The death or impending death of a loved is an emotional time. Many people find that a checklist helps allay their anxiety and helps them to work with other family members or friends. The following information may help you be better informed and organized when addressing some of the decisions you may be asked to make, and to attend to tasks related to the death of a loved one. You may be asked to make decisions or perform tasks that are not included below.

Immediately after death:

  • Assign specific tasks to specific people.
  • Contact the people who will take on these responsibilities.
  • Assign one person to record the decisions and what action was taken.

Within a day of the death:

  • Compile a list of all those who should be notified of the death such as immediate family, friends, employers, business colleagues and more distant relatives and friends. Determine how to contact these people, either by phone, email, or a visit.
  • Prepare a preliminary schedule, possibly with the advice from your church or funeral home director, for:
    • Burial or cremation
    • Wake
    • Funeral or memorial services
    • If you intend to request charitable donations in lieu of flowers, provide the necessary contact information

Suggested Tasks:

  1. Compile the deceased’s personal information, such as:
    • Full legal name
    • Legal residence at the time of death, including length of residency
    • Date of birth
    • Place of birth
    • Citizenship
    • Marital history
    • Spouse’s full name
    • Social security number
    • Spouse’s name
    • Health insurance information
    • Father’s name and birthplace
    • Mother’s name and birthplace
    • Next of kin including names, addresses, and relationships
    • Executor’s name and contact information
    • Attorney’s name and contact information
    • Physician’s name and contact information
  2. Assemble necessary documents, such as:
    • Death certificate (multiple copies)
    • Cemetery plot title
    • Will
    • Birth certificate
    • Insurance policies
    • Bank records
    • Property deeds
    • Vehicle ownership records
    • Military discharge papers
    • Citizenship papers
    • Tax returns
  3. Arrange for a funeral home: A list of Austin area funeral homes is included in this information packet. It is appropriate to inquire about the cost of services from one or more funeral homes (this information is also available by calling AMBIS at 480-0555 or visiting their website at If you choose you make funeral arrangements yourself, AMBIS also has useful resources available.
  4. Arrange for a church or memorial service site: You may contact a church directly to inquire about help with a funeral, or you may ask a funeral director to make the calls for you. It is appropriate to ask about the cost of provided services such as music or a minister. If you are arranging a site for a memorial service, you should check on its availability.
  5. Prepare an obituary. You may want to include information such as:
    • Family history
    • Military service
    • Schools attended
    • Religious or church affiliation
    • Work or professional history
    • Civic activities
    • Special awards or accomplishments
    • Hobbies, activities and interests
    • Charities and other special requests
  6. Make arrangements for support coordination
    • Determine who will respond to sympathetic visitors, phone calls, messages, emails and letters. The designated person should keep a careful record of all contacts.
    • Following the funeral or memorial service, determine who will send written acknowledgements for flowers, donations, food, and other remembrances.
    • Decide who will coordinate guest housing and plan hospitality for visitors.
    • Determine who will coordinate food supplies for the next few days.
    • Consider special needs of the household, such as babysitting, cleaning, and shopping. These could be done by friends or other organizations such as church groups or hired help.
  7. Plan for the disposition of flowers after the funeral or memorial service.
  8. Cancel the deceased’s driver’s license and voter registration.
  9. If the deceased lived alone, notify utility companies, the landlord (if a renter) or the mortgage company (if the deceased owned the property), and advise the post office of where to forward mail.
  10. Ensure the security of the deceased’s home or apartment against thieves.
  11. Determine who will dispose of the deceased’s clothing, household items, papers, books and other items.

Several days after the death:

Consider the following:

  • Does the deceased’s will require probation?
  • Does your will need revision?
  • Do you need to complete or alter a Medical Power of Attorney?

A partial list of financial topics:

Be aware that financial and property decisions can have long term effects. You may find it helpful to have an advisor clarify what should be done immediately as well as any future needs and goals. Some of the following items may require you to produce a copy of the death certificate.

  • Promptly file the death certificate at the courthouse.
  • Promptly check on all debts, including credit cards and installment payments. Some of these may carry insurance clauses that will cancel them. If you anticipate a delay in payment, contact the creditors and request additional time.
  • Apply for credit life insurance which may exist on loans, credit cards and mortgages.
  • Notify insurance companies and file claims. Such insurance policies may include:
    • Life
    • Medical/Health
    • Disability
    • Travel
    • Motor vehicle
    • Casualty or accident
    • Social Security
    • Veterans
    • Property insurance
    • Government retirement (city, county, state, federal)
    • Railroad retirement
    • Other retirement policies and annuities
  • Check or change all bank information for accounts such as:
    • Bonds
    • IRA and retirement accounts
    • Mutual or other funds
    • Safe deposit boxes
    • Jointly held checking and savings accounts
    • Certificates of deposit (CDs)
    • Mortgages
    • Personal notes
    • Direct deposit benefit payments
    • Stocks or securities
  • Notify government offices such as the Internal Revenue, Department of Motor Vehicles, and Social Security.
  • Transfer titles to all vehicles including cars, trucks, motorcycles, and motor homes that are registered in the deceased’s name.
  • Transfer of any real estate properties.
  • Apply for a widowed person’s exemption.