(07) 5597 3366

Who Owns Your Body When You Die in Queensland? Legal Support

Who Owns Your Body When You Die in Queensland?

Most people make plans about how their estate will be distributed when they die, generally formally recorded in a Will and estate planning document.

Funeral arrangements, though, are often less well-thought-out.  In Queensland, how your body will be disposed of is the decision of your executor or, if you do not have an executor appointed, your next of kin.   

For many people, discussing what happens to their bodies after death is confronting and difficult. This article will walk you through the process of what happens following a person’s death, the role and responsibilities of your executor, and the importance of ensuring your executor is aware of your wishes.

What Happens Immediately After You Die?

When a person dies, there are certain procedures that must be carried out. In Queensland, if a person’s death is not unexpected, a doctor will prepare a cause of death certificate within 48 hours of the death. 

If a person dies unexpectedly, a doctor will be requested to determine a cause of death and issue a certificate; however, if the cause of death cannot be determined, the police will usually refer the cause of death determination to a coroner.

Disposal of a Deceased Person’s Body in Queensland

Once a cause of death certificate has been issued, the deceased person’s body will be released to a funeral director, who will usually register the person’s death with the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages and apply for a formal death certificate.

The executor or next of kin will be asked to make decisions regarding the disposal of the deceased person’s body. 

In Queensland, legislation provides that if the deceased person left signed instructions, often by way of a Will, that their body is to be cremated, then their executor or next of kin must ensure the deceased person is cremated in accordance with the deceased person’s written instructions.

If the deceased person did not leave signed instructions asking for their body to be cremated, Queensland legislation stipulates that cremation must not be undertaken if the deceased person’s spouse, adult child, parent, or personal representative object to the cremation.

If there are no written instructions directing cremation be undertaken, nor any objection to cremation by loved ones, then the executor or next of kin may decide to have the deceased person’s body either cremated or buried.

Legislation regarding the disposal of a deceased person’s body varies from state to state, so it’s important to consider the legislation in your jurisdiction if you have specific wishes regarding cremation or burial.

Disposal of a person’s body and funeral arrangements can become contentious if family members have differing views, so executors and next of kin should exercise care when dealing with the disposal of a person’s body and funeral arrangements.

Who Owns Your Body After You Die?

Although your executor is responsible for disposing of your body, a dead body isn’t legally classed as property.  As such, no-one owns your body after you die.

Organ Donation in Queensland

In Queensland, the Transplantation and Anatomy Act 1979 (Qld) regulates how you can donate organs and tissue for use in transplants. If you want to be an organ and tissue donor, it’s important that you discuss your wishes with your loved ones. 

Before an organ and tissue donation proceeds, regardless of whether you’re a registered donor or not, family members will be asked to confirm your wishes regarding donation. If your family is unsure of your wishes, they may not agree to the donation proceeding.

You can find out more about organ and tissue donation by visiting DonateLife.

Arranging Your Funeral

If you have specific wishes regarding your funeral, you should inform your executor of these wishes so they can be carried out.  Keep in mind, though, that your wishes are exactly that – wishes, and the ultimate decision lies with your executor.

You can also pre-plan your funeral with a funeral director of your choice.  This may make it easier for your loved ones to give you the funeral you want.    

Responsibility for Funeral Costs

An executor is entitled to be reimbursed from the estate of a deceased person for the reasonable costs of a funeral. If your funeral wishes are extravagant, you should seek legal advice to ensure specific arrangements are made for your estate to bear the cost. 

When your bank or financial institution is notified of your death, bank accounts in your sole name will be frozen; however, your funeral director can arrange for their tax invoice to be forwarded to your bank to debit the amount to your account.  This means your executor or loved ones won’t initially have to bear the cost.

Before You Die: Things to Do

  • Speak with your lawyer about your estate planning. This includes making or updating your Will and power of attorney and giving directions about organ donation and funeral plans.
  • Consider making an advance health directive, which details your decisions about medical care.

After You Die: The Process

  • If you die at home expectedly, your loved ones should call your doctor.
  • If your passing is unexpected, your loved ones should call an ambulance.
  • If you die in an accident or emergency, your loved ones will be contacted by hospital staff or the police.
  • If your cause of death can be determined by a doctor, they will issue a cause of death certificate.
  • If your cause of death is unknown or unnatural, the police will be contacted and a coroner will determine your cause of death.
  • Once a cause of death has been determined, your body will be transferred to a funeral home (chosen by you or your loved ones).
  • If you’ve left a Will, the executor of your estate can begin administration of your estate.
  • If you’ve died intestate (without a Will), it may be necessary for an eligible person to apply to the Court for letters of administration. 

When you or a loved one passes away, your friends and family may need to do things like take time off work, cancel any subscriptions or licenses you have, and talk to your landlord.  Use this checklist to see which people and organisations may need to be contacted. 

Next Steps

When you die, disposal of your body is ultimately up to the executor of your Will.  Although you may express your wishes, your executor has the final say, so be thoughtful about who you appoint.

To ensure your wishes regarding disposal of your body and funeral are documented, get the advice of an experienced estate planning lawyer.  They can work with you to put the right provisions in place, which will also make your passing less complicated for your loved ones.

The content of this page is for information only. The content does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied upon as such. You should obtain advice that is specific to your circumstances before taking any action.