What do to when your Spouse or Partner Dies

For many of us grieving the loss of a loved one,

the time immediately after their death is often a blur;

a time when many of us can barely function, and 

the idea of worrying about what to do next

is too often a thought we don't want to think about. 


In an effort to provide some help during this difficult time,

below are some suggested "After Loss" Checklists,

and other resources that we hope can be of some assistance in facing the immediate next steps after your loss; including:

- Checklist by Country for the immediate steps following a death, 

- What to do with the belongings?

- How to find a reputable estate sale company?

- What to do with the house? 

- If keeping or selling the house, what next?

Grief Travel Assistance and Bereavement Fares

While all of us in this online community for and people grieving would love to be able to provide bereavement travel assistance to members of our online grieving community who need help to travel to their loved one's funeral, service and/or burial, we are unable to do so at this time, but are working on trying to change that in the future.  However, at this time what we can offer below a list of member suggested resources for bereavement travel assistance that might be of help. If you know of others that we should add to this list, let us know:


Military Families Support: http://www.operationwearehere.com/AirTravelAssistance.html

Bereavement Fares:

Only a couple of airlines offer bereavement fares and they are below, but you may also find lower last minute fares thru online sites like priceline.com or hotwire.com:

Delta Airline:


Alaska Airline:


Air Canada:


WestJet Airline:

https://www.westjet.com/en-ca/travel-info/fares/our-fares - WestJet offers bereavement fares to those who are experiencing an imminent death or have had a death in their family* These fares may only be booked by calling 1-888-937-8538 (1-888-WESTJET)

Lufthansa Airline:

https://www.lufthansa.com/de/en/Help-and-Contact -Does Lufthansa offer special fares in the event of a death (bereavement fares)? In the event of a death abroad Lufthansa offers immediate family members special fares for outbound and return flights to attend the funeral if their journey starts in the USA or Canada. Customers from the USA or Canada are kindly requested to contact their Lufthansa reservations office in the USA or Canda before the start of their trip for further information and to make a booking.
Qantas Airline:

https://qantas.custhelp.com/app/answers/detail/a_id/520AFTER DEATH CHECKLIST BY COUNTRY AND LANGUAGE:

Resources that provide

free assistance and support

with the next steps

after the death of a loved one

Federal Benefits After Losing a Loved One - https://benefits-tool.usa.gov/death-of-a-loved-one/- Find Federal Benefits After Losing a Loved One Life experiences can be stressful. Finding benefits shouldn’t be. Learn about potential Federal benefits in one place.

Carsons Village - https://carsonsvillage.org/ - Free Help and Support For Right After the Death of a Loved One:

"If you have never experienced the sudden loss of a loved one, you can’t prepare yourself for how many practical details there are to manage. Making burial arrangements, hosting family and friends, planning and coordinating funeral services as well as tracking gifts such as meals, flowers, and monetary donations are just a few of the tasks you’ll be expected to focus on in the days following your loss. Carson’s Village can provide a wide range of free support services to help your family navigate this difficult time.  Let Carson’s Village help you to organize your village. The service is completely free. Let us connect you or a designated family member with one of our Advocates to discuss what we can do to help your family get from the passing of your loved one to the funeral."

Military Families Benefits - https://www.militaryonesource.mil/casualty-assistance/survivor-support/benefits/ - Military Families: Support After Loss Benefits



(USA) - ENGLISH VERSION - After a Death Occurs Checklist



(USA)- SPANISH VERSION - After a Death Occurs Checklist



(USA) - RUSSIAN VERSION - After a Death Occurs Checklist



(UNITED KINGDOM) What to do when someone dies.



(CANADA) What to do when someone dies


https://www.humanservices.gov.au/individuals/subjects/what-do-following-death (Australia) What to do after a death



Be aware of Grief & Hoarding: "Grief hoarding is when you bring home all the stuff of a loved one who has died. Grief hoarding is the sentimental value of trying to stretch your memories through stuff" - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rJzQNrCQ_vQ


Cleaning out the house after a death



Dealing with Stuff (literally): sorting through a loved one’s belongings. How could we change this house where my father grew up?  How could we give a single thing away?  How could we sell this house that no one else had ever owned? 



How to find a reputable estate sale company.

QUESTION: Can you provide some tips on how to choose a good estate sale company who can sell all the leftover items in my mother’s house?..Unlike appraisal, auction and real estate companies, estate sale operators are largely unregulated, with no licensing or standard educational requirements. That leaves the door open for inexperienced, unethical or even illegal operators…Start by asking friends, your real estate agent or attorney for recommendations. You can also search online. Websites like www.EstateSales.net  and www.EstateSales.org  let you find estate sale companies in your area. CHECK local companies REVIEWS online on yelp.com, angieslist.com, Better Business Bureau, etc.


