Many people die in a hospital or nursing home – and if this is this case the staff will handle most of the formalities. Also any next of kin will be advised what steps need to be taken.
Most public and some private hospitals will have their own mortuary and the deceased can be kept there until the body is transferred by a funeral director if you choose to appoint one.
If someone you know dies at home it’s important to try to stay calm and don’t jump to conclusions in the stress of the moment.
If the person’s death was expected it’s likely that their doctor may have been in touch with you or other close friends or family to discuss what will happen, and you can call the doctor’s surgery to ask them visit as soon as possible. If the deceased doesn’t have a regular GP the police should be called instead.
A doctor is needed to examine the body to attempt to ascertain the cause of death and write a medical certificate. A funeral cannot be arranged until this certificate has been completed.
If you know the deceased had wished to donate their organs it’s important to move quickly as the process of donation needs to happen soon after death.
If the person dies in a hospital the staff can check that the person is a registered donor via the Australian Organ Donor Register (The Donor Register lets authorised medical staff who have permission from the Australian Government check your donation information anywhere in Australia, 24 hours a day, seven days a week).
Consent is always needed before donation can go ahead, so it’s important if you are considering organ donation to discuss the decision with your next of kin and those close to you so the decision to donate is upheld.
If a family member or friend dies and you’re arranging their funeral, there are many things to consider and several steps to take. The first thing to check is the will, if there is one, as it may have directions for funeral arrangements.
And 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 making any new arrangements.
However, the will by itself isn’t sufficient to ensure funeral directions are followed (it may also not be read until after the funeral). It’s the duty of the deceased’s executor to arrange the funeral and in cases where there is no will the senior next-of-kin will be called on to provide personal details of the deceased within one month of the death, so that the death certificate can be registered.
According to the law the executor will take possession and custody of the body from the moment of death until it is buried or cremated. If there is no person willing to take responsibility, the funeral may be arranged through the government contractor.
Depending on your relationship with the deceased you may be eligible for government assistance.
The Department of Human Services has a detailed list of ways to get financial support.
All deaths in Australia must be registered with the state or territory’s registry of births, deaths and marriages where the death occurred, and this is usually done by the funeral director.
Once this is done a death certificate will be issued, which is needed in order to deal with the deceased person’s estate as well as to claim any insurance, superannuation as funeral benefits (if there are any) and to remove money from the person’s bank account if you didn’t have a joint bank account.