The death of a loved one is an emotional time. This comprehensive list of 10 primary tasks that need attention following a death is designed to make the process of planning a funeral or memorial service less challenging.

Report Your Love One’s Death

When your loved one passes on, you have the immediate task of reporting the death to proper authorities.

  • If you’re loved one died in hospice care, at a nursing home, or in a hospital, the staff will assist with reporting the death.
  • If a funeral home previously was selected, contact them following the death.
  • In the event your loved one experienced an unattended death or a traumatic death of some type, the first call will be to emergency personnel, usually via 911.
  • If your loved one was an organ donor, make sure medical personnel know of this desire.

Prepare for Meeting at the Funeral Home

The funeral home provides transportation of your loved one following his or her death. Hospitals, nursing homes, and hospices usually ask that transportation occurs with two or three hours after a person passes on. Funeral homes are equipped to transport with little notice. As an aside, the funeral director assists in completing the death certificate.

If the death occurs away from the deceased person’s home, you will need to coordinate with a funeral home where the death occurred and in the location of the loved one’s home. These two professionals will coordinate the transportation of the remains. If cremation is planned, that process can occur before the remains are transported.

Two primary questions you’ll need to address initially with the funeral home are:

  • Will your loved one’s remains to be buried or cremated?
  • What type of service is contemplated for your loved one? Will it be a funeral, memorial service, or gravesite service?

If your loved one made specific funeral plans while living, you will coordinate with the funeral home to see that these desires are carried out. You will need to confirm whether your loved one has a prepaid funeral plan.

Immediate Financial Considerations

Because expenses will occur associated with the funeral and burial, keep in mind that a deceased person’s bank account will be frozen when it is notified of his or her passing. If you had been assisting your loved one with financial matters, and have had access to a bank account, consider withdrawing at least some money to deal with bills, including funeral costs, before the account is frozen.

]\Your deceased loved one may have a burial plot. If that is not the case, you will need to make this arrangement with a cemetery. The funeral director can also be helpful in this regard. Most funeral homes are affiliated with one or more cemeteries. Similarly, if the deceased person was a member of a church, synagogue, or other religious organization, there may be an affiliation with a cemetery. (Keep in mind that some religions require burial in particular cemetery, oftentimes called in consecrated ground. The Catholic and Jewish faiths are two examples of religions that typically have this requirement.)

Funeral or Memorial Service Arrangements

The funeral director, and leader of a church, synagogue, or other religious organization, will assist you in planning a funeral or memorial service. These individuals can guide you on making decisions for different aspects of a funeral or memorial service including:

  • Location
  • Officiant
  • Music
  • Readings
  • Prayers
  • Eulogy
  • Pallbearers
  • Service Program

In considering funeral service arrangements, you will need to make decisions on the preparation of the body. Key considerations in this regard are whether there will be a viewing of the deceased loved one and how he or she will be dressed.

Funeral or Cremation Products

If your loved one will be buried, you need to select a casket. If your loved one will be cremated, you will need to select a cremation casket and an urn. These products are available through the funeral home. You can also purchase them directly online.


Plans need to be made to transport the body from the funeral home to the funeral location and to the gravesite. The funeral director coordinates this matter. You will need to decide whether you want the funeral home to provide transportation to family members as well.

Inform Others of Passing

Informing others of a loved one’s passing is a two-part process. First, you notify other family members and close friends of death directly. You will need your loved one’s address book or access to his or her email account for this purpose.

Second, you will need to prepare a death notice or obituary for a local newspaper. This is another task that the funeral director assists. The funeral director can aid in preparing the death notice or obituary and transmits it to the local newspaper. The funeral home will also publish the death notice or obituary on its website.

Most newspapers publish simple death notices at no cost. A longer obituary does require the payment of a fee, the longer the obit, the higher the cost. A funeral home typically pays the cost for publishing an obituary, obtaining reimbursement after the fact.

Personal Tasks

Don’t overlook yourself. You need to decide what you will wear to the funeral service. You may also want to gather a photo or two of the deceased loved one to be displayed at the funeral or memorial service.

Reception or Post-Service Gathering

Oftentimes, a reception, luncheon, or other post-service gathering is held. You need to plan for that as well. If the funeral or memorial service is at a church, synagogue, or other religious centers, these venues oftentimes have a protocol in place to assist you in arranging for a reception, luncheon, or other suitable gathering time following service.