Someone I know has died, what do I do?

The first thing any executor or administrator should do is to obtain proof that the person has died. Any application for any Grant (or Probate or Letters of Administration) must state the date of death of a person and provide evidence of the death (ie a Death Certificate).

When someone dies, a doctor must sign a certificate to confirm that the person has died. Any arrangements for a funeral cannot occur until the doctor has signed and issued this certificate which is called a Doctor’s Certificate of Cause of Death. The funeral company can then take the deceased into their care.

Generally the funeral director will collect all of the information needed to register the death and send it to the relevant government office to issue the Death Certificate.

If a funeral company/director is not involved with the funeral arrangements, someone else will be required to register the death and apply for a Death Certificate. A Death Certificate can be obtained from The Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages. There is a fee payable and certificates generally take ten business days or two business days for urgent applications.

Can I specify in my Will particular funeral wishes?

You may include in your Will particular wishes such as whether you want to be buried or cremated. You may also include any special wishes about your funeral in your Will, such as where you would like to buried. You can also provide in your Will whether you would like to donate your body or organs for donation, transplant or research.

Who makes the final choice about whether I am buried or cremated?

Your personal representative (ie your executor or administrator) has the responsibility for any funeral arrangements. Although you may state your preference to be buried or cremated in your Will, there is no legal obligation for these instructions to be followed. In saying this, your executor would be expected to consider your wishes and consult with other interested people, such as family members.

Who pays for the funeral?

A funeral can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000 and this will depend on a number of factors. The typical items that will need to be paid for include funeral directors fees, transport casket, death certificate, burial/cremation, cemetery plot as well as flowers and newspaper notices.

Unless you have pre-paid funeral arrangements in place, family members may be called upon to pay the funeral costs and can be reimbursed by the estate once a Grant has been obtained and the assets have been made available.

If a person does not have pre-paid funeral arrangements, it may be possible for the deceased’s bank to release some funds from their bank account to cover the costs of the funeral. Each bank will have different requirements, but they are likely to need the funeral directors invoice and a copy of the death certificate.

A funeral payment from the Department of Veterans’ Affairs or a bereavement payment through the Department of Human Services may also be available.

Can I pre-pay for my funeral?

There are many options available in order to arrange payment of your funeral before you die. There a three options:

  • Pre-paid funerals;
  • Funeral bonds; or
  • Funeral Insurance

Pre-Paid Funerals

Pre-paid funeral plans allow you to choose and pay for your funeral in advance. These plans are good if you have particular preferences about your funeral. These plans are also beneficial if you want to ensure your funeral is paid for but want to leave the details for your relatives to decide.

Most plans have the option of paying for the funeral in full or paying it off in regular instalments over a period of time. Of course it is very important to shop around and ensure that you obtain a full description of the costs so that you know exactly what you are paying for. You must also be aware that these plans can sometimes be inflexible if you move interstate or overseas and they may not give refunds if you change your mind.

If you have made arrangements for a pre-paid funeral, it is very important to notify your executor and family members and provide them with all relevant paperwork.

Funeral Bonds

Funeral bonds are an investment product that can help you save for your funeral and can be withdrawn after you have died. You can invest in a funeral bond either with an investment company or directly from a funeral director.

One of the benefits is that the bond is currently exempt from the asset and income test in relation to the Age pension and as an investment, the savings will generally grow over time. Of course, this will depend on the investment returns and fees so you should carefully check the product disclosure statement.

You need to also consider that if you die before you have fully paid the bond, your family members may only receive what has been paid and someone may be called upon to pay the difference.

Funeral Insurance

Like other types of insurance, you pay a monthly or fortnightly premium for a fixed amount of cover which is paid to your estate when you die. Consideration needs to be made for the increase in premiums and whether or not you can afford to pay these on a long term basis. Also, you should check what exactly you are paying for and what will happen if the premiums increase and you can no longer make the payments, such as, will the policy be cancelled.

In relation to these options, it is essential to conduct some research, gain a full understanding of what you get for your money and whether the pre-paid options are right for you. If you have any further queries in relation to your funeral wishes, please contact our team at CRH Law