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The Passing

What to Do When Someone Dies

Death turns lives into turmoil & has a profound effect on everyone. Expected or unexpected, the impact remains the same. 

If the person you love is in hospital, a hospice, nursing home, city morgue or at home, please call us, or read further about what happens when someone dies & what you need to do.

 
 

When almost everything seems difficult & the repercussions on people around you are challenging

...our goal is to take away the stress, do the great work that needs to get done & help you achieve the style of funeral or memorial you want to experience.

 

 Your Options & What You Need to Do Next

The majority of deaths in Australia are expected. About 90% of deaths occur in a hospital or other institution.

What You Need to Do

Upon a persons death, a medical certificate of cause of death will be issued by the doctor. The body of the deceased is kept at the institution’s morgue until the next of kin makes arrangements by contacting us. If the institution does not have a morgue, the next of kin must still contact us. We will arrange for the deceased to be moved to our mortuary facility.

In some circumstances where donor organ surgery has occurred, the institution may move the deceased to the nearest forensic mortuary, from which we can arrange transportation to our premise.

The senior next of kin is required to provide personal details of the deceased so the death can be registered.

When someone dies at home, it is important to try & stay calm & make sure you have support during the shock & stress of the situation.

When a person of any age dies at home, their regular doctor must be called first. The doctor will conduct their examination, pronounce the person dead & issue a medical certificate of the cause of death. If the doctor cannot issue a medical certificate of cause, they must notify the local police. The police will arrange for the body to be removed to the nearest forensic mortuary for coronial investigation. If the deceased doesn't have a regular doctor, the police should be called first. A doctor is needed to examine the body to attempt to ascertain the cause of death & write a medical certificate.

A funeral director cannot be arranged until this certificate has been completed.

If the death is unexpected, not clear or suspicious, or you are not sure if the person is dead, call 000 immediately & ask for an ambulance & explain as best you can, what the problem is & describe the circumstances. Once the ambulance arrives they will either contact the person's doctor or the police.

Once the cause of death has been certified, a family member or next of kin is able to contact us.

We will arrange to move the deceased to our mortuary. The senior next of kin is required to provide personal details of the deceased so the death can be registered.

We believe in the remarkable experience of a home based funeral service & care extensively about professional planning & guidance throughout this period.

Creating a rite of passing, fulfilling the ritual of a vigil, or hosting an intimate & heartfelt goodbye, alongside the people you love in the comfort of a home, is a fundamental aspect of our company’s unique specialisation.

If you’d like to conduct the funeral service at home, provide your personal care, or continue on with other ceremonies after the home care period, we work to orchestrate all elements across the needs of your family & friends, in the style & manner that’s important to you.

Through our professional network of partners, we provide support & help you care for a family member at home. With expert care & specialist in home ‘cold bed’ equipment, a body can legally be kept at home for up to five days in NSW.

The gift of organ or tissue donation is a much-needed life service with very low uptake rates in Australia. We encourage you to talk with healthcare professionals, family, friends & professional donor authorities as you consider end of life directives.

If the deceased agreed to donate their organs the teams involved need to move quickly & it's important to understand the process of donation happens soon after death.

If the person dies in a hospital, staff will check for the donor via the Australian Organ Donor Register. Consent is always needed before donation can go ahead. Hospital teams counsel & work with all parties across the entire process.

The Donate Life website has published these encouraging statistics:

“Thanks to the generosity of 503 deceased organ donors and their families a record 1,447 Australians were given a second chance at life in 2016. There were an additional 267 living donors, including 44 under the Australian Kidney Exchange Program”.

Learn more at: www.donatelife.gov.au

If the deceased has been taken to the city morgue, you can proceed to call us & start making funeral arrangements, even if a post mortem is to be conducted. We act on behalf of the family & will liaise with the Coroner in relation to when the body will be released.

The body cannot be released until the initial post mortem is completed. Circumstances may vary & delays may occur because further medical tests may be required or specialist post mortem services may be necessary.

You can choose to view the body of the deceased at the city morgue or, following release, you can arrange a viewing at our premise, location or venue of choice, or at home. All viewings at the morgue are arranged by appointment.

For further information & contact details for the NSW City Morgue, www.coroners.justice.nsw.gov.au

Some 1,000 infant deaths are registered in Australia each year.

The indescribable journey of losing your baby can be assisted by a combination of unique & memorable rituals, the aid of professionals & supporting bodies.

