End of Life Tip - 4: After the Death of a Loved one

Every few weeks, the Retiree Center will present a new article in its End of Life tips series. While we know these are difficult discussions to have, our goal is to ensure our retirees get access to helpful information to help them plan safely for the inevitable. There are many ways to ensure the future includes and safeguards our individual hopes and wishes as life begins to change with increasing age.

End of Life Tip - 4: After the Death of a Loved one

Although death is natural and inevitable, it is difficult to continue to plan for our loved ones after they have passed. There are necessary steps that need to be taken once death has occurred. These topics and conversations although difficult to have, are a moral obligation of caretakers and family members. Immediately after death there are important steps to take immediately to ensure death is being handled properly. 

Legal Pronouncement of Death

The first subject to address after death would be to acquire a legal pronouncement of death. An official declaration of death is the first step to getting a death certificate. If a loved one has died outside of a hospital or care facility, you will need a medical professional to declare an official death statement. This can be done by calling 911 as a way to transport the deceased to an emergency hospital setting. Once death has been officially declared, the subject will be transported to a funeral home.

Funeral Arrangements

The next immediate step would be to communicate the death to individual’s loved ones, employer, coworkers, close friends, and religious, social, or spiritual group members that the individual was a participant of. While contacting loved ones, it would be wise to gain insight on the type of burial and funeral plans the individual desired in life. Within the first week, burial and service arrangements should be made with the funeral home. The individual may have left specific instructions behind requesting a particular burial or service. It is important and respectful to follow the wishes of the individual, and to provide an obituary within the first few days of death. 

Property, Mail, and Belongings

You may want to arrange for the individual’s property, mail, and belongings to be accounted for shortly after death. Does the individual have a vehicle? A home? Pets? Delicate jewelry, plants, or perishable food? These are all factors that must be accounted for within the first few days of death. It is best to seek out help from other loved ones, neighbors, or from people who knew the individual well. In most cases, belongings of the deceased are distributed amongst family members, spouses, or children. It is important to follow the wishes of the deceased individual and accommodate for any unique or special circumstances requested in life.
While it may seem overwhelming to initiate these conversations early, it is important to guarantee your own satisfaction nearing the end of life.


For further information regarding aging and death, please visit the National Institute on Aging: https://www.nia.nih.gov. Additionally, the UC Davis Retiree Center has compiled a checklist of tasks to be considered upon the death of a loved one, including contact information you may need to contact UC, Fidelity Investments, Social Security, and VA benefits. A print-formatted version may be downloaded at: https://retireecenter.ucdavis.edu/sites/g/files/dgvnsk4291/files/inline-files/AftertheDeath.pdf. One additional valuable resource for survivors and beneficiaries of UC retirees is the following guide: https://ucnet.universityofcalifornia.edu/forms/pdf/survivor-beneficiary-handbook-for-family-members-beneficiaries-of-uc-retirees--members-receiving-ucrp-disability-benefits.pdf

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