What do estate sale companies charge?Most estate sale companies charge you a percentage of the sale's gross profits; for instance, they might charge you 35%. If the estate sale grosses $10,000, you'll owe them $3,500. Some companies may have additional services they provide for a fee, such as trash removal, after-sale clean-up, etc




https://www.thebalance.com/am-i-responsible-for-my-parents-debt-when-they-die-2386097 What Happens to Your Parents' Finances When They Die.

First, you need to realize that you are not responsible for your parents’ debts as long as you did not cosign on the loan with them. Their debts will be covered by their estate, which means any money they have in the bank, and any money that the sell of the house or cars brings in will go to cover the debt first. The credit companies will write off the remaining debt. Additionally, you shouldn't borrow money for them to help them out of a difficult situation.


Credit Cards. Losing a loved one is never easy, and having to deal with something like their credit card debt when you're grieving is far from ideal. But knowing a few important things about credit card debt after death and who pays for credit card debt when you die might make things a bit easier during a difficult time. When the primary credit card holder dies, as the executor of the estate, it’s your responsibility to notify all credit card companies to close the accounts to avoid additional interest charges. Ask to speak to the department for deceased accounts and request that any recurring charges be cancelled. This will flag the account



What to Do With a Reverse Mortgage When the Owner Dies.

What does this mean for someone who inherits a home with a reverse mortgage? Essentially, the beneficiary would be on the hook for the full loan balance. It wouldn’t matter if they planned to live in the home or not. The lender would still expect them to pay off the reverse mortgage and any interest that’s capitalized over the life of the loan term.


https://www.bankrate.com/banking/checking/when-you-die-is-your-bank-account-in-limbo/ What happens to deposit accounts and the money they hold when people die?

It hardly matters to the departed, but it’s a big concern for heirs. If the account isn’t held jointly or in a trust..the account is off limits until the estate is settled in court.


For some of us, after the shock of loss and the impact of facing grief, comes the challenge of another loss

The family home is usually the place of countless memories, and family times together. After the loss, comes the immediate question of what to do with the family HOME/house.  As in grief, there is no right or wrong path - only the one that is right for your and your family, 

Keeping the Home:

One of our Volunteers had been born and raised in their family house, and the thought of parting with it - was just not a possibility for him.  He disagreed with the decision of the siblings to sell the home, and bought their portion of the home.  He is very happy he did and the siblings are still coming for the holidays to gather at the house. As in every family going thru grieving process, they still have a hard time sleeping in the parents bedroom, but the nephew's new baby changed of that because of the necessity to provide them with enough space.

If you are keeping the home and/or buying the home from other family members, please make sure to get the assistance of a non-family related attorney with experience in managing estates, real estate sales, and  taxes involved from the start. You will need an unbiased legal expert to help you thru this process.

Selling or Renting the Home: 

For other of our volunteers, the memories of a house full of laughter, cooking smells, joy, parties and family annual events was too painful to endure, and the decision was unanimous to sell the home.    

First step is to decide if you will sell it yourselves thru one of the many sale by owner sites, or if you will contract with a real estate agent.  Below are some of the suggestions from one of our volunteers who just went thru the sale process, and some of the lessons they learned:

1. Real Estate Agent - If there is a family member or a trusted friend of the family who is a real estate agent in the local area where the property is located, that may be a good place to start. If you do not, a free online service Homelight.com  (We are not associated or get paid by that service in any way) will provide you with a list of some of the agents with the highest number of sales in the area of the property; along with actual homes sold statistics on each of the agents recommended.  If you do not like the initial agents suggested by the service, ask for more.  However, in all cases - whether a family friend or a homelight recommended agent - you should always check online reviews in yelp, angies list, google reviews, homelight, status of real estate license with state/any complaints and others to read about the experience of others, and if necessary - ask about those reviews from the agent. 

New technologies and delivery systems have given rise to several new lower commission online real estate companies making big inroads nationwide and as always, you should always check if they are available in your area, their local reviews, and ratings in various consumer sites including yelp.com, angieslist.com, Better Business Bureau and real estate agents ratings sites. Some of these firms include (NOTE: We are not associated, getting paid or endorsing any of these and only provided as suggestions by community members)

RedFin- https://www.redfin.com/ - Sell for more, pay as low as a 1% listing fee

Purple Bricks - https://www.cnbc.com/2017/09/15/no-more-6-percent-commission--these-brokers-will-sell-your-house-for-a-flat-fee.html "No more 6% commission – these brokers will sell your house for a flat fee

REX https://www.rexchange.com/sell-with-rex - We charge 2% total. No hidden fees or upfront costs.


