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What do I do after an unexpected death?

As terrible as it may be, sometimes people die in unexpected ways and at unexpected times. It can be overwhelming to know what steps to take after an unexpected death. Unlike a death that occurs in an environment where people regularly pass away, such as a hospital or elder care facility, you may have to rise to the occasion and take matters into your own hands to handle the situation. Understanding a proper and healthy approach to unexpected death can keep you from being overwhelmed and ensure that the proper relatives and authorities are notified.

The first thing you should do any time a person dies without some medical care provider present is call the police. The police will come and perform some form of investigation to determine time and cause of death.

You should also reach out to family members of the deceased, or at least a loved one, if you know how to contact one. Depending on the nature of the situation and the deceased, there may be many people to inform of the death. You may be the person who has to shoulder the burden of making sure that everyone who supposed to be informed is contacted, but keep in mind that you do not personally have to make every call. It is simple to delegate to others when you call to inform them of the death, asking them to in turn call several people as well.

After informing loved ones, someone will need to contact a funeral director to make arrangements, and gather important documents, such as Social Security documentation and life insurance information.

In some cases, the person may have died as a result of some other party's actions or negligence. In these cases, you should not hesitate to contact an attorney to evaluate the circumstances of the death and determine if a wrongful death suit is appropriate. With proper legal guidance, you can grieve your loss and seek justice for the one you love.

Source: Funeral Plan, "What to Do When Someone Close to You Dies," accessed March 17, 2017

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