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What to do After a Family Member Passes Away

As a Folsom lawyer who specializes in estate planning, I often advise clients who have recently lost a loved one. Losing a family member is a challenging and emotional time, and there are several practical and legal steps to take after their passing. Here’s a general guide on what to do after a family member dies:

  1. Notify Authorities and Seek Medical Assistance if Necessary:
    – If the death occurs at home, contact 911 or the appropriate emergency services immediately. If the family member was under hospice care, contact the hospice provider.
    – If the death occurs at a medical facility, the staff will typically handle the necessary notifications.
  2. Obtain a Death Certificate:
    – You’ll need an official death certificate to handle many legal and financial matters. Typically, the funeral home or mortuary can assist in obtaining the death certificate, and you may need multiple copies for various purposes.
  3. Notify Family and Friends:
    – Inform close family members and friends of the death and share funeral or memorial service details.
  4. Make Funeral or Memorial Arrangements:
    – Contact a funeral home or mortuary to make arrangements for the disposition of the body. Consider the family member’s wishes and any prearranged funeral plans if applicable.
  5. Secure the Property:
    – Ensure the family member’s home and property are secure. Lock doors and windows, and consider informing neighbors.
  6. Locate Important Documents:
    – Search for important documents, including the will, living trust documents, life insurance policies, financial account statements, and any other legal or financial records.
  7. Contact an Attorney and Executor or Personal Representative:
    – If there is a will or living trust, contact an attorney to initiate the probate or trust administration process. The attorney will be able to guide the executor or trustee in carrying out their duties.
  8. Notify Financial Institutions and Creditors:
    – Contact banks, insurance companies, and creditors to inform them of the death. Request information on how to close accounts or transfer assets.
  9. Cancel or Transfer Subscriptions and Services:
    – Cancel any subscriptions, services, or memberships in the family member’s name, such as utilities, phone, internet, and subscriptions.
  10. Arrange for Mail Forwarding:
    – Contact the post office to arrange for mail forwarding or to have mail held if necessary.
  11. Manage Digital Assets:
    – If applicable, manage the family member’s digital assets, including email accounts and social media profiles. Consider whether to close or memorialize these accounts.
  12. Notify Government Agencies:
    – Notify government agencies, such as Social Security, the Department of Motor Vehicles, and any other relevant agencies.
  13. File Taxes:
    – File the deceased’s final income tax return (Form 1040) and, if applicable, estate tax returns (Form 706). Consult with a tax professional for guidance.
  14. Settle the Estate:
    – Work with an attorney, if necessary, to settle the estate, distribute assets to beneficiaries, and handle any outstanding debts.
  15. Grieve and Seek Support:
    – Allow yourself and your family time to grieve. Consider seeking support from friends, family, or grief counseling services.
  16. Dispose of Personal Property:
    – Decide how to handle the family member’s personal belongings, such as clothing, furniture, and sentimental items.
  17. Close Accounts and Cancel Services:
    – Close bank accounts, credit cards, and other financial accounts in the family member’s name. Cancel or transfer services, such as utilities and insurance policies.
  18. Complete Any Outstanding Legal or Financial Matters:
    – Address any remaining legal or financial matters, including the distribution of assets and payment of debts.
  19. Plan a Memorial Service or Gathering:
    – Plan and hold a memorial service, funeral, or gathering to celebrate the family member’s life, if desired.
  20. Review and Update Your Own Estate Plan:
    – After going through this experience, consider reviewing and updating your own estate plan, including your will, power of attorney, and healthcare directives.


Losing a loved one is very difficult and it’s essential to consult with professionals, such as an attorney and accountant, to navigate the legal and financial aspects of settling the family member’s estate. If you need the assistance of an experienced Folsom estate planning lawyer, contact Thapar Law at 916-579-0605 or send us a message.

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Karn was absolutely amazing in helping our family’s estate planning. So professional and made the process so easy. A hell of a guy!!!

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Efficient, quick, friendly. An easy experience.

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Karn is very easy to talk to! Professional, responsive, very engaging, explains the processes. Very honest World class Attorney!!

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Karn was recommended to me by a friend who had worked with him in the past. He took the time to walk me through the estate planning process, addressed my many questions and at no point made me feel pressured to...

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