2. Initial Listing - Whether the family friend or the suggested agent, you will need to negotiate: 

a. Length of initial contract - Our volunteers chose 3 months to evaluate traffic, marketing efforts, and offers brought in by agent. Beware of some tricks as the end of the listing agreement comes near, and some agents will come in with very low offers generated internally from their own agents (remember if they represent and sell the house - they will make the total 6%), so tell them upfront that you do not want to see any tricks as the close of the initial listing agreement, and ask them what is their plan marketing plan for the property ONLINE and LOCALLY prior to signing initial representation agreement.

b. Commission - Our volunteers were selling the home in california and the usual commission is about 6%: 3% to seller's agent and 3% to buyer's agent.  In some cases, real estate agents hoping to earn both the seller and buyer commission will offer to list for 5% or lower. However, in those cases, our volunteers suggested that you clarify what the percentages will be if you or your family identify and brings in the buyers, and to also make sure that any buyer's agent will still get 3% on a sale. Homes in which the buyer's agent gets less than 3% are not as attractive as homes where the buyer's agent gets less than 3%, so get that defined and on the representation paper upfront.

c. Showings - You will need to specify how to show the property, whether by leaving a lockbox at the property but making sure that anyone who gets access to the property is registered with the real estate agent. In addition, you can ask that people take their shoes off when they enter your home to avoid floor scratches, and daily cleaning costs.  In the case of our volunteers, they highly recommended putting a video camera at the front door to get an idea of who is at your property, and they bought $99 self-installation battery operated doorbell camera called "Ring" thru amazon (we are not associated or get compensated with either Ring or Amazon).

d. Offer - When your receive the offer, you will need to ask if the offer is coming from internal (same real estate company who is selling your home) or outside.  Then review the terms, and decide if you would like to counter with higher price, or "as is" acceptance; meaning you will accept the lower price but that no other renovations or repairs will be done; except any that might be required by the bank for the owner to approve buyer's loan. 

e. Terms of Acceptance - If the offer is accepted, then comes a long list of documents that you will need to review closely, and some of the suggestions from our volunteers include:

- 30 Day or less Escrow: Our volunteers in their sales process were caught in 3 cases where the buyers' asked to extend the escrow beyond the 30 day because they were not getting bank approval, or because their house was not yet sold. Prime time for home sales in many parts of the country is spring to beginning of autumn, and the extension of escrows may put you out of the prime selling window and into a season that will mean having to lower your price. 

- Pre-Approved for Mortgage: You and your agent should review the pre-approval mortgage letter that most buyers carry with them now to the purchasing process and determine whether it is solid and worth taking the risk of progressing with escrow. 

- Repairs/Alterations: In the majority of cases, every buyer and every buyer's agent will ask for repairs/modifications/cosmetic changes, and in the case of our volunteers, even after specifying the sale "as is" upfront, repair requests were made. As they stipulated in the contract, 4 repairs were made that were required by the bank to approve the loan, but the rest of the cosmetic repairs by the buyer were negotiated to half of them, and in the interest of time - they included a credit on the closing costs at the closing of the transaction. In this way, our volunteers were not doing cosmetic repairs that this specific buyer wanted and then stuck with their bill if the buyer was not ultimately approved for their loan. 

- The Escrow Company:  Whether you select the escrow company or the buyer, you will need to do or have your real estate agent research any complaints, license status with state, and overall customer reviews. If they have no online reviews, you need to talk to previous recent customers. 

- Optional Items: Make sure you know and your real estate agent tells you what is legally required of you, and what is optional; For example, buying the owner title insurance is optional in some states.

- What Stays in the House: Upfront and in writing, determine what will be left in the house (ie, furniture, paintings, outdoor furniture, washer/drier, etc) upon closing

- Escrow Closing: IMPORTANT - Make sure that you get in writing from escrow prior to accepting them, that they will wire you the funds of the transaction immediately upon completion or at the latest within 24 hours if they miss the cutoff for wire transfer. Our volunteers had to deal with an escrow company chosen by the buyer because that escrow company was supposedly handling the buyer's own home sale. However, the escrow company chosen by buyer ended up being a nightmare for our volunteers because instead of wiring the funds from the sale immediately after the sale, they were being given different excuses for delays, and it was over 48 hours after closing on the sale that our volunteers finally got their money. Our volunteers found out that the owners had gone overseas to asia without telling anyone about it, and the one escrow officer onsite needed the owner's approval, but the owner was not responding to text, emails or calls. Our volunteers even had to file a police report, and it was soon after that - that another person from another business owned by the overseas escrow company owner  called to apologize and reassure them that the money would be wired that day.  It was late that evening, and more than 48 hours after closing and new owners taken  over the home that they received the wired funds. Therefore, CHECK THE ESCROW COMPANY AND THEIR COSTS UPFRONT AND GET ASSURANCES OF WIRE TRANSFER IMMEDIATELY AFTER CLOSING IN WRITING, and check escrow company state license, and their owner's name/contact information, and reviews.

