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When someone dies in Australia, the death must be registered with the office of Births Deaths and Marriages. In addition, the next of kin or executor of a Will typically needs a death certificate as part of the estate administration process. There's also some paperwork required before the cremation or funeral can take place.

This article explains what you need to do to register a death and how to get a death certificate.

Why do I need a death certificate?

Usually, your funeral provider will register the death and apply for the death certificate on the family or next of kin’s behalf, as part of their service. But there are a few documents you will need to provide first. These documents are used for authorisation to transfer a deceased person from an institution (such as a hospital or aged care home) to a crematorium; to cremate; and to register the death with the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages.

Each state and territory in Australia has its own guidelines which tell you how to go about registering a death. A standard death certificate shows the full details of the death record. Typically, you’ll need one to cancel bills, bank accounts, utilities and administer other parts of the estate.

What paperwork do I need to register a death?

There are three typical documents needed after a person has died in Australia. These are:

  1. The Medical Certificate Cause of Death
  2. Death Registration form
  3. Death certificate

A Medical Certificate Cause of Death is the document needed before any funeral director can take the deceased person into their care. It is also the document needed to register the death and apply for a death certificate.

The funeral director will liaise with the doctors to source this cause of death certificate. In most instances, the next of kin will not need to be involved.

If your loved one has died at a hospital or nursing home, a doctor or other medical practitioner will verify their death and provide the cause of death certificate.

If the person died at home, you will need to have had a doctor or palliative care nurse come to the home and verify the passing. The funeral provider may ask you for details of the deceased person’s last treating doctor to obtain the necessary paperwork.

If death was not expected and a doctor will not provide a cause of death certificate, the police will need to be called and the deceased person may need to go to the Coroner. If the deceased person was transferred to the Coroner after their death, your funeral provider will contact the Coroner’s office and obtain the necessary paperwork.

Next, the funeral director will usually take care of registering the death on behalf of the family/next of kin and apply for the death certificate. They will provide all the forms that must be filled out.

The paperwork required to register a death varies slightly in each state and territory. But generally, the next of kin will need to complete a Death Registration form. If the deceased is being cremated, rather than buried, an Application for Cremation will also need to be filled in.

At Bare Cremation, we have automated much of the paperwork so it may be done easier and quicker online. That way, you don’t need to find a printer and scanner. But, if you prefer, we can mail out the documents to fill in and send back, instead.

While all the necessary medical paperwork is gathered and completed, the funeral director will arrange to take the deceased person into their care and transport them to a mortuary.

What information do I need to register a death and process a death certificate?

To complete the Death Registration form, you will need to know and provide the following information:

  • Full name of the deceased
  • The deceased’s occupation
  • Dates and places of the deceased’s birth and death
  • If born overseas, the date the deceased came to Australia
  • Marriage and relationship information of the deceased: place, dates and spouse’s/partner’s full name
  • Full names and dates of birth of all children of the deceased
  • Full names, dates of birth and occupations of the deceased’s parents

When and how do I receive a death certificate?

When a loved one dies in Australia, their death needs to be registered with the office of Births Deaths and Marriages. However, the death cannot be registered until after the cremation has happened. After the date of cremation, the funeral director will register the death with the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages. A death certificate cannot be processed until the death has been registered.

If you have arranged the cremation through Bare, we will mail the death certificate to you. Otherwise the office of Births, Deaths and Marriages will mail it 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. Please note that it will not go to the funeral director first.

It can take up to four weeks after the cremation for the document to arrive. At times, it can take longer if there is a delay in processing by the state authority. If there is a longer than usual delay, we will actively follow up on your behalf. If the Coroner is involved, it will take longer. This is because it usually takes some time for the Coroner to establish the cause of death, which is required to process the official death certificate.

In some states an interim death certificate can be applied for while you are waiting for the full certificate. An interim death certificate is a legal death certificate and has all the necessary information on it except for the cause of death. This can be used as a legal document until the final one is ready. Your funeral director can also apply for this on your behalf.

To learn more, click the link below or chat with our estate team for a free consultation, on 1800 959 371.

This article is not legal advice. You should speak with your solicitor or accountant for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.