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What to Do When a Loved One Dies

This checklist could help you cope with practical tasks during an emotional time

Consider whether you need or want other financial assistance for the funeral and burial. Help might be available from a number of sources, including a church, a union or a fraternal organization that the deceased belonged to. Phone or send an email to the local group.

Enlist help for the funeral. Relatives and friends may be needed to serve as pallbearers, to create or design the funeral program, cook meals (for a repast gathering or simply for the household of the deceased), take care of children or pets, or shop for any items needed for the funeral or household of the deceased.

Arrange for headstone. You can typically purchase a headstone through the cemetery or from an outside vendor of your choice. Consult the cemetery about rules, regulations and specifications such as color and size, particularly if you go with an outside vendor.

Organize a post-funeral gathering. Depending on your tradition, it's called a repast or a wake. It can be held at the church, a banquet hall or someone's house. Enlist the help of friends and relatives to plan.

Spread the word about the service. Once a date and time have been set for the service, share the details with those on your contact list. Include an address to send cards, flowers or donations.

Make a list of well-wishers. Keep track of who sends cards, flowers and donations so that you can acknowledge them later.

Prepare an obituary. The funeral home might offer the service or you might want to write an obituary yourself. If you want to publish it in a newspaper, check on rates, deadlines and submission guidelines. Don't include such details as exact date of birth that an identity thief could use.

Handle the ethical will, if there is one. An ethical will isn't a legal document, but rather a letter of sorts written to your family and friends that shares your values, life lessons and hopes for the future. If the deceased left one, arrange to share it, maybe even have it printed.

Next: To do after the funeral. »

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