Easy to Follow Checklist of Things to Do When a Person Dies and the Estate Needs to Be Probated

When someone dies, the announcement of his/her death often creates a “paralysis” among family members and close friends who then rally around those affected by the death.

Seldom are their thoughts directed towards what should be done next in order to finalize the decedent’s affairs.

In case you’re involved in a situation like I just described or anticipate the death of someone close to you, I have created a checklist to follow to get loved ones, family members and estate representatives through this tough time.

This checklist is very general. It doesn’t go into all the details that may have to be completed. If the process seems overwhelming: don’t panic. I’m here for you together with our paralegals and co-attorneys who have decades of experience. We can handle everything or just a few steps depending on your needs.

Click here to download and print the checklist: Checklist of Things to Do When a Person Dies

Checklist of Things to Do When You are Named as the Executor or Estate Administrator


Place an “X” in the left column when item has been completed

Notify immediate family and close friends of the death
Evaluate the emotional impact on the surviving spouse, children and close relatives and friends; arrange for support
Deal with donation of bodily organs to an “organ bank”, as appropriate
Arrange care for dependents, especially minor children, if any
Arrange care for pets, if any
Evaluate the need for security at decedent’s residence
Cancel or rearrange home deliveries
Have post office hold mail
Find perishable property (food, plants, etc.), arrange for care or disposal
Find and review decedent’s expressed funeral and burial wishes, often found in a Last Will or safe deposit box
Notify agent under any power of attorney of the death to stop using the power of attorney
Prepare and arrange for obituary
Arrange for mortuary, cemetery, burial, cremation, as appropriate
Arrange funeral/burial services
Notify other members of family and friends of the arrangements
Keep records of all payments for funeral and other expenses
Locate safe deposit box(es)
Locate Will, Codicils, Trusts
Locate life insurance policies
Locate other important documents, relationships, accounts, investments, etc.
Advise Social Security and other benefit agencies as appropriate
Investigate Social Security benefits
Investigate life insurance
Investigate union death benefits
Investigate veteran’s burial allowance and other benefits
Investigate fraternal organizations for any death benefits (i.e. Knights of Columbus)
Investigate employee benefits, including accrued vacation pay, death benefits, final wages, retirement plans, deferred compensation, medical reimbursements
Investigate refunds on insurance or canceled subscriptions
Investigate Keogh and IRA accounts
Investigate business, partnership and investment arrangements
Retain and meet with attorney regarding estate matters
Retain and meet with CPA regarding tax and accounting matters
Meet with life insurance agent to collect proceeds or consider options
Obtain death certificates (ask attorney how many are needed)
Deal with fire, theft, liability and auto insurance on decedent’s property
Work with attorney and CPA to prepare inventory, list of accounts and list of debts
Review credit cards and charge accounts, cancel as appropriate
DO NOT pay any of decedent’s debts until attorney discusses with family or executor
Obtain valuations of assets, as appropriate
If Trust is involved, arrange for any allocations and transfers
Consult with attorney about distribution, probate and non-probate assets to beneficiaries
File required tax waivers to secure release from New Jersey Estate Lien(s)
Secure release of liability to beneficiaries through Accounting(s) and/or discharges
Arrange for final income tax return and estate tax return, as necessary


Fredrick P. Niemann Esq.

I hope this checklist helps.  Like I said earlier, it’s not an exhaustive list but it’s a good start.  If you need some help or advice addressing this checklist or want to speak with a knowledgeable New Jersey estate administration attorney who can work with you, please call me at toll-free (855) 376-5291 or e-mail me at fniemann@hnlawfirm.com to set up an office consultation at your convenience.  It’s my pleasure to be of assistance.




Written by New Jersey Probate and Estate Administration Lawyer, Fredrick P. Niemann, Esq.