3. Communications - For many of us living far away, you may need to do most of the process via email, zoom, text and calls. If you are doing this, make sure that the agents or escrow company's email are not caught in your junk files/filters, and several of our volunteers suggested that you have your real estate agent "text" you every time they have sent you a document online. Many people living far away have done the entire  transaction remotely using a service called DocuSign and a local notary for title documents and there maybe others by the time you need to do this - so just make sure to check their reputation and reviews.

The sale of any family's home is not an easy emotional process for any one of us grieving, so make sure to get trusted help and support to make sure that the transaction/process does not add to yours and your family's hardship.

Resources for Information on
Key Documents Pre & Post Loss

Regardless of the loss we each experience, one of the realities that comes to mind along the way for many of us - is how unprepared we are not only to deal with the loss of our loved ones, and our grief - but also how unprepared we are if something were to happen to us.When we each are able to, and that may not be for a while after the loss we experienced - it is important for us to think about all the different aspects of estate planning; regardless of how rich or poor we may be. Documents like our health directives, power of attorneys, and copies of our important documents/passwords, and other should be stored in a secure physical place and/or online where our loved ones can easily find them if anything were to happen to us.  

While none of us wants to deal with this type of planning, and specially when dealing with the loss of our loved one and our painful grief journeys - it is something that we all need to put into our "must do" list when we are ready for that list.

We are not associated with or payed anything by anyone or any company mentioned here, and are only providing these resources and suggestions because they were helpful to some of us grieving and members of this online grief support community.

Free Online Storing of Key Documents

(Free as of the time this section of the site was put together)
A free service to store your documents (Up to 5 Gigs/which is a lot for documents) is provided by www.FidSafe.com (by Fidelity Investments), and as of the time we are writing this - you do not need to be a customer of Fidelity to sign up and start using one of their free storage accounts. FidSafe's description on their website is: "FidSafe® - The safe, easy, no-cost way to store, access and share digital copies of your family's most important documents."  You can scan and upload all your important documents (ie, home title/deed/mortgage, life insurance, passport, drivers license, credit cards, health directive, organ donor, and other estate planning documents). Most importantly, if something were to happen to you, FidSafe will automatically send access to your documents to your designated and verified beneficiary(ies). 

Free Online Estate Planner

Fidelity Investments, like many of the large financial/investment firms, has a free estate planning service for its customers:  https://www.fidelity.com/go/fidelity-estate-planner

Free Health Directives Forms by Your State of Residence


"Download and Complete Your State or Territories’ Advance Directive Form
CaringInfo provides free advance directives and instructions for each state that can be opened as a PDF (Portable Document Format) file. The PDF’s may be filled in online. Some states allow online notarization. The forms should be saved and stored in multiple sites. They should also be printed so that they may be formalized by witness signatures or notarized if your state so requires. The states vary in their requirements for witnesses, notarization and other specifics so review the form and its instructions carefully."

Free Mobile Apps To Scan Key Documents Right From Your Phone
Currently, there are quite a few free mobile apps in both the Apple App Store and the Google Play App Store that allow us to scan documents or photos for free, so check at the time you will need to use this for the top rated free ones.  Just search in either of the major app stores for  "Free Scanning App" and make sure to check and read reviews prior to using.

Below are some articles, as suggested by community members, providing more guidance on what to do after a loved one dies, their legal and financial affairs and other areas to consider:

What to Do When a Loved One Dies - https://www.fairsharelawyers.com/resources/10-things-to-know-after-the-death-of-a-loved-one/ Knowing what to do before grief strikes can help you navigate the difficult time following a loved one’s death.  Article also provides the list in Downloadable PDF https://www.fairsharelawyers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/10-Things-Death-Loved-One.pdf

Legal Affairs After Death - https://www.caring.com/articles/closing-legal-affairs-after-death 

If possible, you'll want to see a trusts and estates attorney within a month of the death. Ideally, this will be the same attorney who drafted the will and established his revocable living trust. "The sooner you get started, the sooner it's over," Friedman says. And she finds that some people like having tasks to do -- it helps them cope with their loss. ​

Important Papers to Locate After Someone Dies - https://www.thebalance.com/what-do-you-need-to-do-when-someone-dies-3505207

"After someone dies, family members will need to locate all of the decedent's important papers.  It will give family members and, if necessary, the estate attorney assisting the family with settling the decedent's final affairs, all of the pertinent information needed to complete probate or the trust settlement process. Below  (In this article/link above) is the list of documents that are needed to settle an estate or trust. Copies of the documents are fine unless otherwise noted.

