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Navigating Life After Loss: A Guide to What Comes Next

Losing a loved one is an incredibly challenging and emotional experience. In the midst of grief, it can be overwhelming to think about the practical matters that need attention after a person passes away. However, taking care of these matters is crucial for both legal reasons and your own peace of mind. This to-do list can help navigate this challenging time.

  • Notify Close Family and Friends: The first step is to inform close family members and friends about the loss. This can be a difficult task, but it is essential for providing support and ensuring everyone is aware of the situation.
  • Contact the Funeral Home: Reach out to a funeral home to make arrangements for the deceased. They will guide you through the process of planning the funeral or memorial service, including choosing a casket, arranging for cremation, and deciding on the location and date of the service.
  • Gather Important Documents:
    • Locate and gather important documents such as the will, life insurance policies, and bank statements.
    • Obtain multiple certified copies of the death certificate, usually 5 to 10, as many companies will require it to make changes to accounts.  The funeral home should be able to provide these.
    • Make claims on all life insurance policies and other assets naming you as the beneficiary.
  • Legal Matters:
    • Locate your spouse’s will, which may be filed with an attorney, in a lockbox, or a safe deposit box. If there is no will, consider working with a legal professional to settle the estate, and any other legal matters that may arise.
    • If the deceased owned property, such as a home or vehicle, take the necessary steps to transfer ownership or sell the assets.
    • Updating the will of a surviving spouse is critical as the current will may name the deceased as their heir.
    • See an accountant or tax preparer in the January after your spouse passes to complete tax returns.
  • Contact the Employer and Social Security:
    • If the deceased was employed, notify their employer, union and professional associations and inquire about any outstanding benefits or compensation.
    • Report the death to Social Security and discuss survivor benefits, if applicable.  The funeral home may be able to help with this.
  • Notify Relevant Institutions:
    • Reach out to the bank, credit card companies, and other financial institutions to inform them of the death.
    • Close any accounts that need to be closed and inquire about the process for transferring or accessing funds.
    • Contact the Veteran’s Administration if your spouse was a veteran to inquire about burial and other benefits.
  • Update Accounts and Subscriptions:
    • Roll over IRAs and other accounts into your name of the beneficiary.
    • Notify credit companies of the death and update ownership of those accounts.
    • Update any subscriptions, memberships, or services in the name of the deceased, such as utility bills, magazine subscriptions, and online accounts. This may prevent the need to contest any unnecessary charges in the future.
  • Address Digital Presence: Consider the digital legacy of the deceased. Close or memorialize social media accounts or subscriptions tied to their email addresses. This may involve contacting service providers or online platforms directly.


Here are some helpful links to organizations that should be contacted after the passing of an elderly spouse:

  1.  Social Security Administration
    Website: Social Security Administration
    Contact: Report the passing of a beneficiary or inquire about benefits at 1-800-772-1213.
  2. Elder Justice New York
    Website: Elder Justice New York
    This website provides a helpful checklist of what to do when your spouse passes away, including legal and financial steps to take.
  3. Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs
    Website: CT Department of Veterans Affairs
    Contact: For assistance and information on veteran benefits in Connecticut, visit the official website of the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs.
  4. New York State Department of Veterans’ Services
    Website: NYS Department of Veterans’ Services
    Contact: Schedule an appointment with a Veterans Benefits Advisor at 1-888-838-7697.


Losing a loved one is an incredibly difficult experience, and the aftermath can be overwhelming. By following these steps and seeking support from friends, family, and professionals, you can navigate the practical aspects of loss while allowing yourself the time and space to grieve. Remember that it’s okay to ask for help and to take things one step at a time

Oasis Senior Advisors


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Paul and Susan Doyle

Certified Senior Advisor®

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