When a loved one dies, it’s always traumatic — even when the death could be reasonably expected. Many times, that person’s survivors are overwhelmed with both grief and confusion. What do they need to do first? What comes next?

Here’s a guide that may help. When your loved one passes away, you should:

  1. Get a legal pronouncement. If your loved one was in a hospital or nursing home at the time of their death, they’ll handle this step. If your loved one was at home under a hospice nurse’s care, the nurse will know how to handle this. If your loved one died unexpectedly, call 911 and report the death.
  2. Notify immediate family. You want everyone to find out as soon as possible so that the grieving process can begin — and so that you can all support each other. Some of the family members may also have insights about the deceased’s funeral plans or wishes.
  3. Arrange for mortuary service: You can generally call a funeral home or cremation company to arrange for transport of the body and services. If the deceased was a veteran, reach out the Department of Veterans Affairs to see if they provide any services.
  4. Take care of any pets and papers. If your loved one owns any pets, you need to arrange for their care. Gather up any important documents related to the deceased’s estate and make sure that you keep them on hand.
  5. Make other notifications. Stop the deceased’s mail, cancel their newspapers and collect the keys to their home and car. Ask a neighbor to watch over the house.

These steps will give you a head start on the process involved with handling someone’s estate. While there are still many more steps ahead, you’ll definitely be on the right path forward.