Losing your partner

Coping with the loss of your partner

Losing your partner changes your life, and money matters may seem unimportant at the time. Taking practical steps can help you get through this period and better prepare you for the future.

Arranging a funeral

Organising a funeral is never easy, but it will probably be your first task after your partner dies. Funeral costs can vary greatly and you may need to budget ahead to pay for them.

How much does a funeral cost?

In Australia, the cost of a basic funeral starts from around $5,000. The cost will vary greatly depending on the kind of service and the funeral company you use. Your partner may have left instructions about their funeral in their will.

Smart tip

Many different funeral companies actually belong to the same group. Make sure you're really comparing different companies when looking at funeral prices and services.

To find out how much the funeral will cost, ask the funeral director for an itemised and written quote. Don't be afraid to ask questions. If you don't feel up to doing this yourself, ask a friend or family member to make the calls for you. While an itemised quote is required by law for basic funerals in NSW, you can ask for an itemised quote, no matter where you are in Australia.

Try to spend only what you can afford. Here are some of the costs to consider:

  • Funeral director fees
  • Transport
  • Coffin
  • Death certificate
  • Permits
  • Burial/cremation
  • Cemetery plot
  • Other expenses, such as a celebrant or clergy, flowers, newspaper notices and the wake.

Getting help with funeral costs

If you are paying for a partner's funeral, their bank may be able to release money from their account to help pay funeral expenses before 'probate' is granted (that is, before the court validates their will).

If you think your partner had a funeral bond or pre-paid their funeral arrangements but you can't find the paperwork, check with your solicitor or the executor of the estate. Some private health and life insurance policies, which are sometimes held through superannuation funds, also pay some funeral costs. To find out more about super death benefits, see Getting your super.

Some organisations can help with the cost of a funeral. Contact the Department of Veterans' Affairs (DVA) on 13 32 54 (1800 555 254 for regional callers) about how it can help support you through deaths and funerals.

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). 

Working out the will

Your partner will probably have left a will setting out how they wanted their estate, or personal assets, to be distributed after their death.

The executor of a will is the individual chosen to distribute your partner's assets according to their will. They will also finalise any debt and taxes your partner owed. People entitled to part of your partner's estate are known as beneficiaries. Assets can only be distributed after debts are paid and once the Supreme Court has granted 'probate', or validated the will.

The executor will need the following documents to administer the will:

  • Banking records
  • Credit, charge and store cards
  • Taxation records
  • Superannuation
  • Records of investments.

If your partner dies 'intestate' (or without a will), their assets will be distributed according to a pre-determined formula by the government.

Determining where you stand financially

Although you may still be grieving, you must take care of yourself, and that includes your finances. When you're ready, get a handle on your finances and work out where you now stand. This will let you plan ahead.

Work out the strength of your current financial situation.

Your net worth calculator

Taking the next steps

When your partner dies, you may be suddenly forced to take care of money matters, and take on sole responsibility for your household's finances, including bills and insurance.

Using a budget can help you manage your new income and adjust your spending. 

Stay in control of your money and plan for your future.

Budget planner

Check your financial entitlements

You will probably experience a change in your household income as a result of your loss. However, you should check whether you're entitled to money from any of these sources:

  • Government paymentsContact the Department of Human Services to check that you are receiving all the payments you are entitled to.
  • Bank accounts: Contact your partner's bank to notify them of your loss. They will advise you what information they require and what you need to do. If you shared a joint bank account with your partner, all the money will transfer to you.
  • Insurance and superannuation: If your partner had life cover through an insurer or superannuation fund, contact them to find out how to claim a death benefit.
  • Unclaimed money: Check if your partner is owed any money from lost bank accounts, shares, investments or life insurance policies using the unclaimed money search.

Seek financial advice if you need it

You may be able to turn to friends and family for help in taking control of your financial wellbeing. You can get free information and advice from some government and community organisations about how to plan and manage your finances. Find out about financial counselling or contact the Department of Human Services' Financial Information Service.

Get the support you need

Don't be afraid to seek emotional support from a professional if you need it.

If you are a Centrelink customer, find out about the Department of Human Services' social work services or phone 13 17 94.

You can also contact:

There is a comprehensive listing of online bereavement resources available from the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement.

Prepare for your future

If your partner's name was used in your policies for superannuation, insurance or health, or in your will, then you will need to update these documents.

As well as getting emotional support from family and friends, you can take practical steps to build your future financial security. Help is available to sort out your finances at this difficult time.

Related links

Last updated: 12 Feb 2019