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What To Do When Someone Dies

The first decision you will need to make is, will the person who has died be buried or cremated? This determines the certification required from medical practitioners.

Has the death taken place in:


If your family member has died in hospital your funeral director will liaise with the hospital for necessary certificates for burial or cremation, in addition to organising transfer from the hospital to their mortuary. These tasks will generally be carried out during normal working hours.

The hospital will need to know whether the funeral service will be a burial or cremation so that they can prepare the correct documents.

Nursing Home or Aged Care Facility

If the death has occurred in a nursing home or other care facility, it is most likely that the funeral director will need to transfer the body to their mortuary without delay.

This is because most such facilities do not have a refrigerated mortuary. It is also why, on admission to a care facility, you may have been asked to provide details of your chosen funeral director. In the event that death occurs and you cannot be contacted, staff will be able to call your chosen funeral director and make immediate arrangements to transfer the body from the facility to the funeral director’s premises.

The funeral director will also liaise with the treating doctor to issue necessary documents for burial or cremation.

At home

If the death was expected, your doctor has probably discussed with you what will happen at the time of death. He or she should visit your home and will leave a certificate with you, which your funeral director will collect when they arrive to transfer your family member from home to their mortuary.

If the death was unexpected it is possible that the Coroner may wish to conduct a post mortem.

In any case, you should call an ambulance immediately. Once the ambulance crew arrives at your home they will either contact your family doctor or the Police.

If required, the Police will make arrangements with the Coroner’s office to transfer your family member from home to a Coroner’s mortuary.

Your funeral director will welcome your call at any time during this process and they will offer advice on who to contact and the procedures involved. It is important to note that much of the funeral arrangement process can be carried out prior to the completion of the coroner’s role and it is prudent that contact be made with your funeral director as soon as possible. Your funeral director will then liaise with the coroner regarding when the funeral can be held.

The law dictates the circumstances in which the coroner must be involved but generally a coronial investigation must be carried out when a person dies in suspicious or unknown circumstances or the person has not been seen by a doctor for more than six months.