If you are an executor of a person’s Will or estate, or their senior Next of Kin, you’ll likely need certified copies of their Last Will & Testamentor death certificate to administer the deceased estate. This article explains who can certify a Will or death certificate and what certified copies of these important documents are needed for.
How do I apply for a death certificate?
When a loved one dies in Australia, their death needs to be registered with the office of Births Deaths and Marriages. You can apply for an official death certificate once the death has been registered. Each state and territory has its own guidelines for registering a death, however your funeral service provider will generally apply for the death certificate on your behalf.
The death certificate is sent from Births Deaths and Marriages directly to the person nominated as the informant, generally the executor or senior Next of Kin. The envelope is clearly marked indicating that it contains a death certificate inside.
The death certificate usually takes about three weeks to arrive. However, there can be a delay the Coroner is involved, while the cause of death is determined.
What is a death certificate needed for?
The death certificate is required before the estate administration process can take place, including administration of a Will (if one exists). A death certificate is also needed to settle any affairs with the deceased person’s bank or financial institutions. It is also required to make insurance claims and close accounts.
Why do I need certified copies of a Will or death certificate?
Once you have received the original copy of the death certificate, you will need to obtain certified copies. A certified copy of an original document is a copy of that document that has been verified by someone with the legal authority as being a true copy of the original document.
Certified copies of key official documents like a Last Will & Testament or a death certificate will be requested by many government departments, companies and other organisations as proof of the death. You’ll need to obtain multiple certified copies, as many organisations will not return the submitted documents.
Who can certify a Will or death certificate?
Once you have made photocopies of each document, you will need to find an authorised person to certify them. You’ll need to take the original copy of the document, and photocopies, to an authorised person who will be able to certify copies.
In Australia, a person authorised to certify documents may be a solicitor, justice of the peace or anyone else who can provide a statutory declaration (stat dec). People who can certify a Will or death certificate include:
- Health professionals – chiropractors, dentists, GPs, nurses, optometrists, pharmacists and physiotherapists, as well as veterinary surgeons;
- Legal professionals and accountants;
- Elected government representatives;
- Public servants who have been employed for five years or more;
- Bank, building society or finance company officers who have been employed for five years or more; and
- Ministers of religion, celebrants, notaries, police officers and teachers.
On the certified copy, the certifier will either write or stamp the words: “Certified to be a true copy of the original seen by me.” They will also sign and date the copy, and write or stamp their name, address and qualification as an authorised certifier. Any additional pages will be numbered then signed or initialled.
Documents in a language other than English may be certified, provided the certifier believes that the copy is identical to the original document.
After certifying important documents, ensure you keep the original in a safe place, so that additional copies may be made later if needed.
Whether you just need a free Will or an entire estate planning kit, we have a package that suits your needs. Visit the Bare Cremation website here, or chat with our estate planning team on (03) 9917 3388.
This article is not legal advice. You should speak with a legal professional for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.
GRIEF AND BEREAVEMENT SUPPORT
If you’re struggling to cope with grief after a loss, there is help available. You can reach out to a close friend or family member, or speak with your GP. Alternatively, the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement provides excellent information on bereavement services available throughout Australia. But for more immediate help call Lifeline on 13 11 14.