The death of a loved one can be an extremely distressing time for those the deceased person left behind, even if the passing was expected. Even if you had time to prepare for an imminent passing, the loss of a loved one can be overwhelming and you may feel a little lost. But there are generally a lot of things that need to happen to take care of the deceased estate administration in the days and weeks after someone dies.
Many people don’t know where to start, nor do they have the energy to think about estate administration while they are trying to cope with their immense grief. So, we’ve put this guide together to help you take care of the practical things you may need to do, relating to the administration of the deceased person’s estate.
This guide to deceased estates will explain what generally needs to happen after in the weeks and months after a death. It is broken down into the following sections:
- What to do in the days after someone dies
- What to do 2+ weeks after someone dies
- What to do in the months after someone dies
- Coping with grief after death
1. What to do in the days after someone dies
You may have already taken care of the more immediate steps after someone dies, like arranging collection of your loved one and notifying friends and family. Our article When someone dies what do I do? can also guide you through the first things to do after someone dies. Now it’s time for the Executor of the Will, or Administrator, to take care of the estate administration.
After someone passes, there is generally a number of contacts and organisations that the Next of Kin, Executor or Administrator will need to notify, including utility providers, the Australian Tax Office, and services your loved one had dealings with like banks and superannuation funds. To make things a little easier, we have created a checklist of who you may need to contact. You can download the checklist here: Who Do I Contact When Some Dies in Australia.
Planning a funeral or memorial
Claim funeral Insurance (if applicable)
If the deceased person had funeral insurance cover, you don’t need to wait for an official Death Certificate to make the claim. The beneficiary can make a funeral insurance claim with an application and a copy of the Medical Cause of Death certificate, which the funeral provider can supply.
Memorialise a Facebook or Instagram account
Some social media platforms allow you to make a request to memorialise the deceased person’s profile, with the word “Remembering” before their name. Any photos and posts the person shared in the past will remain visible on their memorial account.
When you’re ready, the Next of Kin, Executor or Administrator can contact the social media platform to find out what’s required to begin the process of a memorial account. The details should be on their website to make things easier. For more information, read our article Social media afterlife: What happens to Facebook after you die.
If you want to delete the deceased person’s social media account, take a moment to first look through the posts and save any photos you want to keep. Deleting a social media account is very final and permanent, so take some time to consider if this is really what you want to do. It may be best to revisit this step in coming months.
2. What to do 2+ weeks after someone dies
There are some things you won’t be able to do until the Death Certificate arrives, which can take two to three weeks. Once this document has arrived, the Executor or Administrator may work through the following steps.
Apply for Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration
Probate is a legal process required to validate a deceased person’s Will, to be carried out by an Executor named in the Will. There are two types of these grants: Probate, where there is a Will; and Letters of Administration, where there is no Will. A Grant of Probate and Letters of Administration are collectively referred to as Grants of Representation.
A Grant of Representation gives an Executor of a Will or Administrator the legal right to administer the estate of a person who has died. When applying for Probate, you will need to complete a number of forms and provide documents such as a Death Certificate. A Grant of Representation is needed before a deceased estate can be distributed to any beneficiaries. Once it has been granted, the court issues a document confirming that the Will is valid and also confirms the appointment of the Executor.
A Grant of Representation also allows the assets to be transferred to the name of the Executor or Administrator so they can manage them: distribute them to beneficiaries, or sell them.
In the meantime, the deceased person’s bank accounts will be frozen until the Grant of Representation is obtained. In cases where Probate is not required, the bank may simply request the Executor to sign an indemnity before releasing the deceased’s funds.
Most Australians born after 1938 who have ever worked will have a superannuation fund, or a fund that their employer would have paid into regularly. When a superannuation fund holder has died, the total fund balance will be paid out to the nominated beneficiary, along with any additional benefits from other products and services the deceased may have had in place with the fund. This payment is referred to as a Death Benefit.
Contact the relevant superannuation funds to notify them of the death. They will provide an explanation of the processes involved with initiating the Superannuation Benefit payment request, and the documents they require. It can be common to even have more than one superannuation fund, so you will need to determine which accounts the deceased person held and contact all of the providers.