Stillborn babies must be buried or cremated if stillborn at or after 20 weeks, or weigh at least 400 grams. The procedures are:

  • The birth must be registered by the parents in the normal way
  • If the doctor requests a post-mortem, a consent form must be signed by the parent
  • The doctor completes a perinatal medical certificate of cause of death

Early pregnancy loss, before 20 weeks gestations, or if weeks are unknown, or your baby weighs less than 400 grams, is not registered as a birth or a death. You may apply for recognition of early pregnancy loss if the loss occurred in NSW & you can call us if you decide to hold an intimate ceremony.

If you miscarriage at the hospital, you can ask to take your baby home & call us to help you conduct a private memorial.

Infant deaths follow the same steps & procedures as for all other deaths. Refer to our sections, Death at Hospital or Death at Home.

Holding a viewing, funeral or memorial service for your baby is a beautiful & personal way of saying goodbye. We pride ourselves on capturing this delicate moment in ways that matter to you.

If you know someone without any next of kin, or live in close proximity to a person living with without next of kin, its important to be aware of the following procedures.

When a person dies in hospital & there is no next of kin, no other family or friends to pay for the funeral & no estate or assets, the hospital takes responsibility for the funeral through the government contractor.

If the person of the same life circumstances dies at home, the police need to be called & a doctor is required to issue a medical certificate of cause of death. The government contractor will be contacted by the Director of Public Health Unit (PHU) to organise a funeral.

If a medical certificate of cause of death could not be issued, the body is taken to the local area morgue.

If an investigation case involves a destitute person, with no next of kin, but did have other family members, the counsellors at the Department of Forensic Medicine can assist the family members with funeral arrangements.

If the deceased has no next of kin, but did have money or assets, the case is referred to the NSW Trustee & Guardian who arranges & pays for a funeral from the estate.

If you need financial assistance to help pay for a funeral service, refer to our section, Financial Assistance

Post death, the body of the deceased is transferred to our mortuary premises.

The mortuary is a unique & special place. All mortuaries must be registered & their compliance is regulated through the Public Health Regulation 2012, administered by state Government Health. Every facility must maintain a register of all deceased persons prepared in the mortuary.

The mortuary is the place where the deceased bodies are kept for hygienic storage, preparation, or for examination, grooming, dressing & encoffining until burial or cremation.

We encourage natural death care but also offer cosmetic care should this be desired or needed.

Natural death care means, either the person remains untouched by any form of cosmetic care & procedure, or they are groomed by minimal & natural procedures, which are non-embalmed preparations.

For natural grooming, warm water for a gentle body wash & personal favourites such as, fragrance, cosmetics or essential oils are applied. A recent photo is used to ensure our grooming preparations are natural & as representative of each person as practically possible.

Other aspects of our natural death care management practices to consider are:

  • Moving the body home & caring for it there, refer to our section Caring for the Body at Home
  • Wash & dress the body yourself, either in the home or, in our premise
  • Design, build & use your own coffin, our mortuary must place the body in the coffin for cremation or burial
  • Transport the coffin & body in your own vehicle on the day of cremation or burial
  • Bury on private land, subject to government approval
  • Bury in natural burial grounds, ecological coffins or for some, also a shroud

If you are interested in a DIY funeral or any of the steps above, contact us, or book a meeting.

For more information on sustainable death practice, visit, Natural Death Care Centre www.naturaldeathcarecentre.org

Or read more on this blog:www.1millionwomen.com.au/blog/sustainable-death-movement

For more information on natural burials, refer to our section Natural Burials & Grounds.

Embalming is both science & art. Its purpose is to preserve the human body by chemical treatment to slowdown decomposition, primarily for the purposes of public display at a funeral, a private viewing, religious or cultural ritual, medical or scientific requirements.

A person does not always require embalming prior to a viewing, funeral or disposal. Instead, embalming is very a personal choice, decision or ritual.

If you would like embalming to occur, we recommend you discuss this procedure with our professional mortuary staff prior, as they will guide you through decisions that need to be made. Refer to our section Burial in a Vault.

If your preference is for natural preparations, refer to our sections titled 'Natural Death Care' & 'Natural Burial / Grounds'.

Only a person who has successfully completed a course in embalming by a training provider accredited by the Australian Skills Quality Authority can embalm a body.

24hr Emergency Help

Help & Support Groups

Pensioners

Bereavement payments are available for Pensioners. There are a number of options depending on your individual circumstances. For a pensioner who’s partner dies, they can apply for a lump sum payment. When a single person dies an additional payment is made to their estate.

Centrelink

Centrelink needs to be informed of as soon as possible following the death of a Centrelink recipient. Bereavement payments are available, however they depend on individual circumstances & when they are notified of a person’s death.

