On 9 December 2021, new legislation commenced establishing the ACT’s Unclaimed Body Scheme.

Ordinarily, upon a person’s death, their remains will be disposed of in accordance with their wishes, usually by family.

Funeral Assistance Scheme

On occasions while family may wish to arrange the disposal of the remains of a family member, they may be unable due to hardship. In such cases, the ACT Government’s Funeral Assistance Program is provided for ACT residents in financial hardship unable to meet the full costs of a funeral for immediate family members. Assistance is for a simple dignified funeral which allows families to make a contribution of up to a maximum of $500 towards the cost of the funeral.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Unclaimed Body Scheme?

There are occasions however, where a deceased person’s next of kin or executor cannot be found despite reasonable enquiries by police, or the next of kin is unwilling or unable to make funeral arrangements for the person.

The Unclaimed Body Scheme makes provision for the disposal of the remains of an unclaimed deceased person in these circumstances.

Who is an Unclaimed Deceased Person?

An unclaimed deceased person is a person:

  • whose death is registerable in the ACT
  • whose estate or next of kin cannot be found or is unwilling or unable to make funeral arrangements for the person
  • whose has not been claimed by anyone who has a right to claim the body under a law of another state or Territory
  • who does not meet the eligibility criteria for the Funeral Assistance Program.

What is the Public Trustee and Guardian's role?

Following a person’s death, if the body remains unclaimed, ACT Policing will conduct an investigation to identify next of kin. 

In the event that ACT Policing cannot identify a Next of Kin or where the person’s next of kin is unwilling to arrange the disposal of the person’s body within three months of the person’s death, ACT Policing will notify the Public Trustee and Guardian.

When notified by ACT Policing, the Public Trustee and Guardian has the following functions:

  • To arrange the disposal of the remains of the person, upon notification by ACT Policing of the identification of an unclaimed deceased person (no earlier that 3 months after the person’s death).
  • To investigate whether the person had an estate that may require administration,

and may elect to administer such an estate, however the Public Trustee and Guardian is not compelled to administer such an estate.

PTG will make arrangements for the disposal of the remains of the person and may utilise the services a funeral director who has been registered as a service provider with the Public Trustee and Guardian.

PTG may identify assets belonging to the deceased person that may cover the cost of disposing of the person’s body.

In the event that no assets are identified, PTG will cover the cost of disposal.

In the event that PTG elects to administer the person’s estate (if any), PTG will recover the cost of the disposal from the estate.

What arrangements does the Public Trustee and Guardian make for the disposal of the persons body?

The Unclaimed Bodies Scheme allows for the cost of a basic cremation to be paid by the Public Trustee and Guardian. In some cases, due to religious or cultural sensitivities, a burial may be required.

The cost of cremation or burial will include the cost of transportation of the remains and associated administrative arrangements however the Scheme does not cover the cost of:

  • Headstones
  • Plaques
  • Religious services
  • Funeral services
  • Embalmment 
  • Celebrant/clergy services
  • Flower arrangements
  • Repatriation of remains (except in relation to returning the remains of an indigenous person back to country)
  • Funeral notices
  • The disposal of ashes, other than by scattering in a garden of the crematorium.

What happens to the proceeds if the Public Trustee and Guardian administers the Estate of an Unclaimed Deceased Estate?

Where the Public Trustee and Guardian elects to administer the estate of an unclaimed deceased person, the estate will be administered in accordance with the Administration and probate Act 1929. In the event that PTG is unable to identify beneficiaries in such an estate, any net assets will be paid to the Territory after deducting any associated fees, charges or expenses incurred by the Public Trustee and Guardian.

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