What To Do When Someone Dies

What To Do When Someone Dies

What to do immediately

– Call a doctor

If someone passes away at home, the first thing you want to do is call a doctor. The doctor will pronounce the person dead and issue a death certificate. Being issued a death certificate is extremely important, as it is needed to proceed with any funeral arrangements and other legal matters.

– If the cause of death is unknown

If the death is suspicious or unnatural in any way, you are obligated by law to call the police. Similarly, if a doctor cannot determine the cause of death, they will pass the matter over to the authorities. At which point, a coroner maybe needed to determine the cause of death before any death certificate can be issued.

What to do in the next few days

– Organising a funeral

After the doctor has issued a death certificate, plans for a funeral ceremony can be made. How much planning is needed will depend on whether the deceased expressed their wishes through a funeral director or formally through a will. This will usually be determined and arranged by the deceased’s next of kin.

– Find a funeral director

The first step in organising the ceremony is finding a suitable funeral director. This decision will ultimately come down to your preferences, budget, religious values, and location. Make sure you speak to a few providers who provide you with an itemised quote. This will ensure you’re getting a fair deal. Another good tip would be to bring a ‘clear headed’ companion along to also meet with the funeral director. At such an emotional time, it can be very hard to take in all the important information.

If you’re looking for more information about funeral directors, this article goes into depth about where to find these providers along with how to choose the most suitable one.

Organising the funeral service

The most important role of a funeral director is working with you in order to create and plan a service that meets your budget, preferences, and values. Here are some of the typical decisions you will need to make:

  • Choosing a coffin or casket from a selected range
  • Viewing arrangements for mourners
  • Hiring a Minister or Celebrant to conduct the funeral service
  • Deciding on ceremony music and a digital display
  • Catering plans for the service
  • Selecting a suitable flower arrangement organised by the funeral director or a third party
  • Deciding on memorial cards and memorial books
  • Making death notices in newspapers, online, or with affiliated organisations

Burial vs Cremation

If no preference has been left by the deceased, a big decision that needs to be made early is choosing between burial or cremation. This choice will come down to factors such as:

  • Spiritual or religious restrictions
  • Mourning needs for family
  • Location of funeral service
  • Cost – cremation is a much cheaper option

Both burial and cremation come with their advantages and constraints. For anyone undecided about which option to go with, this article goes into detail about the topic.

Registering a death

A funeral director will usually assist in the paperwork for registering the death of the deceased. You should provide as much information about the deceased (Ideally through documents) that includes:

  • Legal name, last address and last job
  • Any birth, marriage, or possibly name change certificates
  • Document of naturalisation or arrival for foreign born citizens
  • Parents names, including mother’s maiden name
  • Children names and ages, even if deceased

Paying for a Funeral

The person who arranges the funeral will be financially responsible, however expense could be covered from funds set aside in other places. These areas may include:

  • The estate of the deceased: Which can be reimbursed when the deceased’s assets have been finalised.
  • A pre-paid funeral: The cost of the funeral may have been covered previously by the deceased.
  • Funeral insurance plans: Depending on the policy, it may cover all funeral expenses.
  • Funeral bonds: Another type of financial instrument to cover funeral expenses.
  • Superannuation of the deceased: Remaining superannuation funds.
  • Centrelink Bereavement Payment: To check your eligibility, input your details on the Centrelink website.
  • Bank account of the deceased: See the later topic “Payment of expenses” for more information.
  • The Department of Veteran Affairs: The Government may cover a portion of funeral expenses if the deceased was a war veteran.
  • Assistance from family or friends: This would obviously depend on your situation.

If you are looking for more information about how to cover the costs of a funeral, this article goes through all the different possibilities.

Miscellaneous Tasks

Death announcement

Your funeral director may be able assist you in creating a death or funeral announcement, which can be placed in a local newspaper or online. If you wish to write the a death notice yourself, this guide will help you put together a meaningful message.

Notify friends & relatives

Make sure to contact close friends and family, so they are aware of what has happened. Let them know how they can provide any support and assistance with funeral preparations.

Notify organisations

To make sure that organisations are aware that the person who holds accounts has passed away, gather all the necessary forms and check common places where notice is needed. This includes organisations such as:

  • Centrelink
  • Banks and other financial institutions
  • The Department of Veteran Affairs (If applicable)
  • Any insurance providers


Copy of the deceased’s will

Find out whether the deceased left a will and who is responsible for it. (The executor) If no will has been left, the next of kin will be named the administrator. Make sure you keep this document in a safe place and in it’s original state, as it will be important for future dealings.

Payment of expenses

If there’s enough money in the deceased’s account, you should be able to withdraw the funds to cover funeral expenses. Keep track of all the expenses, as these transactions will need to be noted by the Executor or Next of Kin, when taxes are being done for the next year.

What to do after a few weeks

Who to notify

Check with any companies or government institutions that might not have already been contacted. Going through the deceased person’s filing cabinet might end up giving you ideas to who or what else is left to figure out. Be sure to keep these documents close to you when speaking with the organisation. Here are some likely places that need to be contacted:

  • Credit card companies
  • Gas and electricity companies
  • Water suppliers
  • Electoral office
  • Insurance companies
  • Medicare
  • Telephone providers
  • Superannuation providers
  • Lawyer
  • Roads and Traffic Authority

Contact insurance companies

In order to make a claim, the first step would be to contact the insurance companies where policies have been taken. Each insurance company will have their own protocol for making a claim. However, they will usually provide you with some information over the phone, and send out the necessary paperwork to move forward. Make sure you read the fine print, ask questions (If something is not understood), and take notes, in order for your claim to be processed quickly.


Any remaining superannuation and life insurance benefits (If any) of the deceased are combined to be called “death benefits”. These benefits can be withdrawn in one lump sum or possibly through small ongoing payments. Usually the recipient of this payout will be the next of kin or someone specifically nominated in their will. If nobody has been nominated, it will go to a ‘superannuation dependent’- who is usually a spouse/partner or child. If you’re not too sure, contact the superannuation or life insurance company for more details.

What to do after a few months

Allocate the deceased’s assets

The process of dividing up the deceased’s estate will usually done with the help of a lawyer. The nominated executor (If there is a will) or administrator (If there isn’t a will) has the responsibility of dividing up assets.

Lodge tax return

Depending on the financial situation of the deceased, there may be a need for the executor or administrator of the will to lodge a final tax return. The best advice would be to contact the deceased’s accountant or speak with the Australian Taxation Office.

Take deceased off mailing lists

To no longer receive mail for the deceased contact the Australian Direct Marketing Association. You can write to this address:

ADMA – Do Not Contact service Reply Paid 4054 SYDNEY NSW 2001

Seek support

Up until this time you’ve probably had support from family and friends to get you through this difficult time. However if grief is still an issue, you should consider getting some professional help. Depending on your location, there should be a range of grief counselling services both public and private. There also a number of very useful online resources– take your time to do research online.