What to Do When Someone Dies

Step-by-step information on what to do when someone dies

Last updated: 10 November 2016

When a loved one dies, there are practical things that need to be done in order to move forward with the funeral arrangements. This guide provides a brief overview of what steps need to be taken and in what order.

1. Call 911 or alert a healthcare professional

If your loved one has died unexpectedly in your home, you must call 911 immediately. The paramedics will guide you through the next steps.

If your loved one has died at home, but the death was expected, contact their doctor, family physician or hospice care workers immediately.

If you are in a hospital and your loved one has died, the healthcare team will be on hand to pronounce the death and advise you of what to do next.

2. Notify close relatives and friends

After the death has been confirmed, you should take steps to inform your loved one’s friends and family. Start with their closest relatives: partner, spouse, parents or children.

Breaking the news can be difficult and time-consuming. You may want to ask friends and relatives to help by passing on the news to others.

3. Choose a funeral home

Once a medical professional has pronounced the death of your loved one, you should start to think about which funeral home to use for their funeral arrangements. You can search for local funeral homes online to find the best option for you.

4. Order copies of the death certificate

Apart from taking care of your loved one until the day of the funeral, the funeral home will also file for a death certificate. In most states this must be done within 72 hours.

Once the certificate is correctly filed, you will be able to order copies. You will need certified copies of the death certificate in order to manage your loved one’s estate. The exact process for ordering certified copies differs from state to state, but they can usually be ordered via the funeral home or county health department.

Ordering a copy of the death certificate will cost a fee, which can vary widely between states, from approximately $10 to $40. Additional copies are then usually cheaper.