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What to do when a loved one dies

 

What do I do when a loved one dies?

Whether your loved one dies at home, in a nursing home, or in hospital, Hills Family Funerals is available to advise you on what to do next. Our experienced team are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to guide you through the process of bidding farewell.

When you contact us our primary consideration is for the immediate care of the deceased. We will then arrange an appointment at your house or our funeral home to commence the planning of the funeral service.

When Richard or our staff meet with you to arrange the funeral, they will take the time to guide you through the details of the service and will organise and co-ordinate your needs. We strive to make the service as personal as we can and for that we need your imput. Our experience tells us that there are many aspects to consider. To get you started we have created an overview of the options available so that you can get the most out of your Arrangement Meeting.

Where can we meet to discuss the funeral arrangements?

When you contact us we will arrange an appointment at your house or our funeral home at a time to suit you.

 

The Funeral Service

 

Should I choose burial or cremation?

The decision of burial or cremation is based on your understanding of your loved one’s wishes. In our experience, around 80% of funerals are cremations and 20% burials. We are able to assist you with whatever option you choose.

Each cremation is individually supervised, making sure all the ashes, including the coffin, are returned to you. A Hills Family Funeral Arranger is able to answer any further questions you may have regarding burials or cremation.

Where can I hold a funeral service?

You may choose to hold the funeral service at your loved one’s place of worship, or another location that holds special significance to them. Alternatively, Hills Family Funerals is able to offer our own historic chapel and function centre at Rouse Hill.  We can also help you organise a funeral service at a range of venues throughout Sydney.

Do I need to have a service?  Should it be a public or private service?

Funerals fill an important role for those mourning the loss of a loved one. By providing surviving family members and friends a caring, supportive environment in which to share thoughts and feelings about the death, funerals are the first step in the healing process.

Giving family, friends and associates an opportunity to say goodbye can help significantly following the death of someone close. Often, stories and anecdotes are shared and sometimes even discovered this way. A public funeral can give a meaning and moment to positive memories which will otherwise be lost.

However, you may wish for privacy as you grieve. We understand and respect the choice of holding a private celebration, if that is your wish.

If you do not wish to have a service, we can still assist you with all the practical arrangements.

Can we have a private viewing prior to the funeral?

Some families choose to hold a viewing, enabling family and friends an opportunity to say their last goodbye, while others prefer a closed coffin that is farewelled at the funeral. Religious or cultural beliefs may dictate whether a viewing of the body is to be held. It is a matter of choice, although you may wish to consult with family members before making a decision.

Do I need to have a minister or celebrant?

Ideally, the person conducting the funeral service should be someone comfortable with public speaking and who can handle the occasion sensitively. This can be a clergy member, a celebrant, a member of family, or a friend. It is not vital for the chosen person to have experience, although it can be helpful.

What involvement can we have in the service itself?

A funeral is more than a way to say goodbye, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the life of someone special. A funeral can be as unique as the individual being honoured and reflect any aspect of a person’s life and personality. Richard and Deborah have spent over 25 years helping families plan varied styles of service or celebration and can discuss with you ideas for creating a unique, personalised funeral.

With a specific choice of music (recordings or musicians), readings and even the venue, there are several areas where personal touches can be included. Hobbies or pastimes can be incorporated as well.

Hills Family Funerals is able to produce a DVD that can be played during or after the service to pay tribute to your loved one by remembering important aspects of their life, highlighting their personal story, interests and hobbies.

Should children attend the funeral?

Whether or not you would like children to attend the funeral service is a personal choice and ultimately will be up to parents or guardians.

It is often helpful for children to attend the funeral service, as they need to say goodbye in the same way as adults.

We have well researched literature regarding children and mourning. Please ask for a copy at the Funeral Arrangement.

What coffin choices are you able to offer?  Do you have an eco coffin available?

We can offer a wide choice of coffins or caskets ranging from budget options to fully imported Italian and US styles. Many are on display at our funeral home at Castle Hill.

Another choice is the environmentally friendly LifeArt coffin, which is an Australian concept. These are available in a selection of styles that can be further personalised to reflect the spirit of the individual.

Who will prepare and read the eulogy?

The person reading the eulogy is usually someone who personally knew your loved one. They may never have prepared a eulogy before and may also not be familiar with public speaking. Alternatively, the eulogy can be prepared by the family and delivered by the person officiating. Guidelines on writing a eulogy can be found here.

As it’s impossible to predict what emotions close family and friends will feel on the day, having someone on hand who can step in and calmly take over a reading or Eulogy at the last moment, if a speaker feels overwhelmed, is a good idea.

Can we nominate pall-bearers?

