A NSW Government website

On

Bereavement Information

What to do first

The death of a family member or friend can feel sudden no matter the circumstance. It is important that you and those around you take time to process the loss. If you have any questions that you would like answered please ask staff for assistance.

Staff will continue to care for your family member or friend with respect and dignity after their death. If your family member or friend is in hospital and you or other support people wish to see the deceased person to say goodbye, it is encouraged that you do so while they are still on the ward.

Please let staff know if there are any cultural or spiritual practices that need to be observed while the person’s body is in our care. Our staff respect your cultural and spiritual traditions and will do our best to meet these needs, please let us know how we can help.

If you are in hospital you can also ask to see a chaplain.

If the person has died at home some processes will be different. 

What to do in the first five days

There are a few steps that need to be taken shortly after a person has died. This includes commencing the funeral arrangements and checking if there is a Will in place and where it is.

When there is a Will in place, you will need to contact the executor (this person will be nominated in the Will) to enable the executor to start the process of arranging affairs.

In circumstances when the person does not have a Will, a decision will need to be made to nominate a person to manage affairs and contact the Probate Registry to apply for ‘Letters of Administration’.

If you are unsure if there is a Will in place or you would like further advice please contact the person’s solicitor or NSW Trustee and Guardian.

These are practical matters to attend to, but it's also important to look after yourself at this time. You may also wish to ask a friend, family member or someone you trust to assist with these practical matters.

There are other practical matters that can wait and don’t need to be rushed or for you to feel pressured about at this stage. This includes notifying various agencies and businesses.

Useful information to have ready:

  • Medicare number
  • Date and place of birth
  • Date of marriage or civil partnership (if relevant)
  • Tax file number

Other information which may be required:

  • Full name of the deceased at their time of death
  • Any previously used name (for example maiden surname)
  • Their last known address
  • Their occupation (if relevant)
  • The full name, occupation and date of birth of surviving spouse or civil partner
  • Whether the deceased was receiving State Benefits (such as a Centrelink or Veteran’s Affairs payment)

How to organise a funeral or memorial service

A funeral or memorial service can be an important and meaningful way to say goodbye.

Visit NSW Government website for more information about arranging a funeral or memorial service.

Important information if the person died in hospital

If you are the Executor of the deceased person’s Will you have the legal authority to make the funeral arrangements.

The Funeral Director will also ask the Executor of the Will to sign a hospital consent form to allow release of the deceased to the funeral company. An executor is a person or organisation appointed in the Will to administer the estate, it is their job to carry out the instructions in the Will If there is no Will or the Executor is not available, then the senior next of kin must provide consent for release of the deceased person’s body to the funeral company. If the person who would be the senior next of kin does not wish to take on the role, they may nominate another person as their delegate.

Next of Kin of a deceased adult is determined by the following order of seniority:

  1. Any person who is named as the Executor of the person’s Will
  2. A person who was a spouse or de-facto (including same sex partner) of the deceased immediately before the person’s death
  3. A child of the deceased person who is 18 years or over
  4. Either of the deceased person’s parents
  5. A sibling of the deceased person who is 18 years or over

Next of Kin of a deceased child is determined by the following order of priority:

  1. A parent of the child
  2. A sibling of the child who is 18 years or over
  3. A person who is Guardian of the child immediately before the child’s death

Death Certificate

A death certificate is the official copy of information we hold on the register about a person who has died. 

The ‘Medical Certificate of Cause of Death’ is completed by a medical practitioner who certifies the facts and circumstances of the death. This medical certificate is provided by the hospital to your chosen funeral director who will, if requested, submit an application for the official ‘Death Certificate’ to the Registry of Births Deaths and Marriages. There is a cost involved for the issuing of an official ‘Death Certificate’.

Special Circumstances

In some situations the circumstances surrounding a death are reported to the Coroner to be investigated.

You will be informed by hospital staff if this is required. The coronial process can take time. You can contact the Coronial Information and Support Program on 02 8584 7777 for guidance about when a funeral can be arranged.

A death at home

When a person dies at home, and the death is expected and support is being provided by the community palliative care team, it is not necessary to call emergency services. The community palliative care team will discuss the process ahead of time, and will advise you on what to do.

Some key points to consider are:

  • It helps to choose a funeral company in advance. This does not require planning the funeral. You can choose the funeral company you are comfortable with and have their contact details available.
  • A doctor will need to complete a Medical Certificate of Cause of Death – this will usually be the person’s GP or doctor. It is important that the GP has seen the person in the weeks before their death. A nurse, ambulance personnel, or other doctor can provide a document called 'verification of death’ as an interim measure if the doctor cannot come to the home. Contact your community nurse or GP to discuss a plan for this.
  • Once the death certificate or verification is done you can contact the funeral company to come to the home and to take the person’s body into their care. After this you will have time to make further funeral arrangements.

Who to Notify (Where Relevant)

When a person has died there will be some people and organisations that will need to be notified. This will vary depending on the person’s circumstances.

The Australian Death Notification Service can assist with some of these notifications once the death certificate has been issued. The service doesn’t cover all places you will need to notify but can help with a few.