If a person was receiving Family Tax Benefit installments for a child that has died, the benefit will continue for a limited period. A Baby Bonus sum payment is available through Centrelink & is paid for each child born, including stillborn children & will assist parents with funeral costs.

For more details on Centrelink, go to:
www.humanservices.gov.au/customer/services/centrelink/bereavement-payment

Department of Veteran Affairs

Bereavement payments for service pensioners, veterans who receive a disability pension & in certain cases of financial hardship, extra financial assistance may be available. For more details on Veteran Affairs go to:
www.dva.gov.au/factsheet-mrc18-bereavement-payments

Local Health District

Local Health Districts provide discretionary assessment for funeral expense claims from someone who is responsible for a funeral & claims financial hardship. If assistance is granted, it is provided after the funeral has taken place.

In situations of a stillborn child, where the parents or relatives cannot afford a funeral, the hospital where the baby died may arrange a destitute funeral with the government contractor.

To find out more or locate a district centre, go to: www.health.nsw.gov.au

Registered Clubs

Some clubs may pay a small funeral benefit for members. You can make an inquiry to an individual organisation & find out if they accept applications and criteria to qualify.

Health Insurance Schemes

Some schemes cover funeral benefits. Contact the individual health insurance company and check the deceased person’s policy.

Insurance: Motor Vehicle Accidents

If you are a relative of a person who dies in a motor vehicle accident seek legal advice as to their rights, as you may be entitled to claim funeral expenses from the other driver’s insurance company.

We are experienced in compassionate funding across all major online platforms & experienced in getting the conversation started.

Increasingly there are circumstances where community & friends want to help out & the topic of raising funds to help minimise the cost of a funeral or a memorial is sensitive.

We are comfortable guiding decision-making in his area & help create the right support program with sensitivity & respect.

Call us to learn more & discuss practical ways to address this topic.

Our list of charitable foundations is made up of organisations that both ourselves & customers donate to. Your support through a charitable donation is honourable & it works!

 
 

In this series of images we present photo journals from talented people around Sydney.

End of Life Planning

Having spent time with many grieving families, we’ve learnt to advocate for the best & most common sense planning actions you can make while you are alive & in good health. These are:

  • TALK.  Talk openly with your family, partners, friends & healthcare professionals so they understand what you need & what you do & don’t have happen to you.
  • Be practical through learning. Learn about your options through healthcare professionals & national organisations
  • Make a legal Will, refer to our legal partner specialist Marissa Lee
  • Complete an Advance Health Care Directive with an Advance Health Care Plan
  • Appoint Enduring Guardianship, an Enduring Power or Attorney

For more information about these topics, visit the following Australian Government organisations:
www.health.nsw.gov.au/patients/acp/Pages/default.aspx
www.myagedcare.gov.au/end-life-care/advance-care-planning

We believe in the remarkable experience of a home based funeral & care extensively about professional planning, & guidance throughout this period.

Creating a rite of passing, fulfilling the ritual of vigil, or hosting an intimate & heartfelt goodbye alongside the people you love in the comfort of a home, is a fundamental aspect of our company’s unique specialisation.

If you’d like to conduct the funeral service at home, or just provide your personal care, or continue on with other ceremonies after the home care period, we work to orchestrate all elements across the needs of your family & friends, in the style & manner that’s important to you.

Through our professional network of partners, we provide support & help you care for a family member at home. With expert care & specialist in home ‘cold bed’ equipment, regulations from The Australian Department of Health allows a family to care for a body, by keeping a cool environment & a cool bed operated between 1-5 degrees celsius, for up to five days in NSW.

The cohort of death care practitioners is growing. Growth has stemmed from people seeking new options & more personalised care when it comes to ‘dying well’ & 'a good death'.

In 2014 The Grattan Institute produced a foundational report on these topics. This pivotal report has been the catalyst, opening up the national conversation about dying well, advocating for a number of baseline rights such as, staying in your home longer, understanding your rights & taking them into your own framework of decision making, championing integrative services with hospitals, other institutional facilities & professionals, increased community based services, personal & guiding carers to work alongside families, institutional staff & practices.

An end of life carer, death doula or deathwalker are closely related in nature, different by title. The primary purpose of the carer or doula is to assist, support, guide & advocate across your needs during pivotal stages at the end of life. This is a non-medical based role of support & education assistance, across the home, hospice or hospital.

A deathwalker is defined by the Natural Death Care Centre, as:

  • a person who walks their own journey towards their death as openly, courageously & as best they can.
  • a person who walks with, or accompanies someone else in their death journey, i.e. the dying person, family or friends.