Notify government and other organsiations
Below is a list of organisations the deceased person may have had dealings with, which you may need to notify of their passing. You may also be entitled to benefits where applicable:
- Health and Life Insurance companies: Notify and make life insurance claims if applicable;
- Centrelink: Notify and claim financial support benefits if applicable, including bereavement payment;
- Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA): If the deceased person was receiving a DVA pension or payments, you will need to notify them of the death. Find out if you can claim DVA benefits including assistance with funeral expenses and pensions for war widowed partners, if applicable. Phone 1800 555 254 or visit the DVA website.
- Australian Electoral Office (ATO): You can request the deceased’s name be removed from the electoral roll online by filling out an ATO notification of death form here.
Claim other Benefits or Payouts
The estate may also be entitled to claim other benefits if the deceased was a member of a club, pensioner association or a trade union; or public safety officer such as a firefighter or police officer.
Cancel Online Subscriptions
Immediately cancel any subscriptions and services the deceased estate is still paying for, to avoid paying the ongoing subscription fee.
The most common online subscriptions are for media streaming services like Netflix, Stan, Spotify, Foxtel, Optus TV, Amazon Prime and Apple TV; and newspaper and magazine subscriptions.
Redirect Mail (if necessary)
Was the deceased person living with a spouse or partner? If not, it’s a good idea to redirect their mail to your address. Free Australia Post mail redirection for up to 12 months is available to those in charge of a deceased estate within Australia. Applications need to be made in-person, at any Post Office in Australia. You can find your local Australia Post office here.
Set up a testamentary trust account (if applicable)
If the deceased estate is large, you may need to open a post-death testamentary trust. A testamentary trust can provide flexibility and control of the deceased person’s estate or allow provisions for beneficiaries who are not part of the immediate family or who are under 18 years old.
Transfer or sell property owned by the deceased person
If the deceased person owned property, you may need to determine how it will be dealt with. This will depend on the ownership (if it was owned jointly with a spouse or partner) and the Will. The property may need to be transferred or sold.
3. What to do in the months after someone dies
Lodge a tax return
An Executor or Administrator is responsible for lodging a tax return for the deceased person and their estate for the financial year ending on 30 June. To notify the ATO, you can fill out the online ATO Notification of a Deceased Person form here. You’ll then need to make an interview appointment at any Australia Post retail branch and bring with you an original or certified copy of the Will, Letters of Administration or Grant of Probate. For further information on tax returns and taxation matters for deceased estates, call the ATO on 13 28 61 or visit the ATO website here.
Pay all outstanding final debts and bills
You will need to pay any bills or debts owed, including any fees for engaging legal services to assist in the estate administration, before the deceased estate’s bank account is closed.
Distribute the deceased estate to beneficiaries
Once you have determined the deceased estate’s full value, understood exactly what items the estate is made up of, and paid all necessary debts and taxes, you will generally be ready for distribution of the deceased estate to beneficiaries.
4. Coping with grief after death
When someone close to you dies, experiencing grief is a normal response. Coping with grief is not just one feeling, it usually involves a range of different feelings and responses. Everyone feels grief differently and there is no right or wrong way to grieve.
Grief doesn’t need to be a journey you must travel alone. It can often be helpful to have a safe supportive space to process the impact of the loss and enable you to find your way again.
You may have family and friends who can provide care, support and understanding after the death of a loved one. However, sometimes it may also be helpful to talk to a trained grief counsellor, or to join a bereavement support group in your community. The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement also provides excellent information on bereavement services available throughout Australia.
If you’re seeking grief or bereavement support, we’ve compiled a list of services across Australia here. For Lifeline’s Crisis Counselling service call 13 11 14, or BeyondBlue on 1300 224 636.
This article is not legal advice. You should speak with your solicitor or accountant for specific advice on your personal or financial situation. If you’d like a recommendation on estate planning professionals, give us a call and we’d be happy to connect you with our specialist estate administration partners.
If you have any further questions or to get a quote for a cremation visit the Bare Cremation website or call 1800 531 483.