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Coping with Loss: 6 Practical Steps to Take After the Death of a Loved One

6 Practical steps to take immediately after the death of a Loved One

When a loved one dies, survivors are often left overwhelm by grief and the uncertainty of what's next. The job of handling the immediate details may fall on you. To help you through this process, here are some practical steps to take immediately after your loved one dies.

1. Get a legal pronouncement of death

If your loved one died in a hospital or nursing home with a doctor present, the staff will handle the the official declaration of death. If your loved one died under hospice care, contact the number provided by hospice for a nurse to declare the death. . If the passing occured unexpectedly, call 911 to have them transported to a hospital for the declaration of death. In all situations, the deceased will be moved to a funeral home after the declaration of death and the death certificate will be issued shortly after. The funeral home can help you request certified copies of the death certificate. It is a good idea to request 4-5 certified copies of the death certificate, which you will need to handle the affairs and assets of your loved one.

2. Take Care of Survivors

Minor children without a parent or guardian need immediate adult supervision and assistance. They may be moved to the home of family or friends of the family while legal guardianship of the children are being determined. It may take a few weeks after probate is initiated before a guardian is named by the Court so be sure to arrange for the care and well-being of the children in the meantime.

Elderly or handicapped dependents of the deceased require care and supervision as well. If there are no friends or family who can provide immediate supervision and care, contact the Department of Human Services immediately to help them receive care.

Family pets may be given to friends or family members for care. If it is not possible to find the pet a new permanent home, you may try contacting the Oregon Human Society for assistance with placement.

There will be an initial flurry of activity and it is easy to prioritize everything except your own well-being. Remember to take care of yourself at this time too.

3. Notify or Select a funeral home

If you know the deceased had already selected a funeral home, contact the funeral now. Otherwise, contact a funeral home of your vhoice. If you need assstance locating a funeral director, contact the Oregon Funeral Directors Assocation at 503-369-1186 or email Ideally, your loved one has already communicated their preference for a funeral or burial. If not, call a family meeting to discuss what the person may have wanted, what the family can afford, and what the family wants.

4. Notify family, friends, and employer

Call, email, or otherwise communicate to let people know your loved one has passed away. Contact the deceased's employer soon after to handle payroll matters. You may want to inquire about potential employer provided death benefits or pension. Seek help from your community for support during this time.

5. Secure the property

If the decedent's house will be unoccupied, take steps to secure the property by locking up the home and secure vehicles in the garage or driveway, if possible. If there are valuables such as jewelry, cash, firearms etc, be sure to lock it up and limit access to the home. Ask a neighbor, friend, or relative to help keep an eye on the home too. During this time, have mail forwarded to you or whoever is helping with the immediate affairs. Cancel any subscriptions and notify credit card companies of the death. The mail can provide a wealth of information on the deceased's assets and bills are, which will help you with the probate process.

6. Search for a Will and Identify the Personal Representative

Ideally, you will know where your loved one placed valuables such as their estate planning documents. If no will is located, determine amongst the closest kin who will serve as personal representative. The designated personal representative will want to contact a probate expert to help with the estate administration process.

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