Arrange care for family members and pets in need

Immediately After a Death

If the deceased was a partial or primary caretaker, arrangements may need to be set up quickly for the Surviving Person or pets.

A surviving person in need may be an elderly person, a person with disabilities, or a minor child. Prioritize those who the greatest need and coordinate support with friends and family for the short term.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders If needed, speak with family members about hiring service professionals to help with longer term support.

Helpful Tips


Right after the death, prioritize the care needed to support the daily life of a surviving elderly person or person with disabilities.

For example, they may need help to accomplish everyday activities such as bathing, toileting, dressing, eating, taking medication, or moving from one part of their home to another.

To help provide the right type of care, the surviving person may have a list of support items they need, or a document explaining caregiving responsibilities.

Immediate support may be managed by friends or family, but if the surviving person has longer term needs, you may need to look for professional support, such as in-home nursing care, or an assisted living facility or nursing home.

Exclamation_Icon.svgImportant It's important to review the medical needs of the surviving person in need to ensure that they are being taken care of properly. If this information is not available, contact their healthcare providers to retrieve necessary records.

Find home care providers near you


If the surviving family cannot provide the support needed to properly care for the minor, or if additional support is needed in general, state government can help.

Surviving family members of the deceased should contact Child Protective Services (also referred to as Department of Social Services or Department of Family Services) to determine who will be the child’s temporary caregiver and to start the process for obtaining legal guardianship of the child.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders If an additional consult is needed, contact a Guardianship Attorney who can help you navigate supporting the minor. Find attorneys near you at the links below.


Personal Considerations


Was the deceased the primary caregiver for an elderly person or a person with disabilities?


It may be important to coordinate care very soon after the death.

Make sure to prioritize support in the short term in order to effectively make plans for the long term.

The loss of a caretaker is challenging not only because of the support needed, but because the surviving person may also be grieving.

Those who rely on a caregiver may struggle to adapt to such a significant change in their life.

  • Coordinate with close friends and family; sharing the responsibility may ease the burden on any one person
  • If family members are not available, seek professional support such as in-home nursing care
  • If additional support is required, speak with Adult Protective Services, or the US Veterans Affairs Department, if applicable

Locate Child Protective Services near you

Locate Adult Protective Services near you

Read about support for elder veterans on the US Veterans Affairs Department website


Review other caretaker responsibilities the deceased may have had and plan accordingly.


If the deceased was a caregiver for an elderly person or a person with disabilities:

It may be important to coordinate care very soon after the death.

Make sure to prioritize support in the short term in order to effectively make plans for the long term.

The loss of a caretaker is challenging not only because of the support needed, but because the surviving person may also be grieving.

Those who rely on a caregiver may struggle to adapt to such a significant change in their life.

  • Coordinate with close friends and family; sharing the responsibility may ease the burden on any one person
  • If family members are not available, seek professional support such as in-home nursing care
  • If additional support is required, speak with Adult Protective Services, or the US Veterans Affairs Department, if applicable

Locate Child Protective Services near you

Locate Adult Protective Services near you

Read about support for elder veterans on the US Veterans Affairs Department website

If the deceased was not a caregiver for an elderly person:

Review other caretaker responsibilities the deceased may have had and plan accordingly.


Was the deceased the primary caregiver for a minor child?


Coordinate with surviving family members soon after the death to ensure that the child is safe and healthy in the short term. This will help everyone effectively make plans for long-term care.

Most often when one parent has passed away, the other parent will get full custody of the child.

In this case, it's not necessary for the surviving spouse to go through custody court; they will automatically retain custody.

However, if there is no other living parent, or they are unwilling to accept guardianship, state law will determine the responsible guardian. The decision will be based upon the court’s interpretation of the “Best interest of the Child.”

Lightbulb_Icon.svgGood to Know If the deceased had a Last Will and Testament, it may have named a guardian for the minor child.

However, custody is not automatically granted. The named guardian will need to work with Child Protective Services and a family lawyer to obtain legal guardianship at a court hearing regarding the custody of the child.

