Checklist: Getting Started

The Get Your Shit Together Checklists

What Do You Do When You Don’t Know What To Do? What frequently happens when something bad happens is a sort of soul-sucking shit-storm snow-ball effect begins and a lot of other things go wrong, too. This is not good timing.  Or you have to make hard, complicated decisions where you are at your worst. Also very not good. Knowing where to start, or what to do next, is sometimes all we need to get one thing done or feel a little less anxious.

2-Page Checklist: The Essentials

The original, Master Checklist downloaded over a million times!

14-Page Expanded Checklist

Updated and expanded 14-page Before & After Checklist here.

The Original 2-Page Essentials Checklist: Before Life Goes Sideways

This checklist was first published on the first and original version of the Get Your Shit Together website, I pushed in out into the world in 2013 hoping a few people would see it and would be helpful to my friends and family. Well, about a year later it had been downloaded over a million times. Wow.

Over the hours and days at the hospital when my late husband was in the ICU I learned (the hard way) that there were a handful of things I could have done before life went sideways that would have really helped. This ‘before’ checklist captures the questions and issues that kept coming up over and over that I wish I’d know, had easier access or answers to.

Will & Power of Attorney

  • The will is signed, notarized, and a copy has been given to those listed. 

____ I have completed my Will & Power of Attorney (POA) and listed:    Durable Power of Attorney for Financial, Digital, and Medical, or other roles to people I trust and have a backup person listed for each role.

My copy of my will is located here: ________________________________

Living Will

____ I have completed my Living Will (also called an Advance Care Directive).

  • Named a healthcare advocate and a back-up person
  • Additional information and notice to your doctor
  • Discussed your wishes friends and family (wants and don’t want)
  • Discussed or written down the type of funeral or memorial service you desire and any instructions about burial or cremation
  • Considered where and how I would like to be cared for if I were terminally ill and discussed this with those closest to me

     ____ The living will is signed, notarized, and a copy has been given to those named or listed. 

My copy of my living will is located here: ____________________


____ I have researched Life Insurance options and purchased the best possible plan for me and/or my family.

  • I have researched short-term Disability and completed all steps.
  • I have researched long-term Disability and completed all steps.

My copy of my policy is located here: ________________________________


____ I have reviewed my financial situation and, if necessary, discussed this with those closest to me.

  • I have completed a budget and track monthly actual costs to my budget.
  • I have ______ weeks/months of expenses saved in case of emergency.
  • I have ______ weeks/months of expenses saved in case of emergency.
  • I have a plan to meet my goal _________ by this date ________________
  • I have a long-term savings plan and/or retirement plan.

A list of my banking and financial accounts is located here:____________


____ I have listed my Personal Details out in case of emergency or some one else needs to retrieve it (passwords, contact information, accounts, etc)

A copy of my details list is located here: _____________________________


____ I have thought about my relationships and how I want to move forward to resolve any unfinished business.

  • I have reached out to those people
  • I have deeply considered how my life lines up with my values and priorities, how I am spending my energy, and what I want to do differently to have the life that is meaningful and important to me.

Getting Started: Pick 3 Things

  • What worries me most: ______________________________________________
  • Has been on my list the longest: _____________________________________
  • Will be relieved once it is done: ______________________________________

14-Page Updated & Expanded Checklist: Before & After Loss

The ‘After’ Checklist: Once the website launched millions of people used it and thousands of letters started pouring in – many were thankful for the help. The others? Things had already gone sideways and were currently in a world of hurt in the ‘afterwards’, just like I had been a few years before. It’s a terrifying and really sucky, suck-ass place to be. Hence, the ‘After’ Checklist, to help think through what to do when you don’t know what to do.

