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Following the death of a loved one

We would like to express our sincere sympathy to you and your family. This information has been designed to include a range of information that may be of use to you and your family and friends.

Hospital care 

When someone dies in hospital, their family, friends and other support people are welcome to spend time with them. You may choose this time to say things you haven’t had the chance to say, just sit with them, hold them or say your goodbyes—what you are most comfortable with is the right choice. Alternatively, you may prefer not to sit with them but to meet with family and friends at home to remember them.

The usual practice, and in consideration of cultural wishes, is to wash your loved one and prepare them for transfer to the funeral home. Please be reassured that we will continue to treat your loved one with great respect and dignity during this time.

What should I do following the death of my loved one?

death imgUnless your loved one has made arrangements prior to their death with a funeral director or body donation program, a funeral director will need to be chosen.

The funeral director will arrange the transfer of your loved one from the hospital and obtain all the relevant details and certificates required for burial or cremation.

A funeral provides you with an opportunity to gather with friends and family, including children, to mourn and celebrate the life of the person who has died. It is an important time to grieve, to remember and give thanks for their life.

A funeral director will guide you and advise on the tasks that need to be undertaken. Information about your loved one will be requested, such their as address, occupation details and information about their family. This information is required by the Queensland Government in order to issue a death certificate.

Organising a funeral may seem difficult, and it can be helpful to accept assistance from family and friends.

These are some points you may wish to consider when organising a funeral:

  • what were the known preferences of your loved one
  • would you and your family like a viewing to see your loved one again
  • if you have a service where would you prefer to have the service located
  • whether you will have a social gathering of friends and family after the funeral.

In your planning you may also like to include personal expressions of your thoughts
and feelings about your loved one.

“Looking back on the funeral, I am proud of myself. I wanted it to be a celebration of her life.
Everyone was there; our grandchildren and children all said something during the service.
She would have loved it.” 

“I found including the children very helpful. They wanted to place photos and some of their
drawings in their grandfather’s coffin. It felt right for us.”

“We all talked about whether we would like a family viewing. Most of us found it helpful,
a quiet time to say goodbye.”

“My loved one did not want a service; so close friends and family gathered by the sea and said
goodbye and sent our love, memories and thoughts out across the waves as we said goodbye.
This was what she wanted”.

Can I have a copy of the death certificate?

A doctor must certify the death, and complete the ‘cause of death’ certificate. This is used to register the death with the Queensland Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages, who are responsible for issuing the official death certificate. The funeral director provides this information to the Registry. A minimum of two weeks are usually required to register the death.

An immediate family member, legal custodian, or guardian may apply for a death certificate once a death is registered. To obtain a death certificate, an application form needs to be completed. For further information about death certificates, please phone 1300 366 430 or visit www.qld.gov.au. You will need to provide proof of ID and payment to have the certificate issued. A funeral director may assist you to obtain a death certificate and will include the cost in their overall fees.

Sudden death and the coroner 

A hospital must notify the Coroner if a death is of unnatural causes, the cause of death is unknown, or there are legal requirements to report a death (those deaths legally required to be reported to a coroner in Queensland are detailed in the Coroners Act 2003).

When a death is reported, the coroner investigates the death to find out the identity of the deceased person, when and where they died, how they died and the medical cause of death. After the coroner is notified about a ‘reportable’ death they will decide whether a coronial investigation is required. As part of the investigation the coroner may order that a post mortem examination (autopsy) be performed. 

A representative of the coroner, usually a police officer will come to the hospital to collect information and organise transportation of your loved one’s body to the Queensland Health Forensic and Scientific Services at Coopers Plains.

Family and cultural concerns are considered by the coroner before ordering an autopsy. Information about a coronial investigation is usually provided to family members by
the counsellors at the Coronial Family Service. For further information, please phone 07 3000 9342.

The gift of tissue donation 

When your loved one dies in hospital you may want to consider organ or tissue donation for transplantation, which helps save and improve the quality of lives for many Australians who suffer from disease or trauma. Hospital staff will provide information and discuss the opportunity for donation with the family to ascertain the wishes of the person during their lifetime. 

Not everyone is able to donate organs or tissue for transplantation after their death. Sometimes, the cause of death or previous illness may preclude donation from being a possibility. If organ or tissue donation is possible, then families may be contacted by telephone by the Queensland Organ and Tissue Donation Service.

For further information about donation, please visit the Donate Life website (www.donatelife.gov.au) or contact Donate Life Queensland on 07 3176 2350.

How do we pay for the funeral?

The person who negotiates with a funeral director and signs the paperwork is legally responsible for the account. If financial difficulties are likely to be experienced, it is a good idea to approach more than one funeral director to explain your personal circumstances.