The named guardian will need to present a copy of the last will and testament that names them as guardian, as well as the Birth Certificate of the child.

Child Protective Services should be able to advise if any additional documentation is needed, as well as advice on the process for obtaining legal custody.

Locate Child Protective Services near you

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders If an additional consult is needed, contact a Guardianship Attorney who can help you navigate supporting the minor. Find attorneys near you at the links below.


Review other caretaker responsibilities the deceased may have had and plan accordingly.


If the deceased was the primary caregiver for a minor child:

Coordinate with surviving family members soon after the death to ensure that the child is safe and healthy in the short term. This will help everyone effectively make plans for long-term care.

Most often when one parent has passed away, the other parent will get full custody of the child.

In this case, it's not necessary for the surviving spouse to go through custody court; they will automatically retain custody.

However, if there is no other living parent, or they are unwilling to accept guardianship, state law will determine the responsible guardian. The decision will be based upon the court’s interpretation of the “Best interest of the Child.”

Lightbulb_Icon.svgGood to Know If the deceased had a Last Will and Testament, it may have named a guardian for the minor child.

However, custody is not automatically granted. The named guardian will need to work with Child Protective Services and a family lawyer to obtain legal guardianship at a court hearing regarding the custody of the child.

The named guardian will need to present a copy of the last will and testament that names them as guardian, as well as the Birth Certificate of the child.

Child Protective Services should be able to advise if any additional documentation is needed, as well as advice on the process for obtaining legal custody.

Locate Child Protective Services near you

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders If an additional consult is needed, contact a Guardianship Attorney who can help you navigate supporting the minor. Find attorneys near you at the links below.

If the deceased was not primary caregiver for a child or children:

Review other caretaker responsibilities the deceased may have had and plan accordingly.


Did the deceased have any pets?


Contact friends or family who may be able to take them either temporarily or permanently.

If they are unable to house the pet, speak with a veterinarian or a kennel to arrange temporary care.

If the deceased happened to arrange care for their pets in advance, they might have used what's known as a "Pet Trust." A pet trust is established to provide funds and appoint a caretaker if something happens to the trust creator.

It will most likely include specific requests for the animal, and may be located in a safe, safety deposit box, or with the deceased’s Estate Attorney.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders Pets are technically considered a person's property, and are therefore required to go through Probate, the legal process for administering the deceased's Estate, paying debts owed, and distributing remaining Assets to Beneficiaries.

Therefore, it may be helpful to speak with an Estate Attorney or Probate Attorney before giving the pet to another person.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about settling an estate or the probate process, see the “Settle the Estate” section of the Guide.


Review other caretaker responsibilities the deceased may have had and plan accordingly.


If the deceased had a pet or pets:

Contact friends or family who may be able to take them either temporarily or permanently.

If they are unable to house the pet, speak with a veterinarian or a kennel to arrange temporary care.

If the deceased happened to arrange care for their pets in advance, they might have used what's known as a "Pet Trust." A pet trust is established to provide funds and appoint a caretaker if something happens to the trust creator.

It will most likely include specific requests for the animal, and may be located in a safe, safety deposit box, or with the deceased’s Estate Attorney.

AutumnIcons_Providers.svgProviders Pets are technically considered a person's property, and are therefore required to go through Probate, the legal process for administering the deceased's Estate, paying debts owed, and distributing remaining Assets to Beneficiaries.

Therefore, it may be helpful to speak with an Estate Attorney or Probate Attorney before giving the pet to another person.

Guides_Icon.svgRead More For more information about settling an estate or the probate process, see the “Settle the Estate” section of the Guide.

If the deceased did not have a pet:

Review other caretaker responsibilities the deceased may have had and plan accordingly.

Actions to Take


Home care providers near you


Local pet kennels near you

Providers to Contact


Guardianship Attorneys Near You

Guardianship Attorneys represent children and disabled adults to ensure they are appointed a guardian who will serve their best interests and take care of their needs. They can help you identify an appropriate guardian and assist with the legal guardianship process.

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Immediately After a Death