What Do I Do When Someone Passes Away?

When a loved one passes away, it can feel overwhelming and you may be unsure what to do first. The process differs depending on whether the death is expected (i.e. due to old age or a terminal health condition) or unexpected (e.g. due to a traffic accident). If the death occurs in a hospital or care facility, the staff there will help you through the process and understanding what you need to do.

Expected Death at Home

During the time leading up to a person’s death, it’s a good idea to have a written plan of what to do and who you need to contact. An expected death is not an emergency. You don’t need to call the police or an ambulance. Once ready, you will need to notify your palliative care service (if relevant) or your doctor. Alternatively, you can directly contact a funeral director of your choice.

A doctor or nurse needs to visit the home to verify the death before the funeral director can transfer the deceased into their care. Any doctor can complete the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death if they know the person’s medical history and are prepared to certify the cause and manner of death. This must be completed within 48 hours.

Unexpected Deaths

To report an unexpected death, contact the police immediately. For further advice, contact the Coroner’s Court of Western Australia. The coroner will try and determine how and why the person died. Even when the cause of death seems clear, whether from an accident, injury or illness, the coroner still needs to investigate.

Finding out exactly what contributed to the death provides important information to loved ones and allows preventative measures to be recommended. Any death can be unexpected. A doctor who has been regularly treating an individual who dies may have an opinion about the cause of death, but if their death was unexpected at that time by the treating doctor, it requires investigation.

Organ and Tissue Donation

You may be asked to donate the person’s organs for eligible organ transplant patients. If the deceased is a registered organ donor, the next of kin may be required to provide consent for donation to proceed. The person may have already decided to donate their organs, and this may already be documented in an advanced care plan. If not, this is a decision you may need to make immediately after they die.

Death Certificate

A doctor or nurse must sign a Form of Life Extinction as soon as someone passes away. Once this is done, the funeral director can take charge of the body and begin planning the funeral. This includes registering the death with the WA Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and sending the death certificate to the registry.

Notifying Organisations

When a person dies, you will need to contact various organisations to tell them what has happened, such as:

  • Centrelink
  • Australian Tax Office
  • Banks, where the person held accounts
  • Insurance companies
  • Superannuation fund of the deceased person
  • Healthcare professionals
  • Utility companies
  • Workplace of the deceased person
  • VicRoads

Compassionate Funeral Directors in Western Australia

For more information or advice about what to do when someone passes away or to make funeral arrangements, please contact Hetherington Funerals on (08) 9459 2846, submit an enquiry on our contact page or look at our funeral services here.