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What to do when someone dies

We understand that losing someone close to you is very distressing. In addition to the emotional strain, you may need to take care of practical matters such as contacting different organisations (such as utility providers and superannuation funds), finding the deceased person’s Will, and organising their funeral. Having the right help and advice can make all the difference.

There are important things that need to be done after a death, and we trust that the following information will help to make things a little easier for you. Don’t hesitate to contact us at any stage for advice and support.

A funeral is an important part of the grieving process and gives you, as well as other friends and family, the chance to share memories and say goodbye to your loved one.

A funeral is usually organised by the family, but if there is no family or the family are unable to take up the responsibility, then the executor named in the Will can arrange the funeral.

Many people make arrangements for their funerals while they are still alive (e.g. pre-arranged or pre-paid funerals) and they may have left instructions as to what they want to happen at their funeral (e.g. certain songs to be played). It is important to check their Will for any funeral instructions or special requests before any funeral arrangements are made.

Funerals are normally paid out of the deceased person’s estate, and this is the first account that must be paid prior to other debts of the estate. Funeral accounts must be paid within a certain number of days from the funeral, which will most likely be before any formal administration of the deceased person’s estate has occurred.

Most banks or financial institutions are willing to pay funds directly to the funeral director from the deceased person’s account to cover their funeral. You should contact the deceased person’s bank before arranging the funeral to determine how much money, if any, is available for the funeral. The person signing for the funeral arrangements will be liable for the account if sufficient funds are not available from the estate.

Where the deceased person has insufficient funds and the family are also unable to pay for the funeral you may be able to receive assistance. You can contact Funeral AssistanceSA, which is managed through the Department of Human Services, to discuss whether you can access financial assistance to pay for the funeral. For further details contact Funeral AssistanceSA on 1300 762 577, or visit their website.

The funeral director will register the death with the Births Deaths and Marriages Registration Office of South Australia. It is usual for a death certificate to be ordered as part of this process and this will be sent to the person who is arranging the funeral. It is important that correct information about the person who has died is provided to the funeral director (e.g. birth name, current legal name, birth date, etc.) as incorrect information on the death certificate will make it invalid, and additional costs will be incurred to produce a replacement certificate. This will also create delays and/or difficulties during the estate administration, and may delay the funeral as well.

There are certain people and organisations who should be advised of the death of a person.

We suggest the family contact the following:

  • The deceased person’s doctor, dentist, and/or other health care providers
  • Current and/or past work colleagues and any professional groups that the deceased person belonged to
  • Hobby groups, clubs, teams etc
  • Centrelink, Veterans Affairs, superannuation funds, banks, insurance companies, who provided financial services or payments to the deceased person
  • Online social groups such as Facebook
  • Magazine or newspapers to cancel subscriptions
  • Australia Post to redirect mail
  • Religious organisations such as churches, mosques, and temples

Call us on (08) 8226 9200 or on 1800 673 119 (country SA toll free) and we can check if we hold the Will for the person who has died and also when it was last updated.

We will need to ask some questions to identify the correct person, such as full name, last / previous address, and date of birth. We also need to verify the identity of the person calling as details about a Will are confidential.

If we do hold the Will we will write to you with details of how to proceed.

Where someone has died without a Will they are said to have died ‘intestate’. In these cases, the estate is distributed in accordance with the laws of intestacy. The Administration and Probate Act 1919 specifies how the estate of the person who has died will be distributed. There are also laws that dictate who is entitled to administer the deceased estate.

For more information please refer to What If There Is No Will?.

Everyone deals with grief in their own way. It is completely normal to feel a range of emotions, such as shock, sadness, guilt, and even anger at the person who has died. If you, or someone you know, need support you can ask your family doctor for advice or seek the services of a professional counsellor. The Psychotherapy and Counselling Federation of Australia has a database you can search to find counsellors who specifically work with people who are grieving. You may also find helpful information through organisation such as Lifeline or Beyond Blue.

Contact Us

Whether you wish to ask us if we hold a Will, make an appointment to discuss a Will that we hold, or have a general question about a Will or estate, the Public Trustee is here to help.

The Public Trustee can be contacted on (08) 8226 9200 or on 1800 673 119 (country SA toll free) between 8.45am and 5.00pm, Monday to Friday. You can leave a message outside these hours and we will get back to you as soon as possible. Alternatively visit the Contact Us page for more contact options.