What to Do When a Loved One Passes Away

What to Do When a Loved One Passes Away

When a loved one passes away, it can be a distressing and overwhelming experience. Sometimes, we might not know what to do first. It ultimately depends on whether the death is expected (e.g. due to old age or a terminal health condition) or unexpected (e.g. due to a traffic accident). If your loved one passes away in a hospital or aged care facility, the staff can assist you through the process and help you understand what to do.

Expected Death at Home

When you expect a loved one to pass away in the near future, it’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with the process of what to do and who you need to contact for funeral arrangements. Remember that an expected death is not an emergency, so there’s no need to contact the police or an ambulance. Instead, you’ll need to notify your palliative care service (if relevant) or your doctor. You can also contact a funeral director of your choice directly for assistance.

There’s no need for a doctor or nurse to visit the home to verify the death, although it’s common for a nurse from the palliative care service to visit to offer support. Any doctor can complete the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death if they know the individual’s medical history and are prepared to certify the cause and manner of death. This must be completed within 48 hours.

Unexpected Deaths

An unexpected death must be reported to the police immediately. For further advice, contact the NSW Coroners Court. The coroner will conduct an investigation to try and determine how and why the person died. Even when the cause of death is seemingly clear, whether from an accident, injury or illness, the coroner still needs to conduct an investigation.

Finding out exactly why someone died provides important information to loved ones and allows preventative measures to be recommended by authorities in the case of an accident. Any death can be unexpected. Someone might be undergoing treatment for a serious medical condition, but if their death was unexpected by the treating doctor, it still needs to be investigated.

Death Certificate

A doctor must sign the death certificate before a funeral service is arranged. Once this is completed, the funeral director can take charge of the deceased person’s body and you can begin planning the funeral. The death must also be registered with the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and a copy of the death certificate sent to the registry.

Who to Notify

When a person dies, you will also need to contact various organisations to let them know. This may include the:

  • Workplace of the deceased person
  • Australian Tax Office
  • Banks where the person held accounts
  • Insurance companies
  • Superannuation fund of the deceased person
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Utility companies
  • VicRoads
  • Centrelink

Organ and Tissue Donation

If you’re the next of kin, you may be asked to donate your loved one’s organs for eligible organ transplant patients. If the deceased is a registered organ donor, you may be required to provide consent for donation to proceed as the next of kin. Your loved one may have already decided to donate their organs and this may already be documented. If not, this is a decision you may have to make soon after they die.

Need Assistance Arranging a Funeral?

At Fry Bros Funerals, our experienced funeral directors can provide you the support and guidance you need after a loved one passes away, including arranging a funeral and arranging necessary paperwork. Call us for services across Maitland, Newcastle, Port Stephens, the Hunter Valley and all surrounding areas on 02 4933 6155 or contact us online.