You may like to nominate four or six people to act as pall-bearers carrying the coffin. It is usually a great honour for many people to be asked to pay this last respect and act as a pall-bearer. While traditionally men were chosen for this role, there is no protocol that precludes women from being asked to be pall-bearers.

Do you offer catering?

Hills Family Funerals offers a tailored after funeral function service, providing a place for reflection with friends and family after the service.

We can offer the exclusive use of our elegantly furnished function centre, conveniently positioned adjacent to our chapel in Rouse Hill. We have a range of catering options, which have been selected for their quality and variety. Please click here for more information on the Hills Family Chapel and Function Centre. Alternatively we can arrange for catering to be supplied at your home or at a location of your choice.

What floral tributes are most appropriate?

We can help you organise flowers you would like to include. The choice of display, simple or elaborate, is down to personal choice. You may like to consider your loved one’s favourite flower when making your choice.

We can assist and guide you in your choice of floral display with a wide variety available at our Arrangement Meeting.

We can also provide directions on our website for family and friends who wish to send flowers for the service. If you would prefer, we can collect and manage donations to your loved one’s preferred charity in their name instead of sending flowers. Our website has a section where these contributions can be made.

Do I have to place a notice in the newspaper?

Whilst not compulsory, newspaper advertisements continue to be an important way of advising friends and family of a persons death and their funeral details. Newspaper advertisements are however getting more expensive, and we suggest that you consider placing a smaller advertisement in the newspaper that directs readers to an online funeral notice and obituary on our website. Directions to the notice can also be made via social media such as email and facebook. We would be pleased to discuss this during our Arrangement Meeting.

Is a charity donations box made available at the venue?

If you would like donations to be made to your loved one’s preferred charity, we can arrange and collect these in their name. We can provide instructions on our website for family and friends to make a donation, as well as assist with a discreet donations box and relevant details on the charity at the service.

What happens to the jewellery before the cremation occurs?

Your loved one may be clothed as the family desires, including jewellery however anything remaining with the body will be unrecoverable. Personal items, jewellery, or clothing the family want to save must be removed before cremation. It is recommended that jewellery be removed after death. Once a coffin has entered the crematorium grounds the coffin cannot be opened.

Bank accounts and other legal matters

 

How much does a funeral cost?

Families are understandably concerned about the cost of a funeral while they are already dealing with the grief and practical issues after the loss of a loved one.

The total cost of a funeral service depends on the individual aspects that are chosen as a part of the service, whether your loved one will be buried or cremated and if they had a prepaid funeral plan before they died. Please feel free to call and discuss the details that you would like to have included.

Our Code of Ethics requires that at the time of the Funeral Arrangement we give a written quotation of all funeral charges and disbursements.

What are your terms of payment?

Hills Family Funerals accepts all usual forms of payment including credit cards and direct bank deposits. We will ask for a deposit to cover our direct outgoings with the balance due within 21 days of the service.

Do you offer finance?

Hills Family Funerals can help you source finance for funeral services from an approved finance provider when we meet with you.

Hills Family Funerals also offers a government regulated pre-paid funeral plan, where you can arrange and purchase your funeral in advance and at today’s prices. Please click here for more information.

How long does the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages take to issue the death certificate?

In most states, the Department of Births, Deaths and Marriages takes up to 21 days to issue a death certificate.

What do I do about my loved ones bank account now that they have passed away?

The most commonly asked questions regarding deceased bank accounts are listed below.  Please note that this is general information only, you can contact your bank for information more specific to your circumstances:

Westpac Bank Deceased Estates Team – 1300 130 240
ANZ Bank Deceased Estates Team – 1800 237 170
Commonwealth Bank Deceased Estate Hotline – 1800 686 153
St George Bank Estates Management – 02 9767 1164

My loved one has recently passed away.  What do I do now?

You need to notify the bank either in person or in writing.  You will need to provide Proof of Death.

What is acceptable Proof of Death?

Death Certificate
Funeral Account
Medical Certificate
Probate or Letter of Administration
Disposal of Body Certificate
Coroner’s Report
(Newspaper clippings are not acceptable)

Can the bank pay the funeral expenses from the deceased person’s account?

Once the Executor/s or Next of Kin (where no Will exists) have provided an original funeral tax invoice or tax receipt the bank is able to release funds from the Deceased customer’s account to assist with paying the cost of the funeral.  If there are not sufficient funds available in the account(s) of the Deceased to pay the funeral bill, the bank will make a partial payment with what money is available.

Will the bank release funds from the Deceased customer’s account(s) to pay for additional expenses associated with the funeral (e.g. the wake, flights for relatives to attend the funeral, etc.)?

