What happens when a loved one passes away

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None of us like to think about the day someone close to us might die, and when it does happen the shock can be overwhelming, even for an anticipated death. But knowing what to do can relieve some of the stress from an already stressful situation.

Here are some of the essential steps you will need to take when a loved one dies.


It’s important to note that the doctor’s certificate of cause of death shouldn’t be confused with an official death certificate which will need to be issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths, and Marriages. Your Funeral Director will usually register the death on your behalf. 
Once this is done a death certificate will be issued. Multiple copies of the certificate will be required as most people will want a certified/original copy. It’s cheaper and easier to obtain these now than having to go back and obtain more at a later date. This will be needed to deal with the deceased person’s estate as well as claim any insurance, superannuation, funeral benefits, or remove funds from the person’s bank account.

What happens if there is no Will?

Not having a Will can cause any number of issues for those left behind. Read our blog on what can happen if there is no Will in place.

Where a person dies intestate (without a Will), section 14 of the Administration Act 1903 (WA) sets out the formula for dividing the deceased’s estate among their surviving family members. That’s right. You, as a spouse, family member, or carer don’t have any say and the State will make the decisions.


If there is a Will, generally it is the duty of the Executor to make the funeral arrangements. The Will may have instructions for funeral arrangements. If there is no Will, then it is the duty of the next of kin to make the funeral arrangements. 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.

How do you pay for the funeral?

This is a question that gets asked quite often and there are several things to consider before making funeral arrangements:

  • Have any financial arrangements been made to pay the funeral such as a pre-paid funeral or funeral insurance?
  • Did the deceased have a pre-paid burial plot?
  • If there is enough money in the deceased person’s bank account to pay for the funeral, you or the Executor can contact the bank about accessing the funds. Banks can release funds payable directly to the funeral director for the costs of the funeral.
  • If the deceased was a returned service person, this may entitle them to a funeral benefit.
  • If you or the deceased person received payments from Centrelink, you may be entitled to a bereavement payment or allowance.
  • If the deceased had any sickness, accident, life, superannuation, or private health insurance policies, you may be able to claim immediate funds to make a payment towards the funeral.

Funeral Directors are aware that the bereaved do not always have direct access to funds and most are flexible with regard to payments.


Aside from the obvious, close friends, family, and associates, there is a number of people and organisations which need to be notified. We have compiled a checklist to assist you with this process. You can download our checklist here.

If you are the Executor of the Will, we have another blog available to help you with the Probate process of contacting and notifying financial institutions and the like.


Some of the tasks that will need to be addressed include the following:

  1. Lodge the original Will through Probate.
  2. Lodge claim forms with relevant insurance and superannuation funds.
  3. Assist with any claims with Centrelink and any other relevant government bodies.
  4. Assist with funding trusts (if applicable) and with making distributions to any beneficiaries.
  5. Advice with the investment of any funds distributed to the beneficiaries and any future investment advice where applicable.
  6. Lodge final tax returns. Your Financial Adviser can provide a referral to an accountant if required.


Losing a loved one is never easy and we don’t always get to simply grieve. Sometimes, there are administrative tasks associated with death that need to be taken care of. We hope that the list above helps you move through these tasks quickly, allowing you the time you need to grieve.

It is very important that you understand that the information above is general in nature and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from a financial adviser. It is also worth noting that the Australian financial and taxation system is ever-changing, and the information above may no longer be relevant. Again, we suggest seeking professional advice from a financial adviser before proceeding.

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