What to Do When Someone Dies

The first things you’ll need to do when someone dies

Last updated: 29 November 2016

When a loved one dies, you’ll need to do the following:

1. Obtain a Doctor’s Certificate of Death

When a loved one dies, you’ll need a doctor to issue a certificate confirming the medical cause of death within 48 hours. This is known as a doctor’s, or medical, cause of death certificate. The funeral director will need this before they can take your loved one into their care and proceed with the funeral arrangements.

If your loved one died under the care of a nursing home, hospice or hospital, staff will be able to advise and guide you.

If your loved one died at home and their death was anticipated, you should call their GP to attend and certify their death.

If their death was unexpected, call 000 for an ambulance, explaining the circumstances. Once the ambulance arrives, the crew will be able to ascertain whether your loved one’s GP should be called in to pronounce the death, or if the cause of death is uncertain, the police notified. If you are uncertain whether your loved one had a GP, you should also contact the police.

In some cases, where a death is unexpected or the cause of death is unclear, the coroner may be contacted and a post mortem may be necessary.

Organ Donation

If your loved one expressed a wish to donate their organs and died in hospital, authorised medical staff can run a check on the Australian Organ Donor Register. The next of kin must give their consent before any procedure goes ahead.

2. Contact a funeral director

The funeral arrangements can begin once a Doctor’s Certificate of Death has been issued. From here, your chosen funeral director will collect the information needed and oversee the paperwork involved in registering the death and informing the state registrar about the cremation or burial.

Your funeral director will discuss your wishes and answer any questions you may have about the funeral service. If you are yet to contact a funeral director, we recommend looking for a local funeral director on our funeral director listings page.

Registering a death by other means

If you, your family or friends are planning to make your own arrangements for a loved one’s funeral, you will still need to register the death.

3. Death overseas

If your loved one died overseas, there are likely to be be many complicated arrangements and formalities involved in arranging for their funeral. You can find out more about this in our guide to what to do when there is a death overseas.