What to do following a death
We have payments, counselling and other services to help people adjust after someone close to them has died.
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What happens first
When someone dies, a doctor must sign a certificate that confirms the death. Funeral arrangements cannot be made until the doctor has signed and issued this certificate. It is generally called a Doctor's Certificate of Cause of Death. The funeral company can then take the deceased into their care.
The funeral director in charge of the funeral arrangements will collect all the information needed to register the death. They will send this to the birth, deaths and marriages registry in their state or territory.
The funeral director may also help with newspaper notices, flowers and religious services.
Read more about who to contact on the Australian Funeral Directors Association website.
If a funeral director is not involved, the person who manages the final arrangements for the deceased must register the death. For more information visit the registry for births, deaths and marriages in your state or territory.
Insurance policies, funeral plans and Wills
Sometimes private health, sickness, accident or life insurance policies may help pay funeral and other expenses. If you find that the person who died had insurance, call the company and ask if they can help.
Some people pay for their funerals in advance. Funeral plans are where someone pays in advance for an agreed funeral service. Funeral bonds represent money the person has put aside to cover their funeral costs.
If you think there may be a prepaid funeral or a funeral bond but cannot find the paper work, it may have been left with someone such as a lawyer or the Executor of the Will.
A Will is a legal document that states how the deceased person's belongings are to be distributed after their death. The Executor of the Will is responsible for distributing the person's assets to the people named in the Will. This happens after any debts are paid.
If the person has not left a Will, the estate is shared under a formula set by law. If there are no close relatives there is a chance the estate could be paid to a state or territory government.
It’s important that you tell us when someone has died, so we can update their Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support records.
- phone us
- complete the Advice of death form and
- post it to us at:
Department of Human Services
PO Box 7800
Canberra BC ACT 2610, or
- fax it to us on 1300 786 102, or
- visit a service centre
We will share this information across the Department (Centrelink, Medicare and Child Support) to make it easier for you.
Notifying other people and organisations
There are other people and organisations that you may also need to tell. The following checklist can help you identify the people and organisations you may need to contact:
If a death occurs overseas
Go to Smartraveller to get more information about if an Australian has died overseas.
Removing someone's name from mailing lists
Register their details on the Association for data-driven marketing and advertising website or write to:ADMA
GPO Box 3895
Sydney NSW 2001
Social media accounts
Social media networks usually have procedures in place to deal with the accounts of deceased members. As these procedures can differ between networks the best thing to do is to search the 'help' section of the network in question if you wish to close an account.
Assistance from us
Support and referral services
- Social work services - our social workers can help you during difficult times by providing counselling, support, and information
- Financial Information Service - a free, confidential service available to all Australians to help you make informed decisions about investment and financial issues for your current and future needs
- Someone else to deal with us on your behalf - if you would prefer to have someone else deal with us on your behalf about our payments and services, you can authorise a person or organisation to be your nominee or make enquiries only
Read about eligibility and how to start the claiming process for the following payments and services:
- Bereavement Allowance - a short term income support payment for recently widowed people to help them adjust after their partner has died
- Bereavement Payment - helps ease your adjustment to changed financial circumstances after the death of your partner, child or person you were caring for
- Double Orphan Pension - provides help with the costs of caring for children who are orphans or who are unable to be cared for by their parents in certain circumstances. There is no income or assets test required
- Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment - a payment to the surviving partner of a member of the Pension Bonus Scheme who did not make a successful claim for the bonus before their death
You can also find out if you are eligible for any Human Services payments by using Payment and Service Finder.
After the death of a loved one, you may need to find out more about changes to the investments you own. You should tell us of any changes to your income and assets as they may impact any payment you receive or become eligible for.
If your partner had superannuation you may also be entitled to a super payment. You need to contact their super fund and find out if you could be eligible for any payments.
You should also carefully consider the implications of passing on assets to children or other family members and friends and bypassing yourself. This can affect your asset position and may result in changed payment rates.
Relatives and friends do not have to pay the debts of the person who has died unless the debts are in joint names. Debts can be paid from the estate.
If you would like help to work out a budget, manage your financial affairs or if you are in financial trouble, you can speak to a financial counsellor by contacting any of the following:
- your local Community Information and Referral Service
- a Welfare Rights Centre
- Rural Financial Counselling services
- Financial Counselling Australia
Early release of super
You generally can’t get your super before you reach your preservation age. However, in some circumstances, the law does allow you to access your super early. These limited circumstances include specified compassionate grounds and severe financial hardship.
Read more about early access to your superannuation on compassionate grounds on the Australian Taxation Office website.
For more information about early release of superannuation due to severe financial hardship, contact your super fund.
Grieving is a natural part of losing someone close to you, so adjusting to your new circumstances may take time. Counsellors can often assist people who are grieving. Our social workers can refer you to grief counselling. Counsellors can also be contacted through organisations such as community health centres, the National Association for Loss and Grief or Lifeline.
It may seem difficult at first to take part in social groups and activities. You may or may not want people around you. With time, the company of others may help you develop new interests. Your local council, community health centre or our social workers can put you in touch with organisations such as Rotary or Apex that would value your assistance as a volunteer. You can also join in their activities and outings.
Taking care of your diet and regular exercise can assist you to re-establish a routine. We can arrange for visits by a community nurse if necessary. Community groups or local councils may arrange services to help care for your house or garden. Some of these services are free and some may be provided only after your needs have been assessed.
You may want to stay in your family home. However, if this is difficult, think about all the options carefully before you decide on a change. Moving too quickly may not be the best solution.
You can talk to a Financial Information Services officer. They can give you information about how major decisions you make could affect the payment you receive from us.
What we can tell you about the person who died
You may want information that we have about the person who has died. You may need this information to apply for funeral assistance, tax and to finalise the estate.
This information is protected and we can only give it to:
- the executor as named in the Will
- the Public Trustee
- a court
- the administrator of the estate.
To get this information you will need to complete the Executor or Administrator Request for information form.
There are a range of other organisations that provide support services and useful information you may find helpful. You can use Payment and Service Finder to find help in your local area.
MoneySmart has information to help you make the most of your money. Read the Losing your partner section on the MoneySmart website.
Financial Counselling Australia is the peak body for financial counsellors in Australia. They can put you in touch with a financial counsellor if you are in financial difficulty.
Headspace is the national youth mental health foundation. They can help young people who are going through a tough time.
If you are experiencing depression, anxiety or stress, you may find it helpful to talk to somebody about your mental health.
Lifeline is a national charity open to all Australians in personal crisis. They have 24 hour crisis support and suicide prevention services.
Solace Australia provides support for people who have lost their partner.
Page last updated: 11 October 2019