Estate Planning for Surviving Spouses: What to Do ASAP  https://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T021-C032-S014-estate-planning-for-surviving-spouses.html"After the death of a spouse, most of the attention for legal services is paid to administering the estate of the decedent. Often times, little time is spent focusing on the legal needs of the surviving spouse"

Getting Your Affairs in Order - https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/getting-your-affairs-order- Areas Included in this article:
Plan for the Future
What Exactly Is an "Important Paper"?
Steps for Getting Your Affairs in Order
Legal Documents
Help for Getting Your Papers in Order

Do your Own Will https://www.doyourownwill.com/about-contact-us.html - Doyourownwill.com was developed to assist those with simple estates create their own will online for free. Doyourownwill.com is unique in that it quickly delivers the documents right to the user’s desk through a patent-pending process. Doyourownwill.com has been mentioned in The Los Angeles Times, The New York Post, The Wall Street Journal Sunday edition, and Parenting Magazine" Frequently Asked Questions for Users  https://www.doyourownwill.com/FAQs.html

Tomorrow MOBILE APP - https://tomorrow.me/about/ - "Who We Are: We believe that every family should be able to have access to financial and legal services without breaking the bank. Our flagship product, the Tomorrow app, helps you create a legal will for free, set up a living trust, and buy just the right amount of term life insurance". The Tomorrow app is free and can be downloaded in the Apple App Store" https://www.geekwire.com/2018/tomorrow-raises-4-3m-app-lets-create-free-legal-wills-trusts/  Veteran entrepreneur Dave Hanley founded Tomorrow in 2016. He lost both of his parents unexpectedly and wasn’t ready for the difficult financial and legal processes that were to follow. The experience made him realize how many people are unprepared to handle long-term financial and legal decisions — particularly those that lack the time or money required.  Tomorrow provides free legal documents that meet the needs of more than 95 percent of Americans.

12 Documents to Prepare Now for Your Heirs - https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/family-finance/articles/2018-10-04/12-documents-to-prepare-now-for-your-heirs

Open Legal Services (Non-Profit) - https://openlegalservices.org/find-an-attorney/ 

American Bar Association- https://www.americanbar.org/publications/the_affiliate/2015/january-february/open_legal_services_nonprofit_law_firm_model_everyone_talking_about/  

Open Legal Services does not provide free services. Although it does charge for all work performed, it does so at a much lower rate than other attorneys. Clients who qualify for services fit between 125% and 400% of the federal poverty level.

Those whose income levels fall below that scale are eligible for free help from pro bono entities like Utah Legal Services, Legal Aid Society of Salt Lake, or other free legal clinics. These agencies typically are funded through local and federal grants, which are subject to strict eligibility guidelines. Because OLS does not accept grant money at this time, it is not limited in the types of cases it can take.

 Pet Legal Issues- https://www.funeralwise.com/pet-loss/legal/  Dealing with the loss of a pet can present a host of challenges. After all, your pet is not just a companion, it’s part of the family. Along with your grief, you are now faced with the task of determining how to handle your pet’s final disposition. Believe it or not, there are pet legal issues that may be important to keep in mind as you take care of your pet’s end-of-life needs.

Even Your Pet Needs an Estate Planhttps://www.kiplinger.com/article/retirement/T021-C032-S014-even-your-pet-needs-an-estate-plan.html  Who will feed Fifi once you’re gone? It's something you should probably put in writing. There are three different ways to do that, some offering more protections than others.


Australia:  Legal rights and steps after death - https://www.carergateway.gov.au/legal-rights-and-steps-after-death First steps - There may not be a need to do everything straight away. You may want to prioritise tasks and consider asking family and friends to help. 
Some of the first steps involve: 
- the doctor’s certificate of cause of death - funeral arrangements can’t take place until a doctor issues this certificate
- funeral arrangements - refer to the will or the pre-paid funeral plan direction if they exist
- registering the death - funeral directors usually help by registering the death and collecting the death certificate for you.

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