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What to do When Someone Dies

We know there is practical advice that is needed to help you find the information you need immediately after a loved one dies. 

It is not something that we, as a community, usually talk about, and as a result, it can be a very stressful time, but on this page Solace Family Funerals have provided a guide to help you through some of the legal, financial, and practical requirements following a death. Knowing what to do can relieve some stress from an already stressful situation. Here are some of the essential steps you'll need to take when a loved one dies.


Death at a Hospital or Nursing Home

When your loved one dies in a hospital or nursing home, the staff will handle most of the formalities and advise you on what steps you need to take next. Most public and some private hospitals will have their own mortuary. Your loved one can be kept there until they are transferred by a funeral director. Solace Family Funerals like to pick up your loved one as a matter of priority and bring them into our care, where we continually monitor and care for them like a member of our own family.

Smaller hospitals and most nursing homes are unlikely to have the facilities to care for your loved one, so it's important to decide in advance so you can arrange the transfer as soon as possible.

What to Do When Someone Dies at Home

If your loved ones death was expected, their doctor will most likely have guided you through the steps and prepared you for what to do next. You can call the doctor's surgery if they are open to ask them to visit as soon as possible. If your loved one doesn't have a regular GP, call the police or ambulance instead.  A doctor is needed to examine your loved one and issue a Cause of Death Certificate. A funeral cannot be arranged until the doctor has created this certificate.

If the death is unexpected or you aren't sure if your loved one has passed, call 000 immediately, ask for an ambulance, and explain the circumstances to them. Once the paramedics arrive, they will contact either your loved one's GP or the police.  If the death was unexpected, not certain, suspicious, or the person did not have a regular GP, you must call the police. In some cases, a coroner may get involved to do a post mortem and determine the cause of death. Do not be alarmed that police need to attend. This is common procedure for an unexpected death, and they will liaise with the Coroner and complete necessary paperwork.

Doctor's Certificate vs Death Certificate

A doctor's certificate or Cause of Death is not the same as a Death Certificate. The difference is that the Death Certificate is issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state. The Death Certificate is the final piece of paperwork which is then used to finalise financial and estate responsibilities.

The Funeral

If a family member or friend dies and you're arranging their funeral or getting funeral services, there are many things to consider and several steps to take. If you know that the deceased has already chosen a funeral director, be sure to check that they haven't entered into a pre-paid funeral agreement before you make any new arrangements. You will also need to check if there is Will. If there is one it may have directions and personal wishes for funeral arrangements.

Some Wills are not read until after the funeral is completed, and in that case, it's the duty of the deceased's executor to arrange the funeral. If there is no Will, the next of kin will be called on to give personal details of the deceased within one month of the death, so that the death certificate can be registered. 

How much do funerals cost?

Things to Consider Before Making Funeral Arrangements

How to Plan a Funeral Service?

• Have any financial arrangements been made to pay for the funeral such as funeral insurance or a prepaid funeral?​

• Did the deceased person have a prepaid burial plot?​

• Is there enough money in the deceased person's bank account to pay for the funeral? If so have you contacted the bank about accessing these funds?

• Are there any sickness, accident, life, superannuation, or private health insurance policies that could assist with paying for the funeral?​

• Was the deceased a returned service person or did they belong to any club, pensioner association, or trade union that may entitle them to payment to help cover funeral costs?​  Check the following websites to see if they can help: 

Department of Veteran Affairs and/or Returned and Services League.

• If you or the deceased person received payments from Centrelink, check with Centrelink about a possible bereavement payment or allowance. Depending on your relationship with the deceased, you may be eligible for assistance. The Department of Human Services has a detailed list of ways to get financial support.​

• Did the person have a preference for where to hold the service? This could be different from the actual burial or memorial location.​

What Does a Funeral Director Do?

Solace Family Funerals will help with many of the legal responsibilities and guide you through the steps of organising a funeral,

including but not limited to:

• arranging the transfer of your loved one into our care

• registering the death

• preparing a viewing

• arranging newspaper notices if required

• liaising on your behalf with the cemetery, crematorium, church, or venue of your choice

• organising flowers or music

• consulting with religious community members or a celebrant

• organising an event after the service

Funeral Fees

Shopping around for a funeral director is probably the last thing you'll feel like doing at such a distressing time. This makes grieving family and friends easily susceptible to being victims of extra fees and charges they didn't know weren't included in the price. This is the main reason why here at Solace Family Funerals, we have included everything included on our pricing list so there are no surprises. We do not upsell and will only add items that you specifically request. Our business is family owned and operated, and driven by word of mouth and personal recommendations, so you know you are in the best of care.

Registering the Death

All deaths in Australia must be registered with the state or territory's registry of births, deaths, and marriages where the death happened. We take care of all of this paperwork on your behalf. Once the death is registered, a death certificate will be issued. You'll need this certificate to deal with the deceased person's estate, as well as to claim any insurance, or superannuation death benefits (if there are any), and to move any money from the person's bank account if you didn't have a joint account.

What to Do After you Receive the Death Certificate

Once you have the death certificate, you can set about notifying all the institutions and places the deceased has had dealings with. This can include government departments, banks, telecommunications and utility providers, local councils, and any memberships the deceased had.

The Department of Human Services has a handy checklist of some of the more common organisations you'll need to notify.

You can also enter your loved one's details into the Australian Death Notification Service, which lets you notify multiple organisations in one go so their accounts can be closed or transferred.

You can also use this form to advise Services Australia of the death of an adult or child. They will use these details to update records with Centrelink, Medicare, and Child Support.

Removing Names from Mailing Lists

You can stop most unsolicited mail from being sent to the deceased person by registering with the Association for Data-driven Marketing and Advertising (ADMA) for the 'do not mail' service.

Social Media Accounts

Most social media sites offer a way to deactivate an account if the account owner has died, usually after they've been shown the death certificate. Facebook also lets you "memorialise" accounts if the account owner dies.

Taking Care of Yourself

This may be a difficult time. Remember to take care of yourself and look after your mental and physical health.

To access confidential counselling services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week:

call Lifeline Australia on 131 114 or visit the Lifeline website

call Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 or visit the Beyond Blue website

call MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978 or visit the MensLine website

Call the Griefline on 1300 845 745 from 6 am to midnight AEST, 7 days a week, or visit the Griefline website.

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