17 Things To Do When Someone Dies


Last Updated on December 2, 2021 by Lady

A Breakdown Of The Documents And Administrative Actions That Have to Be Done After A Loved One’s Death

Please note that this post is informational only, and I cannot be held accountable for any decisions you make. This is also based on Ontario provincial law, and as required, Canadian Federal law. 

This clear, concise list of action items will be a great resource to have on hand while you try to deal with the administrative duties through the turmoil of fresh grief. I wish I had this when my husband unexpectedly died – it would have saved me hours and hours of research. Take this as my gift to you.

This essential checklist was put together based on my own experience: unexpected death of my 40 year-old husband and father of my son, in a low income situation, with no will. Hopefully, your situation will be better – a will, for example would have helped – but you may have other complications not listed here. Such as a death overseas.

In future posts, I will be detailing other aspects that you may come up against. There can be many, and some require a deeper dive, including many of the points here.

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When you’re in shock, it’s almost impossible to know what to do when someone dies. This crucial checklist cannot list all the myriad of situations, but it does cover the basics that you will need to know when you are responsible for finalizing all accounts. This information will save you hours of research when your brain is dealing with everything else.

17 Things To Do When Someone Dies

Call An Official

Unexpected death: call emergency services. In my case, we had all three departments arrive – fire department, then the paramedics, and last the police all tromping through my house. Our street was lit up like fireworks on a holiday night. Thank god the baby slept through it all.

Expected death: call their doctor. If they were admitted to a hospital, then this is already done. The doctor will know of their history and will be able to properly fill out the reports necessary.

If they died overseas, then there’s a separate protocol to follow.

If you find yourself serving as an executor or trustee, take control of the estate or trust with these plain-English books in Nolo’s Executor’s Bundle.

Find a Funeral Home

They will take care of the transportation of the body to their establishment. Don’t worry about costs for now. Any other funeral arrangements can be figured out later.

All funeral homes must offer an inexpensive service known as ‘direct disposition’. Transfer Services are companies that may only offer the ‘direct disposition’ option. This option includes the removal of the deceased from the place of death, the placement of the body in a container or casket, the delivery of the body to the cemetery or crematorium and the filing of necessary documentation. It does not include visitation or services with the body present. Funeral directors can help you make all the arrangements for funerals. Funeral, Burial and Cremation Services Act, 2002

Proof of Death Certificate

Get a Proof of Death from the funeral home. This very important piece of paper is needed to close their accounts (banking, credit cards, utilities). If you didn’t get an autopsy done, it will be the first official documentation of death – the first of many nails driven into the casket of your heart. Stay strong. There’s more to come.

Burial Permit

Get Burial Permit from the funeral home – this is needed for both casket burial and cremation. You can’t bury the body without it. If the death occurred outside Ontario, but the burial is to be in Ontario, then you will need a transit or removal permit from the jurisdiction.

Burial vs. cremation. You will need to make this decision, if it wasn’t already made for you. Thankfully, you have a few days to figure this out, and there’s still time for visitation with the deceased. A separate post talking about the differences and options will be forthcoming.

Ontario Works Application

What if the deceased has no assets, was unemployed, or was receiving Ontario Works Benefits/Welfare? How the heck are you going to pay for the basic funeral home costs? Don’t panic!

You can apply to Ontario Works to get help. They will pay up to $2,250 against the funeral, burial and/or cremation costs. Tombstones are not covered, but grave markers are as the latter are a cemetery requirement. Please keep records on all expenses:  if the monies provided exceed the costs you are required to pay them back, though this isn’t likely.

As an aside, you will have to register your now deceased loved one into the Ontario Works System, if they aren’t already. A systematic letter will be sent to you to report the hours worked since they applied. This came as a very unpleasant shock and you better believe I called them up to let them know how traumatizing it was. Just an FYI.

Statement of Death and Medical Certificate of Death

While you’re working on these, the doctor or coroner who attended the body will draw up the Medical Certificate of Death to give to the funeral director. The funeral director will fill out a Statement of Death, which he will submit along with the Medical Certificate of Death to register the death. The cause of death will be noted on these forms.

17 Things To Do After Someone Dies

A Step-By-Step Checklist to help you get through all of the administrative paperwork

Death Certificate – Get 5 Copies

Once the death is registered, you can apply for an official Death Certificate. Though you can use the Proof of Death you obtained from the funeral home for most things, you will need to have this official Death Certificate for more formal matters: settling the estate, insurance claims, terminating any government services. We’ll cover the latter in a future step. You can apply for this certificate online. These are the items that you will need to gather to apply:

  • First and last name of the deceased
  • Gender
  • Date of death
  • City or town of death
  • Parental information of deceased
  • Spouse/Partner
  • Payment method.

Cost is $15 for the original certificate, and $22 for certified copies. Delivery is 5 days admin time plus delivery time, though you can pay a premium guaranteed 5 days delivery. Get the original certificate, but at least three to five certified copies. I’ve lost enough official documentation through the mail that the extra expense is worth it over redoing the administration pain. You’ll need them.

Apply for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will

Apply for the Certificate of Appointment of Estate Trustee Without a Will. If you are the next of kin, or the appointed executor, you should apply for this certificate through the Registrar General of Ontario. You may have to register as the official next of kin. This is important if there is no official executor, or Will. It grants you the ability to act on the deceased behalf. There are a whole lot of forms to fill out, which will be discussed in a later post.

Close Out Personal Accounts

Now comes the horrible part – calling up all of their creditors to close their accounts. Cell phone, utilities, credit cards…whatever was in their name will have to be closed. Most companies accept the Proof of Death certificate in order to close these out.