Offering guidance & care to inform, empower & enable them to be as open, courageous & the best they can. Source: Natural Death Care Centre: www.naturaldeathcarecentre.org

To learn more about these services & our specialist partner practitioners, contact us or book a meeting.

We experience short lead funeral planning on a weekly basis. Short lead funerals impact the livelihoods of everyone involved & your ability to be present & available to the people who gather around & provide their support.

Our services in this area separate us from all others because we listen to your needs, work through ideas, discuss personal preferences, outline options & review logistics. We prepare a detailed & itemised plan of all the elements that genuinely matter to you & your family.

To find out more about our pre-planned services, contact us or book a meeting.

There are a number of options to plan ahead & pay for a funeral.

We work with Funeral Plan Management (FPM) for all pre-paid services. Their funeral benefit fund is Funeral Plan Pre-Paid. The parent company for FPM is Australian Unity, a mutual company with a 175-year history.

For more information on the fund & company visit, www.fpmanagement.com.au

When you arrange a pre-paid funeral contract, your payment is safeguarded under the control of this independent entity until such time your funeral service is required. Your funeral benefit fund is a capital guaranteed fund, managed by specialist fund manager Lifeplan, part of Australian Unity.

Because different funds offer different deals, its best to shop around. You can choose any fund & still assign The House as your preferred funeral director. Some agreements have a 14-day cooling-off period written into the contract that allows you to change your mind without losing your money. It is also sensible to check the arrangements relating to withdrawal from the fund.

Some considerations are:

  • Money back policies, including principal & interest
  • Periods of time before funds are returned
  • Administration fees & costs
  • Exempt from the pension assets & income test

We also encourage seperate saving plans or private investment funds specifically for your funeral.

For customised or bespoke funeral services, we have a special hybrid fund through Funeral Plan Management. This unique fund provides a way to contribute to your distinctively personal funeral service, well in advance.

For more information on pre-paid funerals, call us or book a meeting.

The gift of organ or tissue donation is a much needed life service with very low uptake rates in Australia. We advocate for this service & encourage you to talk with healthcare professionals, your family, friends & professional donor authorities as you consider your end of life directives.

If the deceased agreed to donate their organs the teams involved need to move quickly & its important to understand the process of donation happens soon after death.

If the person dies in a hospital, staff will check for the donor via the Australian Organ Donor Register. Consent is always needed before donation can go ahead. Hospital teams counsel & work with all parties across the entire process.

The Donate Life website has published these encouraging statistics:

“Thanks to the generosity of 503 deceased organ donors and their families a record 1,447 Australians were given a second chance at life in 2016. There were an additional 267 living donors, including 44 under the Australian Kidney Exchange Program”.

Learn more at: www.donatelife.gov.au

There are a number of organisations across the country representing the rights to ask for help if you are dying & beyond all forms of meaningful medical relief. There are many points of view & opinions. There are compelling human stories, formidable spokespersons & the current law.

When it comes to your end of life choices, we aim to provide information that builds your knowledge about the country’s laws, your options & limitations. Educate yourself on these topics & the types of decisions you or family members may need to make at the end of life & actively seek independent advice from legal & healthcare professionals.

Currently, the criminal law act prohibits assisted suicide & active voluntary euthanasia in Australia.

For example, s31C of the Crimes Act 1900 (NSW):

  1. A person who aids or abets the suicide or attempted suicide of another person shall be liable to imprisonment for 10 years.
  2. Where:
    a person incites or counsels another person to commit suicide, and that other person commits or attempts to commit, suicide as a consequence of that incitement or counsel, the first mentioned person shall be liable to imprisonment for 5 years.
  3. Source: NSW Consolidated Acts
    www.austlii.edu.au/au/legis/nsw/consol_act/ca190082/s31c.html

    Dr. Tim Smyth of Sydney based legal firm, Holman Webb, identifies that,

    “Debate also continues over whether there is a legal “right to life”, whether a person can agree to waive such a right, the interaction with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and whether a person can consent to an act that would end their life”.

    “In Australia, many moves have been made in State, Territory and Commonwealth parliaments to introduce bills to permit euthanasia. To date, all have been unsuccessful. Due to constitutional provisions, legislative change is required at a State and Territory level”.

    “Euthanasia and assisting suicide can result in charges of murder or manslaughter under State and Territory criminal law. Suicide itself is not a crime, but aiding or abetting suicide does remain a crime”.

    For more information the following links represent a variety of different organisations working across this topic.