When contacting a funeral director, ask for a written estimate detailing the variety of services available and the cost for each of these services. Many funeral directors are willing to negotiate fees.

Often, the money to pay for the funeral will come from the deceased’s estate. Contact the relevant bank or other financial institution to see if they will release funds from an account of the deceased person to pay for the funeral expenses. The bank will usually require a copy of the account from the funeral home in order to release these funds. It is important to negotiate with the funeral director immediately if payment will be delayed.

Financial assistance

If you are having financial difficulties and cannot afford the cost of a funeral, please contact the local courthouse or the Coroners Court of Queensland via 1300 304 605. For a copy of the ‘Funeral Assistance’ fact sheet detailing information about assistance that may be available to you, please visit www.courts.qld.gov.au.

Centrelink provides a range of information about what to do following the death of a loved one, available via www.humanservices.gov.au/.

Insurance policies

The deceased may have held an insurance policy to cover the expense of a funeral. In these circumstances you will need to find the policy and speak to the financial institution issuing the policy to determine who the beneficiaries of the policy are, and how the policy can be paid out.

Deceased estate
Monies from the estate of the person who died may be released prior to probate, or letters of administration may be granted by banks and financial institutions to pay a funeral director. You will need to provide a copy of the death certificate and the funeral account. Many agencies require that photocopies of the Will and death certificate are sighted and signed by a Justice of the Peace to certify they are true copies. 

You do not have to pay any of the deceased person’s debts unless the debt is owed jointly by yourself and the deceased. Debts owed by the deceased can be paid out of the estate once the letters of administration have been executed. The executor of the Will should take care of these matters.

Legal matters


A Will is a legal document that instructs you about the deceased person’s wishes. Someone (or multiple people) is/are named as Executor or Executrix of the will. This person(s) is responsible for distributing the deceased person’s assets and belongings to the beneficiaries named in the Will.

The Executor is also responsible for payment of any debts from the estate assets.

If no Will exists you should seek legal advice from the Queensland Public Trustee, Legal Aid or a private solicitor. When a person dies without a Will, an administrator may be appointed by the court to manage the deceased’s affairs. The Probate Section of the Queensland Supreme Court can also assist with information.


Depending on the personal circumstances of the deceased, a grant of probate may be required. An application for probate is made to the Probate Registry of the Supreme
Court. A Grant of Probate recognises the authority of the executor(s) to deal with the estate and entitles the executor to collect and pay debts and distribute the estate as directed by the Will. The documents for Probate can be provided by your solicitor, they may be downloaded from the Internet or they can be purchased from a legal stationery supplier. In many circumstances in Queensland a grant of probate is not required, as the administrative matters can be dealt with without a grant of probate. Probate may be required for the sale of land, the payment of creditors and the closing of accounts with some financial institutions.

Who to notify 

There are a number of people and institutions to be notified of a death. The affairs of the person who died will need to be finalised. Most of the people listed will need notification in writing and a certified copy of the death certificate and Will. Some institutions may require probate in order to close accounts and release information to the executor. The following is a list of such people and organisations:

  • the executor of the Will and any other interested parties (family etc.)
  • professional bodies (e.g. solicitor or accountant) 
  • landlord
  • Australian Taxation Office
  • Australian Electoral Commission
  • banks and/or credit unions
  • Queensland Transport
  • Medicare/private health funds
  • Centrelink/Department of Veterans Affairs
  • insurance companies
  • superannuation funds
  • department store accounts
  • community services/clubs
  • local Council, electricity/gas/water companies
  • telephone company
  • general practitioner (GP) and other medical professionals (e.g. dentist)
  • employers
  • home care nursing services
  • Australia Post
  • provider of social media accounts if you wish to close them.

We feel distressed following the death—is there someone we can speak to?

We understand this is a difficult time for you and your family. If you wish to speak to someone, you can contact a pastoral care worker or social worker at Mater. You may also wish to contact your local GP if you would like a referral to a counsellor in the community. If you belong to a particular religious denomination you may wish to speak to a member of that community to support you through this difficult time.

Contact details

Mater Hospital Brisbane
Raymond Terrace, South Brisbane Q 4101

For more information telephone 07 3163 8111

We wish to acknowledge that sections of the content in this booklet have been partially reproduced with the kind permission of HammondCare. © HammondCare, Copyright Act 1968 (Cth).

Mater acknowledges consumer consultation in the development of this patient information.
Mater Doc Num: PI-CLN-420073
Last modified 27/6/2017.
Consumers were consulted in the development of this patient information.
Last consumer engagement date: 31/8/2016
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