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Voice of Experience

Voice of Experience: April 2024

How to Survive the Death of a Loved One

Michael L Goldblatt


  • Many things need to be done after the death of a loved one.
  • Death often requires immediate action to protect the property of the deceased and the welfare of survivors.
  • Items to consider in the wake of death and resources for managing them. 
How to Survive the Death of a Loved One VDM

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Tim Burton propelled his career by directing Beetlejuice, a gothic comedy about life after death. The movie was released 35 years ago with Michael Keaton in the title role and a whimsical soundtrack from Harry Bellafonte and Danny Elfman. It tells the story of a recently deceased couple whose home becomes a waiting room for heaven. Watch the movie to inspire end-of-life planning for yourself and your family.

Death can be gradual, sudden, or unexpected. Many things are needed after death, like registering the passing, arranging a funeral, and giving notice to family and friends. Ease the burden on survivors by planning before a death in the family. Below are items to consider and resources for managing them.


  • Accounts – terminate accounts (credit, email, social media, etc.).
  • Advisors – consult the deceased’s advisors (attorney, accountant, financial, clergy, mortician, etc.).
  • Assets – identify, insure, and secure assets (art, car, home, jewelry, safe deposit box, etc.).
  • Benefits – notify administrators (benefit plans, life insurance, Social Security, Medicare, and Veterans Administrations).
  • Burial – obtain legal pronouncement of death, contact funeral home, and arrange burial.
  • Care – arrange for care of children, spouse, parents, and pets.
  • Comfort – take time to grieve and seek comfort from others.
  • Documents – gather important documents and papers (birth/marriage certificates, insurance policies, wills, trusts, etc.).
  • Insurance – cancel unneeded policies, make timely benefit claims where appropriate (e.g., life insurance proceeds).
  • Memorials – alert family and friends to funeral arrangements and memorials.
  • Notices – notify banks, bar associations, brokerages, clients, law firm partners, credit bureaus, lenders, etc.
  • Obligations - close practice, settle debts, and terminate contracts.
  • Obituary - draft or update and publish as appropriate consistent with deceased’s wishes.


The passing of a loved one is a stressful time filled with emotion. Death often requires immediate action to protect property of the deceased and welfare of survivors. The resources accompanying this article include links to articles, books, checklists, and websites. Use these resources to plan for end of life and reduce the strain on survivors.





  • AARP (grieving)
  • ABA (transitioning a practice)
  • (funeral arrangements)
  • NHPCO (end-of-life decisions)
  • LSO (closing a practice)