    QUT has a detailed information resource across the legal topic. This is a resource to help you understand the law at end of life: https://end-of-life.qut.edu.au/

    Go Gentle Australia, is an advocacy site. They argue for the right of all Australians to have a choice about what happens to them at the end of their lives and not to be forced, when they are at their most vulnerable, into cruel and avoidable suffering: www.gogentleaustralia.org.au

    Dyeing with Dignity is an advocacy site. They're pursuing a change in the law that will enhance choice at the end of life. They seek legislation that enables competent adults, experiencing unrelievable suffering from a terminal or incurable illness, to receive medical assistance to end their life peacefully, at a time of their choosing: www.dwdnsw.org.au

    Holman Webb Lawyers is a commercial and insurance law firm with over 60 years experience and a comprehensive portfolio of specialist practice areas, including Health, Aged-Care & Life Sciences: www.holmanwebb.com.au/blog/euthanasia-%E2%80%93-what-is-the-law-in-australia

    Palliative Care Australia. Is a national resource site about Palliative care. Palliation is care that helps people live their life as fully and as comfortably as possible when living with a life-limiting or terminal illness: www.palliativecare.org.au

    For more resources on this topic, also visit our pages, Grief & Change & Stories.

The following information is sourced from the Money Smart website published by the Australian Securities and Investments Commission. This national public resource provides straightforward information relating to a number of payment options for a funeral.

“If you have super, when you die your super fund will pay out your super balance and any life insurance to your dependents or your estate. This money can be used to pay for a funeral but it can take some time for it to be paid out. Your family may need to pay for your funeral and then be reimbursed once probate is granted. Talk to your super fund to see what approach it takes. See super death benefits for more details”.

“You may be entitled to funeral payments from the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA), your trade union, or your state or territory government. See DVA: Bereavement assistance 13 32 54 (1800 555 254 for regional callers)”.

“A bereavement payment may be available through the Department of Human Services. See their webpage on what to do following a death or call 13 23 00 (1800 810 586 for TTY service)”.

“In some circumstances (like if you have a terminal illness) you may be able to get hold of your super early to cover funeral expenses. You may also be able to get your super early to pay funeral expenses of a dependant. Go to the Department of Human Services webpage on early release of superannuation or see getting your super early for more details”.

Source: Money Smart Australian Securities and Investments Commission 2017.

For further information from this site, visit: www.moneysmart.gov.au/life-events-and-you/over-55s/paying-for-your-funeral

A legal will is an important document & in our experience, anyone over 18 should have a legal will, making it easy for family or partners following a death. Whether the estate is small or large, accounts in a sole name are usually frozen on death except for payment of funeral expenses. A will may make it easier to access funds & make sure your estate is distributed in the way you want.

Any assets or property belonging to a person who has died is their estate.

There are a number of distinct conditions concerning the estate after some one has died:

  • If the deceased left a will & named an executor, the executor will need to apply for Probate
  • If the deceased died intestate (without a will) or did not name an executor in a valid will, or the executor is unwilling or unable to act, you must apply for Letters of Administration through the Supreme Court

To find out more about applying for Probate or Letters of Administration we recommend visiting the NSW Government Justice Law Access site, section titled, 'After Someone Dies'. Select the link below for this web page:
www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Alternatively engaging your Solicitor or contact us and book a meeting with our partner solicitor Marissa Lee.

While some people prefer the guidance of a legal professional, the NSW Government Justice Law Access site also provides public information about non-legal represention and the different steps that can be taken after someone dies. Following are a few nifty flowcharts & useful links that shed clarity across these steps.

Flowchart - When Someone Dies
www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Flowchart - Someone Dies without a Will
www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Flowchart - Someone Dies & Leaves a Will
www.lawaccess.nsw.gov.au

Social media networks are independent companies, each with their own set of procedures for accessing, memorialising or closing accounts when someone dies. Some people leave directives concerning their social media account in their will. Many like to keep accounts in ‘Memorialisation’.

Following are links to the procedures of a few prominent social media providers:

Facebook

How to Memorialise a Facebook Account
www.facebook.com/help/1506822589577997

How to Close a Facebook Account When Someone Dies
www.facebook.com/help/408583372511972

Instagram

How to Memorialise an Instagram Account
help.instagram.com/264154560391256

How to Close a Instagram Account When Someone Dies
help.instagram.com/264154560391256

Twitter

How to Close a Twitter Account When Someone Dies
support.twitter.com/articles/87894

 

On this page our Art Director, Shane Sakkeus shows everyone how its really done.

 
 

A likely derivative of the Aboriginal name Gamma Gamma meaning ‘storm’, Shane casts his eye across the magic of Tamarama, forming his indelible impressions of the place he gets to call home! 

 
 

Don’t stop to blink Shane because we miss out if you do...