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, funerals can cost over $5000.The cost will vary greatly depending on the kind of service and the funeral company you use. Your partner may also have left instructions about their funeral in their will.

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. 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 costs to consider:

  • Funeral director fees
  • Transport
  • Coffin
  • Death certificate
  • Permits
  • Burial/ cremation
  • Cemetary 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 made pre-paid 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. Read about super death benefits.

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', or legal document that sets 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 the assets of your partner - in the way they have set out - and finalise any debt and taxes they 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. Gather these documents as soon as you can:

  • 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 then 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.

Use the your net worth calculator to help you. It will give you a clear idea of your financial situation, any bills you have to pay, and how much you can afford to invest.

Your net worth calculator

Taking the next steps

When your partner dies, you may be suddenly forced to take care of money matters-something your partner may have done for many years. You are now responsible for household finances like bills and insurance.

Use our budget planner to see how you can manage your new income and adjust your spending. That way you can stay in control of your money and plan for the future.

Budget planner

Accessing entitlements

You will probably experience a change in your household income as a result of your loss. This might mean you become eligible for government entitlements or it may alter the payments you receive.

Contact the Department of Human Services to check that you are receiving all the payments you are entitled to.

Factor these into your new budget.

Seeking financial advice

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.

Seeking other support

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.

Preparing 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.

Case study: The death of Beth's husband

""Following the death of her husband, Beth, 64, suddenly had to take charge of her financial wellbeing at a time when she was overcome with grief.

'In our 42-year marriage, my husband Arthur always looked after our money. When he died, I had to learn to do everything Arthur had always done. My two sons were wonderful, helping me sort out my pension entitlements, showing me how to pay bills and helping me draw up a spending budget.

'I miss my husband terribly, I always will. But time is a great healer, and I'm slowly getting back on my feet and learning to take care of my finances.'

On top of getting emotional support from family and friends, you can take practical steps yourself to build more security in your future. Help is available from organisations like Centrelink to sort out your finances at this difficult time.


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Last updated: 20 Aug 2013

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