to Mourn
The grieving process takes time. Grieving consists of five different stages. Although there is no right way to grieve, most people undergo the same method of grieving. You must give yourself time to accept the circumstances and let the person’s death sink in. Taking some time will also help you move one.
After facing such a tragedy, people will deal with a wave of emotions. We all have different coping mechanisms that are part of the moving-on process. Some people do self-care routines to calm themselves from the anxiety they gained from stress. It is crucial to your mental health that you find something to help you grieve properly.
After the Funeral
1. Secure the Person’s Belongings
After a funeral, there may be instances where theft may occur. For some cases, especially for wealthy families, a relative’s death may attract criminals or even fellow relatives to go after valuable items. Say you belonged to a wealthy clan, and your father, who owned a costly and rare watch, had recently died. The news of his death may cause people to go after that watch by breaking into your homes. Not all people become sympathetic after knowing that someone had died.
Some are solely driven by greed and want to retrieve whatever they can get their hands on to make sure that after, or even during a funeral, you secure any objects and things belonging to the dead person. To avoid spreading the news of the recent death to unwanted people, you may ask your neighbors for some help. Ask the people living in the same neighborhood as the deceased to gather any mail, parcels, letters, or whatnots from their house. Doing so will prevent the mail from piling up, giving the idea of their absence away to strangers.
2. Personal Representatives and Last Will & Testament
Before you locate any executor to handle the last will & testament, decide first if you will need probate to review the will’s validity. Probate may unfold in different ways, depending on the situation. Carefully assess the nature of the will before making any big decisions and proceeding to court. To finalize transactions and take action, you may visit the closest courthouse to obtain a “letters testamentary” or “letters of administration.” Keep in mind that the courthouse employees are well aware of your situation, so there is no need to feel intimidated. You should do as much research as possible before hiring any executor to do the work to understand the matter better. You may do some searching online about how it works or consult with a person who went through the same thing before.
Personal representatives are people who work as administrators for a dead person’s estate. They act as a trustee for the heirs/beneficiaries of the land of a deceased person. They are in charge of making sure that the dead’s land is in the best care, which requires them to act in only honesty and loyalty for the estate’s best interest. Getting a personal representative to handle the technicalities of a person’s last will & testament may cost you. Legally speaking, these executors are required to do what the will & testament of the deceased asks them to and meet every expectation of the conditions stated. Most already have an assigned representative to handle the matters. All you have to do is identify and locate the executors that the will & testament mentions.
1. Obtain a New Tax ID Number
The person’s social security number will be meaningless once they pass away. You must obtain a new tax ID number to authorize activities on behalf of the estate you can retrieve from the IRS. This number will help in closing the estate as you fill the final tax form.
2. Notify Creditors
To formally notify the estate’s creditors, you may publish or post a statement about the owner’s passing. State laws will determine what format your post will follow to ensure that it will notify all creditors to prevent them from demanding payment and enforcing estates to reopen months or years after.
3. Request to Forwarding Any Mail
The next step is to file a request at your local post office to have any mail forwarded to your address or the address of another family member. This step is one of the easiest to do, although it will require the right documentation. You may also need to prove your legal right to receive any mail. This step will help in ending any subscriptions that the deceased may have had over the years. It will also help in taking care of any bills that are left unpaid.
4. DMA “Do Not Contact” List
This step will remove the address and name of the deceased from any marketing lists. The DMA or Data & Marketing Association is in charge of making this possible. It is another step that does not take too much of your time and does not cost anything. The DMA maintains a Deceased Do Not Contact list that helps minimize the unnecessary junk mail you receive. It also helps avoid identity fraud in the future, so be sure that you do not skip this step.
5. Inform Financial Institutions
Many people have a life insurance policy, so you should check whether the deceased person has one or not. Once confirmed that they do have one, you can go ahead and notify the carrier that the person has passed. You may schedule a meeting to discuss the requirements and procedures you need to take. During phone calls, you may ask for the documents that the institutions or banks will require from you to get a heads up on what you need to do.
6. Open New Bank Account for Co-Sharers
For accounts shared with another individual, you may transfer any remaining funds to an account by opening a new account or retitling your current one. These funds will also shoulder remaining unpaid fees and bills.
7. Cancel Services Subscriptions
After a person’s death, a family member or someone close to them should contact and inform the social security office. To prevent any complications with legal documents such as identity theft/fraud, you should cancel any unused services like cable, phone services, etc., and government-issued ID registrations such as driver’s license, voter’s registration, and such. Canceling subscriptions will help avoid unnecessary piling of bills and fees.
8. Take Care of Digital Footprint
These days, almost everyone has an account on different social media platforms. Various platforms have different ways of closing an account. To close accounts such as Facebook profiles, email accounts, and such, you will have to discuss it with immediate family members first as they might want to keep pictures and videos of their loved ones.
Final steps, including legal matters, would include paying any taxes, returning files, and submitting a final report to close the estate. You must know what death-related taxes exist. You also need to distribute any assets left behind by the dead person to rightful heirs and beneficiaries after confirming all the last will & testament claims. For more details about the mentioned final procedures, you may do careful research on the matter or contact any professional for assistance.
Now, all that may seem like so much work, and the legal documents and procedures mentioned may sound intimidating, but once you have it all figured out, you are good to go. Dealing with death is never easy, so give yourself some credit for trying to handle the situation. While it is not a requirement that you know what to do when someone dies at home, learning the basics can save a lot of your time and effort.
Before proceeding to do any of the steps, give yourself some time to grieve. It is essential to prepare yourself mentally for what is about to come because taking care of matters like legal documents, IDs, and all that may bring back memories of the dead person. You may find yourself becoming emotional at some point, which is understandable. Teach yourself to accept the situation first, and then you may proceed with planning what to do next.
About The Author
As a professional writer at many renowned websites Krizzia Paolyn has covered a wide range of topics in many industries. Her knack for uncovering important truths and conducting thorough research on each topic she writes about has helped thousands of people across the world.