What happens when someone dies?

What to do after someone dies, this means if you are the spouse, family or close friend of someone who has passed and you need to know what steps to take then this is a list that I found helpful when my husband died. If possible, look around your area and choose which funeral home you would like to use and also choose which coffin or type of coffin you would like. These are hard choices for the person left behind to make.

Death at home

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 persons 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 director cannot be arranged until this certificate has been completed.

If the death is unexpected or you are not sure if the person is dead call 000 immediately and ask for an ambulance and explain as best you can what the problem is and describe the circumstances. Once the ambulance crew arrives they will either contact the person’s GP or the police. It’s important to know that if the death was unexpected, not clear, is suspicious or the person did not have a regular GP, the police must be called. In some cases the Coroner may also be involved to conduct a post mortem to determine the cause of death.

Death at a hospital or nursing home

Many people die in a hospital or nursing home – and if this is this case the staff will handle most of the formalities and will be able to guide you through what to do. 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 a funeral director is appointed and the body is transferred. However smaller hospitals and most nursing homes are unlikely to have facilities so it’s important to engage a funeral director as a priority so they can transfer the deceased as soon as possible (see below).

If you are present at the death, remove all personal belongings, check pockets or ask nurse or Dr to do it, take off watch, rings, other jewelry. Check for wallet or purse and phone. (this is very hard to do so try to ask someone to do it for you)

Notify family and close friends.

Contact the funeral home.

Organize time and place of funeral.

Put notices in paper and on social media. (please if you are not the next of kin, do not post on social media until that person does or gives you the okay to. Sometimes it takes time to tell relatives, especially if they are in different countries)

Contact anyone else who needs contacting or get someone to do it for you.

Prepare clothes for funeral, the deceased as the funeral home will want these and your clothes so you know what you will wear.

If people ask what they can do to help.

Have one person make notes of what needs to be done each day and be responsible for making sure that happens.

Have one person doing phone calls, putting notices in paper etc

Have another person to run errands, like taking clothes to funeral home.

Have someone bake some cakes or buy biscuits, chocolate and fruit.

Have someone preparing meals.


You will need to (if you are next of kin)

Speak with minister or celebrant.

Prepare what you want to say at the funeral or what you would like read out on your behalf.

Have someone stay at the house for at least 2 nights after the funeral. (you may feel like you want to be alone, especially after all the funeral preperation, so explain this to the person but say you would like them to stay just in case. Sometimes it is just knowing someone is there that makes all the difference.)

After the funeral

Check details on probate form and print it out. You will need to wait until you have the death certificate and then take the probate form, the will, your drivers licence or passport  and the death certificate to get witnessed by a JP. Make 10 copies of death certificate and get them all certified by the JP, get at least 3 copies of your drivers licence and 3 copies of Probate and will. Getting them all done at once will make it easier when the different organizations ask you for copies. All copies must be certified by a JP.

(Funeral home will normally organize the death certificate.If they don’t mention it, then ask))

See financial adviser to sort out your finances, make sure you take a copy of the will. They will not be able to do anything official until you get the death certificate, but they can help you get an idea of what will happen financially. Look here to see if you are eligible for any centerlink or govt assistance https://www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/subjects/what-do-following-death#a6

Work through list of who to contact below. https://www.humanservices.gov.au/sites/default/files/documents/who-to-notify-checklist.pdf

The following table lists the people and organisations you may need to contact if someone has died Person or organisation to be contacted

Have the details of any of these that you know listed, for example:

Contact person, phone number and address (if needed)

Details of person who died

(for example, account number, Medicare number)

Then start ringing or get someone to do it for you.

Australian Taxation Office 132 865

Banks,  Also while getting these details from the bank get the interest to date on all of the accounts separately and which accounts are in joint name and which in individual names (you will need this for the estate tax return)

credit unions

Centrelink payments 132 300

Child Support services 131 272

Clubs (e.g. the Returned and Services League)

Credit card/hire purchase

Department of Veterans’ Affairs 133 254

Australian Electoral Commission 132 326


Executor of the will

Foreign pension authority (if authority’s details are unknown contact Centrelink’s International Services) 131 673

Funeral bond Yes/No

Funeral insurance Yes/No

Health benefits fund

Health professionals (e.g. doctor, physiotherapist, dentist, podiatrist, optometrist)

Hearing centre


Insurance companies



Local council

Medicare services 132 011

Local post office


Professional bodies (e.g. solicitor, accountant)

Public Services (e.g. library)

Public Trustee

Religious advisor

Social Worker

Superannuation fund

Telecommunication providers (e.g. phones, internet)

Utilities (e.g. gas, electricity and phone companies)

Vehicle registration and licensing authorities


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