The following steps can be used as a guide, for anyone facing this difficult time…

  • If the death has occurred in a hospital or nursing home, trained staff will be able to handle the immediate undertakings. If the death has occurred elsewhere, a doctor must be called to examine the body and prepare the required documentation. A doctor’s certificate (‘Doctor’s Certificate of cause of Death’) must be signed by a doctor. This is necessary before funeral arrangements can commence. Obviously, if the death is not expected, police should be called before the GP. Hospitals and most facilities will have a mortuary for the deceased until a funeral director is engaged.
  • Either a nominated individual or in many cases a ‘funeral director’ will undertake funeral arrangements. This person will ensure the death is registered with the appropriated government offices, and will commence arrangements for services, public notices etc. If the family is taking on this responsibility, the death certificate must be lodged with Births, Deaths & Marriages via which explains the lodgment process. For assistance making funeral arrangements you can find a reputable funeral director via the Australian Funeral Directors Association at
  • Consider who will be responsible for notifying family members and friends of death. Does the deceased have dependents or pets that will require care? Do they have an employer who must be notified?
  • Consider available avenues to help pay for funeral expenses etc., does the deceased hold private health or life insurance policies? Funeral cover? Contact the provider for assistance with disbursement proceedings. Some people also choose to pre-arrange a funeral plan or funeral bond (documents detailing pre-arrangements are often kept with the Will). The banking institution of the deceased can usually be contacted to arrange access to funds for funeral costs.
  • The executor of the deceased estate will be responsible for distribution of assets and paying off debts. If an individual does not have a Will or any close family members, the government may obtain any remaining assets.
  • If a member of a couple is left behind, any assets held in both names will generally pass to the surviving partner. There may also be superannuation entitlements payable. Consider the effect of ‘inheriting’ estate funds and what it may have on your own incoming benefits – sometimes this is an important time to utilise the knowledge of a financial adviser.
  • Consider whether you or others should seek support from a counsellor to help with adjusting to life after losing a loved one.