Sudden Death Checklist

Duties requiring early attention

  • Select a family spokesperson who will communicate to family friends, newspaper, etc.
  • Contact funeral home and cemetery or crematorium.
  • Contact relatives and close friends.
  • Contact employer and business associates. 
  • Contact financial advisor, attorney, and CPA.
  • Contact local newspaper with obituary information.
  • Obtain as many “original” or “certified” death certificates as necessary and then make additional copies.
  • If necessary, arrange for immediate care of decedent’s spouse and children. 
  •  Protect any perishable assets and related documents.


 Duties for the first week

  • Locate and review copy of will and trust documents.
  • Locate and review copy of most recent income tax return.
  • Locate any important financial papers and search for assets, brokerage accounts, checking accounts, etc.
  • Contact Veterans Administration for any appropriate veterans benefits.
  • Contact Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel driver’s license, etc. 
  • If necessary, notify post office to forward mail. 
  • Notify Social Security and apply for any survivor benefits or lump sum death benefits.
  • Contact medical and health insurance companies.
  • Locate life insurance policies and contact companies.
  • Contact all banks, savings and loans, credit unions, brokerage custodians, etc. 
  • Contact Medicare and Medicaid, if appropriate.


Duties for the first month and thereafter.

  This section is a cooperative effort of the kinds of things that are done by the personal representative, the attorney, tax advisor, etc.

  • File the will and other necessary papers with probate court.
  • Obtain from the court notice of appointment as personal representative. 
  • Publish notice of appointment and provide certified copy of death certificate to banks, financial institutions, custodians and insurance companies.
  • Transfer ownership of property to beneficiaries.
  • Inventory all assets including those in safety deposit box.
  • Notify creditors.
  • Request permission from the court to deliver personal effects and bequests to the beneficiaries.
  • Collect tax information for the current year.
  • Settle the estate.
  •  File all required tax returns.