When a loved one dies it can feel overwhelming. And yet, there are responsibilities which require attention. If you are the executor of the will, or your loved one died without a will, give us a call on 07 3073 2405 to have a complimentary chat with a lawyer as one the first things you will want to do is get the probate application or letters of administration on foot ASAP.
These important tasks must be done when someone dies in Australia, regardless of their religion or income.
Use this checklist to help guide you through this difficult time. You can mark each item off with a ✅.
1. Immediate Actions
Death at Home: If the death is unexpected, telephone the police on 000. A death may need to be reported to the Coroner, usually by a police officer. If the death was expected, follow the end of life procedures pre-arranged with the medical professionals.
Death at Hospital / Nursing Home: Staff may arrange for a doctor to issue a certificate of death.
Organ Donation: If your loved one was a registered organ donor, medical staff may access the register to confirm the donation decision. If you are unsure, the decision may be recorded on the deceased’s drivers licence.
Take Care of Yourself: Eat and rest. Your emotions may be drained – accept help from family and friends including tasks you are unable to deal with immediately. Speak to people who have lost others in the past.
2. Making Funeral Arrangements
- Locate the will ✅
- Make funeral arrangements ✅
- Notify family and friends ✅
The executor named in the will, or family members, are usually responsible for organising the funeral. If there is a will it needs to be examined for any specific wishes of the deceased in relation to the funeral. The will may be kept with the deceased’s papers, or held by their solicitor, bank or professional advisor.
The will appoints an executor(s) who will be responsible for putting into effect the wishes of your loved one expressed in the will. If there is no will, administrators are appointed by the Supreme Court in your state to deal with the estate. Usually administrators are the persons entitled to share the estate under the ‘Intestacy Rules’ which cover who shares the estate of someone without a will. An appointed executor who is unable or unwilling to perform the role may be replaced by an administrator by order of the Court.
Executor = the person appointed in a will to administer the estate. Administrator = the person appointed by a Court to administer the estate. Personal Representative = the name given to the executor or administrator
- Register the death and obtain the death certificate ✅
The funeral director or your solicitor can help with legal responsibilities including reporting the death to the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and obtaining the death certificate.
- Pay for the funeral ✅
You should look among the deceased’s papers to see if he or she held funeral insurance or pre-paid their funeral. If not, usually the person organising the funeral signs a contract with the funeral director and pays for it. Provided the estate has funds, funeral costs will be paid from the estate once those assets are collected by the executor or administrator.
If you cannot afford funeral costs for a friend or family member, and their assets won’t cover the cost, government assistance may be available. In Queensland see Burial Assistance.
3. Financial and Grief Support
- Apply for a bereavement allowance ✅
- Apply for a government financial assistance ✅
- Retain Considerate Legal Assistance ✅
- Seek bereavement support ✅
Some wonderful Australian organisations are ready to help you with your grief.
Government Financial Assistance on Death
- bereavement payments (one-off, non-taxable payment designed to help with the costs that may follow the death of a partner, child, person in care or pensioner) through Centrelink or the Department of Veteran Affairs
- rental grants (available for people in a housing crisis and is a one-off grant of 2 weeks rent to help you pay for the cost of moving into private rental accommodation)
- mortgage relief loan (interest-free loan, up to $20,000 maximum, repayable over 10 years starting 1 year after getting the loan)
- bond loan (available to help pay the rental bond when moving into accommodation)
4. Work Out Details of the Estate
- Ascertain estate assets and liabilities ✅
- Determine whether probate or letters of administration are needed ✅
- Examine the will and notify beneficiaries ✅
The executor, or family member if there is no will, should examine the deceased’s personal papers to discover what they owned and any liabilities. You should also make inquiries with banks, building societies, superannuation funds about assets.
Tip: the last income tax return is a useful source of information
5. Notify Relevant Authorities
- Check property is insured and take out insurance if necessary ✅
- Notify the Employer ✅
- Notify Centrelink ✅
- Cancel credit cards / direct debit ✅
- Cancel Australian business registration (ABN) ✅
- Notify Council (rates, water) ✅
- Redirect mail ✅
- Cancel a drivers licence ✅
- Cancel phone / internet / cable TV accounts and subscriptions ✅
- Cancel or transfer memberships (gym, club etc) ✅
- Request removal from marketing / mailing lists ✅
- Close social media accounts ✅
- Notify Medicare ✅
- Cancel health care and concession cards ✅
- Delete MyGov account ✅
- Notify Child Support Services ✅
- Cancel a Seniors Card ✅
- Cancel a Carer Business Discount Card ✅
- Cancel a Companion Card ✅
- Cancel or transfer pet registration ✅
- Surrender a weapons licence ✅
Some of tasks should be completed immediately. Some may be completed after probate is granted. Consult with your solicitor about individual circumstances.
It is an essential duty of the Personal Representative to protect estate assets. This includes insuring property such as home and contents, vehicles and boats. Notify all relevant authorities and businesses of the death and request a hold on all direct debits, credit card and mortgage repayments.
Tip: Australia Post will redirect a deceased person’s mail for 12 months at no charge.
6. Apply for Probate or Letters of Administration
- Apply for Probate or Letters of Administration, if needed ✅
In most cases, the personal representative will not gain control of assets without producing the grant of probate or letters of administration.
Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration = the legal documents issued by the Supreme Court in your State which officially recognises the right of the person(s) named in the grant to administer the estate.
There are 6 different types of Letters of Administration in Queensland depending on the circumstances of the estate.
If you are unsure whether you need probate or letters of administration, contact one of our experienced Wills and Estates Lawyers in Brisbane for a free no obligation consultation. If you don’t need a grant, we’ll tell you. If you do, we’ll give you an unbeatable fixed-fee quote. Don’t delay getting your inheritance, we start work immediately.
Book a Free Consultation
7. Close Accounts, Collect Assets, Pay Debts & Distribute Estate
- Close bank accounts ✅
- Close trading accounts ✅
- Cancel / claim insurance ✅
- Claim and close superannuation accounts ✅
- Transfer title of real property (i.e. a house, unit or land) ✅
- Transfer title of a motor vehicle or boat ✅
After transferring title of a vehicle you should cancel the vehicle registration. The estate may be entitled to a refund of the unused registration portion.
The duties of an executor include administering the estate to conclusion. Many of the tasks identified at #5 don’t need to be done before probate is obtained.
We hope this guide will help you navigate the process after someone passes away in Australia. Remember, this is not a burden you need to carry alone. We offer specialist estate administration services to suit every budget and financial circumstance. Whether you are ready to start the process today or sometime in the future, speak with an estate lawyer today for a free to help you understand your estate needs and whether we can help.
Call 07 3073 2405