IMPORTANT: if the account is in their name, and their name only, and there is no money available in the estate, you are not responsible for remitting any outstanding balance!! Read the story about my experience with that here. Make sure you comb through all their accounts, and close every last one of them. It’s painful, obviously for administrative reasons, but every time an account closes it’s another stark declaration that they’re not coming back.

Note: if you have a joint account, please ensure that you check into how it was set up before you close it. There have been cases where the banks will freeze the account, locking up funds that used to be liquid to the partner.

Close Out Canadian Pension Plans/Old Age Security

Close out their CPP/OAS plans – they’re not going to need them anymore. However, good news! Now if you are next of kin, you can apply for them (that’s coming up later). Payback from the grave. Note that in order to cancel them, you need the deceased SIN and they really prefer the official Death Certificate that you obtained already. It has to be the original or a certified copy – I’d recommend the latter as I’ve personally lost a few official documents in the mail.

 Return SIN/Cancel Passport

SIN card

Return their SIN card to the government. Once you’ve used the SIN number above, now you have to send the card back to the government, along with another certified copy of the Death Certificate, to Service Canada. Submit the documents in person at your nearest Service Canada Centre or mail them to the following address:

Service Canada
Social Insurance Registration office
PO Box 7000
Bathurst NB  E2A 4T1


For passports, if if is valid, you should mail it to:

Passport Program
Gatineau QC K1A 0G3

Include a copy of the death certificate and a letter telling us if they should destroy the cancelled passport or return it to you. You don’t need to return an expired passport. However, if you want to securely destroy it, send a note and a copy of the death certificate along with the expired passport asking for its destruction.

Return Health Card/Driver’s License

Isn’t this administrative bureaucracy fun! Not that you’re in PAIN or anything, and can’t see straight. Oh yeah, and you might want to close out their Health Care and Driver’s License as well. Click the highlighted subheadings below to go straight to the required government page.

Health Card
Driver’s License

Revenue Canada

The Big One!

Contact them as soon as possible to inform them of the death. Your deceased may have been receiving benefits that you were not aware of which will need to stop. If they are not stopped, it’ll be discovered when you submit their last tax return and will require payback. Talking about that…

Filing the T3

You get to file your beloved last tax return, known as a T3. You have one year to submit this, as it may take some time to finalize all sales of assets. If they didn’t have any assets, then it’s pretty easy. However, I would recommend hiring a tax professional to tie up any loose ends. This is important stuff that is pretty specific, and you’re probably not in the right frame of mind to think about it. Yet another reason why I wanted to gather up all the things to do when someone dies into a checklist. Like seriously, the list of forms you have to go through is unreadable when sober!

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Take a Break!!

OMG relief! We’re not done with this essential after-death checklist, but we’ve gone through the majority of the really tedious, heart-wrenching paperwork. The amount of administrative work needed following a death can be overwhelming, to say the least. That’s why I wanted to gift you this checklist. There’s so much more that you’ll have to do – cleaning out their closet, dealing with the funeral details, changing your own relationshop status on government paper…there are so many little details that demand your attention.

Grab a tea, wrap yourself in a blanket, and cry if you need to. This is tough work, and you’re a little sensitive right now. Be gentle on yourself. Take a day, or a week off from the grinding paperwork – you’re almost there. There’s still more admin work to do, but now it may have benefits for you.

Okay, break’s over. Back to the checklist.

Apply for Life Insurance Benefits

Did you or your dearly departed have life insurance? Private or through work? Apply for this now. Don’t allow yourself to feel that it’s dirty money – it’s not an emotional thing. This is basic survival here, and even the base minimum will be a help in the next year. You’ve suddenly gone from a two-income family to just you with most of the same expenses. You’ll benefit from having a bit of a cushion while you figure out how to live your life now.

Apply for CPP Benefits

If you were legally married or common-law, and they paid into the Canadian Pension Plan, then you can apply for several benefits.

  • There is a one-time payment called The Death Benefit which is paid out to the estate. As of 2020, this is a flat rate of $2500 which is intended to help pay for funeral expenses. If you were eligible for the Ontario Works benefit, this is on top of that.
  • You also may be eligible for the survivor’s pension: every month, an installment from the money they were saving for their retirement will be transferred into your account. You are entitled to this until you remarry, at which point payments will cease.
  • If you had children with the deceased and they are under 18, you can also apply for the Children’s Benefit for any dependents of the deceased CPP contributor. If you are their legal guardian, you will receive this benefit on their behalf until they come of age, when it will transfer to them directly.

Wills, Inheritance, Estates and Investments

These are complex, and I will be providing an overview of the probate process in a separate post. In the meantime I would highly suggest talking to a lawyer about your individual situation.
If the deceased had any investments, you have a year to sort these out. They don’t close automatically upon death, but they will be taxable from the date of death. If they grow between the date of death and when you sell, you will be taxed.
If you are anticipating money, I would highly recommend that , try to convince yourself that it’s not going to happen. There is so much that can happen between notification of an inheritance and it’s final transfer that the core amount will often vary – not for the better.
Once you DO have the money, sock it away for at least a year as unexpected taxes could claw some of it back. I ended up having to pay $6000 in taxes a year after receiving an inheritance because of a confusion in filing – I’ll explain more in the probate overview coming soon.
Click here to use this form to leave your Nevada real estate without probate.

This is just an overview of what needs to get done. There are a myriad of different situations out there. Do you have an experience you wish to share? Any tips and tricks that you’ve learned? Are there any situations you’d like to prepare for? Comment below for a chance to be the focus of a post.

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