What to Do when a Family Member Dies

deceased estate clearance

Losing a family member can be one of the most distressing times in a person’s life. It can be extremely emotionally stressful and traumatic and on top of that, there’s a lot of complicated practicalities that need to be sorted out. This can include dealing with various government departments, lawyers, accountants, insurance companies and more.

To help you know what needs to be done and when, we’ve put together a list of things to do when a loved one dies to help you get through this difficult period.

  • Get death certificate

Nothing can progress, including funeral arrangements, without a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. A doctor will need to sign the certificate to confirm the person’s death, including the cause of death.

Call the deceased’s GP to have them attend and complete the certificate. They may not need to attend, however, if they have sufficient medical records and previous interactions, such as a history with a long-term illness.

If the person dies in a care facility like an aged-care home or a hospice, then the staff will take care of the death certificate and other administration requirements for you.

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  • Make funeral or burial arrangements

Once you have the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, the deceased can then be taken by a funeral company. Your loved one may have given direction about what funeral provider they want to use and may even have made some arrangements already.

The funeral director will register the death by contacting the Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in your state. This will be the official record of the death.

  • Find the will and executor

A will is a legal document that details what to do with a person’s estate once they have died and may also include funeral requests or directions. Locate your loved one’s will and confirm who is the nominated executor of the will. This may involve finding the actual document or contacting the deceased’s lawyer.

The executor of the will is in charge of ensuring all of the deceased’s affairs, including financial, legal and personal, are taken care of. If you are an executor, you will need to apply for a Grant of Probate that confirms the will is valid.

  • Contact insurance companies

Depending on the deceased’s insurance policies, they may be eligible for a payment to help cover the funeral and other expenses. You will need to have the official death certificate to make this claim.

In most cases, a deceased estate will need to be catalogued, cleaned out and organised before the property can be sold or leased. A deceased estate clearance can involve a number of things including clearing out the property, cleaning, repairs and maintenance, cataloguing the contents and organising sale or auction, liaising with real estate agents and more.

Many people choose to use a professional deceased estate management service for this task as it can be extremely time consuming and physically and emotionally demanding.

  • Contact relevant organisations and companies

When a person passes away, many traces of their life will remain. This includes things like superannuation and bank accounts, social media accounts, insurance policies and more. Part of wrapping up their affairs will involve contacting these companies, institutions and departments so they can close down outstanding accounts and resolve any outstanding issues.

Some organisations you will likely need to contact include government departments, like the Australian Electoral Commission and Australian Taxation Office; banks and superannuation funds; and services and utilities, like telecommunication and electricity providers. The Department of Human Services has put together a useful checklist of contacts to help streamline this task.

While nothing can make this time easy for you, being prepared and following the above steps can stop you from feeling overwhelmed. Remember to take time for yourself and to ask for support from family and friends.