Get a ‘State of the State’: Right Now

____ Are you clear about what the situation is, where you are, why?

____ Are you in a good (enough), safe, or helpful place right now?

____ Does someone know where you are, can come get you, or be with you?

____ Who is with you and/or nearby that you can ask for help right now?

____ Who do you want to have with you that you (or someone else) can call?

            ____ do you have those phone numbers?

            ____ can someone locate them and/or make those calls for you?

            ____ who else is on your ‘needs to be called’ list?

____ Are your Family/Kids/Parents, etc. ok and in a safe place right now?

            ____ do you need to make a phone call to make any updates, buy time?

            ____ can someone locate them and/or make those calls for you?

____ Is there anything that you want/need that could help you right now?

What Happens Next

____ Do you know what the next few days could/will look like

____ if yes, what is most important to handle/be done the next few days

____ if no, want are the likely if/then scenarios you can try to plan for

____ Are there children or minors that need to be arranged for, where are they?

____ can you locate closest family, grandparents, parent, guardians

____ Get a Notebook or Notepad to start writing down questions and info

____ What do you need/want to know, questions

____ Are there ‘buckets’ or ‘categories’ of things you can group together?

____ Are there items you can ask others to help with, or ‘hand off’?

____ For example, ask for help with:

____ Kids and childcare scheduling, play dates, driving, etc.

____ Insurance claims and policies

____ Logistics for Out of town friends & Family,

____ Meal planning, grocery shopping and Food Delivery

____ Household help like laundry, cleaning, helping with pets

____ Money & Financial Planning, benefits, debts & settlements

____ Medical help, researching specialists, care options

____ Legal and Estate management, probate and settling estate

____ Communication Plan, online announcements, emails updates

Paperwork and Documents to Locate & Collect

____ Medical & Insurance Policies

____ Call Employer and/or Business contacts (they can often help)

____ Legal Issues & POA (locate Wills and/or Living Wills) contact POAs

____ Financial

____ Executive

____ Medical

____  other

____ Certificates & Documentation

            ____ Birth certificates

            ____ Marriage & Divorce

            ____ Other (Military service, pensions, etc)

Preparing for Serious Injury, Diagnosis or Hospice

____ Collect or create important documents (will, living will, POA, DNR, etc.)

____ Complete any missing documents or additional wishes

____ Financial Assistance Options (Disability Insurance or Benefits, etc.)

____ Share documents with family, doctor, hospital, hospice, etc.

____ Wishes and desires (legal documents, letters, conversations)

____ Are there other assets to confirm or collect (safe deposit box, other?)

____ Are there details to document (accounts & passwords, online assets?)

____ Help contact friends and family members

____ If helping, reach out respectfully and offer help or check in

____ If helping, specific advice can be a relief (rather than “call me anytime”)

After Someone Dies

____ Notification of the death: if not in a Medical location or a doctor was not present – notify a Doctor, Police and/or Coroner

____ Organ donation (did they request it, is it possible)

____ Other ‘upon death’ instructions (DNA sampling, science, cryonics)

____ Ask for death certificates (certified copies) you’ll need numerous copies

____ Care of the Body: choosing Cremation, Natural or Traditional Funeral ‘disposition’ Funeral & Memorial planning (any pre-planning or instructions)

____ Is there a living will or letter expressing wishes?

____ Moving the body: to a/your home, funeral home or crematorium, to a different state)

____ Additional instructions/preferences: embalming options, clothing or shroud requests, special object(s) to be/remain with the body

____ Invitations/requests to view the body and/or the cremation

____ Professional services to hire (independent funeral director, home funeral consultant, funeral planning/event service, select a funeral home or mortuary) to assist with planning, the process and/or funeral or memorial services. Specify:

____ Home options include keeping the body home longer, a home viewing, wake, memorial and/or funeral

____ Choosing cremation, direct cremation, natural burial, green burial, burial in a cemetery, family plot/crypt, burial at sea, or others

____ Select a casket, shroud, box, urn, or other, if needed/desired

____ Plan the Wake/Memorial/Funeral/Ceremony and make as personal as any plans or instructions have requested or as specific as the family desires:

____ List friends/family who can (or would like to) help with the service(s)

____ Write an obituary, ask others to contribute, if desired

____ Invitation list, invites via mail, email and/or other social channels

____ Logistics with out of town guests

____ Photos, music, food or other items to have present

____ Confirm who to ask to speak, a celebrant, stories to share, etc.

____ If helpful, ask a family member or friend to stay at the person’s home to care for the house, pets, or help with logistics or visitors.

Note: You have more options than you might realize: if you want to have a home viewing of Uncle Hank in his favorite Elvis jumpsuit, have a green burial, serve only candy at the memorial and play CCR or ABBA nonstop – if that is what he and/or the family desire – then by all means Do It!

Probate, Managing & Settling an Estate

____ Confirm Executor of Will and get ‘letter of administration’ which confirms the ‘Personal Representative’ who can make decisions for ‘the estate’

____ if no will, Probate process confirms next steps and beneficiaries

____ contact a lawyer if you have any legal questions or concerns

____ Contact Services and Institutions (the “I’m Sorry for Your Loss” calls)

____ Banking (checking, saving, retirement, stocks, etc.)

____ Social Security Office (ask about Survivor benefits)

____ Insurance providers (Life, Auto, Health, etc.)

____ Mortgage, deed & titles to property

____ Debt like loans or credit cards to make arrangements

____ Utilities for home (change name, cancel or make updates)

____ Post Office (forward address or stop mail, etc.)

____ Financial Management of Estate (assets, debts, taxes, trusts, beneficiaries)

            ____ Confirm instructions in Will for Assets, Trusts, Gifts, etc.

            ____ Taxes to file and/or estate taxes to be paid

____ Inventory Household items and Digital Assets as needed

____ Collect all insurance policies and named beneficiaries

____ Medical insurance status (continuation needed, COBRA?)

____ Real estate if any property is still/currently lived-in (family, tenants)

____ Inventory outstanding Debts (credit cards, mortgages, etc.)

            ____ Does the debt(s) need to be paid (confirm before paying)

            ____ Is the Personal Representative of the Estate held liable

____ Digital Assets and Estate

            ____ Online Password or Storage services known?

            ____ Is there a Digital Power of Attorney listed in the Will or POA?

            ____ Confirm if/who (Spouse, Executor of Will or other) will search online via sites, emails or other to secure digital assets.

____ The Big Picture: Options, Vulnerabilities, Scenarios & Priorities

Community & Emotional support

____ Remember, grief looks different for everyone, can ‘take longer’ than you think, come back or appear more like ‘waves’ than clear or linear ‘phases’

____ Put Your Mask on First: Taking care of yourself is a priority

____ Get support for your emotional and mental health

            ____ be honest about your feelings, talk about it

            ____ be gentle with yourself, cut yourself a lot of slack

            ____ plan for ‘triggers’, especially holidays and anniversaries    

            ____ get help, find a counselor, go to a grief support group