Banks will generally not release funds from the Deceased customer’s accounts(s) to pay for these additional expenses.

Where do I get the Death Certificate?

Each state and territory has a government register for births, deaths and marriages.  Your funeral director will lodge an application on your behalf for a copy of the Death Certificate.

What if there is no Will?

If there is no Will, the Next of Kin will need to act on behalf of the Estate or an Administrator will need to be appointed by the Supreme Court in the State or Territory where the assets are being held.

Do I need a Solicitor?

The decision of what advice and support you require is one that only you can make.  Things that you should take into consideration are the size of the Estate, as well as the variety of the assets including real estate and investments, the number of beneficiaries, their location and whether you anticipate any disputes to arise through the process.

What does an Executor do?

The Executor administers the Will.  They are charged with locating the Will and following the Will’s instructions for funeral requirements, collecting all assets, finalising outstanding liabilities and distributing the assets in accordance with the Deceased person’s instructions.

What happens to Power of Attorney upon death of the account holder?

A Power of Attorney is no longer valid once the donor has passed away.  If you were appointed as an attorney by the Deceased, you can no longer rely on the Power of Attorney to access bank accounts or conduct any other transactions on behalf of the Deceased.

What is probate?

Probate is the legal process of proving a Will, appointing an Executor, and settling an Estate.  It’s more widely understood as the legal process whereby a Deceased person’s Estate is administered and distributed.

Who can apply for Probate?

An Executor, Executrix, Trustee, Administrator, Legal Representative or Next of Kin can apply for Probate.  This person will need to contact the Supreme Court in the state in which the Deceased’s assets are held to initiate the process.  You should seek advice from Centrelink, the Public Trustee or your Solicitor.

What happens to joint bank accounts?

Banks are unable to remove the name of a customer from a joint account.  Where the account can be operated jointly by either party independently, the surviving party has access to the funds.  These funds can be transferred into a new account and the joint account closed.  Where two or more signatures are required to operate the account, some different restrictions apply.  Your bank can explain these in more detail.

What happens with credit cards?

If the Deceased person had a credit card, you’ll need to cancel any existing direct debits attached to the card.  If the deceased was the primary cardholder, the card needs to be cancelled, which will cancel any secondary cardholders cards automatically.  Secondary cardholders may then apply for their own card, subject to the banks normal lending criteria.

The Deceased person and I have a home loan together.  What happens to it?

You will need to continue paying your loan and interest will still accrue on the account until the loan is finalised.  If you are unable to meet your regular loan repayments, you will need to contact your bank and discuss the options available.

What happens with Superannuation?

Superannuation benefits, including any insurance component, are generally released upon death regardless of the age of the member.  In most cases you will need a copy of the Death Certificate, a copy of the Will and Grant of Probate or Letters of Administration.  For superannuation funds held elsewhere you will need to contact the Trustee and/or Administrator of the superannuation fund for details about their death benefit notification requirements

 

Financial Support

 

 

What sort of financial support can I access as a bereaved person?

Various government departments and organisations offer bereavement payments for Australian residents. The main source is Centrelink and the following are some of the areas you can expect assistance with:

Married Pensioner: Surviving partners receive a further 14 weeks of their spouses pension, usually paid in a lump sum.

Single Pensioner: The estate receives one full pension payment after the persons death.

Carer’s Pension: Entitled to a further 14 weeks pension following the death and this is paid in fortnightly payments. If the Deceased was single/widowed/divorced there may be an additional lump sum payment.

Sole Parent Pension: Entitled to a further 14 weeks pension following the death and this is paid in a lump sum.

Widow’s Allowance: If the surviving wife is over 50 and she has no recent experience in the workforce, she may be entitled to regular payments.

Please note that entitlements can change without notice. 
Where possible, Hills Family Funerals will seek to obtain individual information for clients, but in financial matters the Privacy Act can prevent us from making these inquiries. Depending on the history of the Deceased and the State in Australia they were in when they died, additional allowances may be payable through other institutions, including the Department of Veterans Affairs, trade unions, some private health funds, insurance companies and the Transport Accident Commission (VIC).
If you are an immediate family member of a homicide victim there are other organisations you can call, such as Victim Support Service.

Centrelink

Centrelink has bereavement payments available to help ease the adjustment to changed financial circumstances after the death of your partner, child or person you were caring for.  The following link will give you information on eligibility for bereavement payment, payment rates and other benefits while receiving the bereavement payment.  To find out about the bereavement payment you may click on the link below.

Centrelink Bereavement Payment

Veterans Affairs has funeral benefits and bereavement payments under the VEA and MRCA.  To find out about these benefits and payments you may click on the link below.

Veterans Affairs funeral/bereavement benefits and payments