Man Working on End of Life DocumentsWe all know that we are going to die someday, but it’s much easier to think about death in the abstract than to deal with it in reality. If you are in a situation where a loved one’s death is imminent, there are some steps you can take before they die to ease some of the difficulties that arise after a death.

Gather Documents in One Place

Ideally, some of these tasks have been taken care of before your loved one is in their final days, but if they have not been done, now might be an appropriate time to do it. If your loved one is cognizant enough to help, that will make things much easier. It is important that you locate and secure the following:

  • Legal records, such as marriage license, birth certificate, and military discharge papers
  • Financial accounts—paper statements or user names and passwords for online accounts
  • Key to the safe deposit box, if that’s where important documents are
  • Medical forms, such as a do not resuscitate (DNR) order or medical power of attorney
  • Address book or contact list for people who should be informed of the passing
  • The Will or name of Estate Planning attorney
  • Wishes or pre-arrangement for burial or cremation and for a funeral or memorial service

Clearly, it won’t be possible in every case to ask a dying person for this information. That is why it is so important to have these conversations and gather these documents before it is too late.

What to Do Right After the Death of a Loved One

Even a death that is expected can throw you into a panic. While you can certainly take a moment to process the event, you will also have to take action pretty quickly if you are the primary caregiver or closest family member. If your loved one dies in a medical facility, you will receive guidance from the staff. However, if your loved one dies at home, you will have to do the following:

  • If he or she was in hospice care and the hospice nurse is not present at the time of death, call the hospice provider for help.
  • If your loved one was not in hospice, you will have to call 911 to report the death. A law enforcement officer will come to officially document the death.
  • If your loved one is suffering but has not died, call 911, but be sure to tell them it is not a life-saving situation. Inform them over the phone if there is a DNR and be prepared to present it to first responders.
  • You will have to arrange transportation for your deceased loved one. This is usually taken care of by the funeral home once one has been chosen.
  • Contact close family members and delegate someone else to contact friends and more distant family.
  • Secure the home and any valuables in the home. Any items that will be dispersed through a Will should be inventoried and put in a safe place to protect them from thieves or opportunistic family members.

Once these tasks are taken care of, you can move on to writing an obituary and planning the funeral, but you should not have to deal with that on the day of your loved one’s death.

Does This List Make You Realize You Need Help?

We hope this list helps you in your time of need, but if you are reading this when not facing the death of a loved one, it might make you realize that you have some things to put in order—whether for an older parent or for yourself. If you have questions or need assistance, please call Ross & Shoalmire to discuss your options with us. We help people throughout the Ark-La-Tex with all of their Estate Planning needs.

Are You Looking for an Estate Planning Attorney in Texarkana, TX?

If you are looking for estate planning advice, you need to speak with an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our Texarkana office directly at 903.223.5653. We also have offices in Tyler, Paris, Longview as well as Magnolia, AR!


Ben King
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Ben King helps clients in TX and AR with estate planning, asset protection, probate, and medicaid planning.