FAQs

If you have never planned a funeral before these are is some of the most frequently asked questions about funeral services, attending funerals or planning and pre-planning funerals.

  • The first immediate steps will depend on where the death has occurred eg home, hospital, nursing home, by accident or interstate/overseas.

    A doctor must certify that death has occurred, and issue a Cause of Death Certificate. If a doctor is not readily available, a nurse, paramedic or police officer can issue an interim Life Extinct Certificate so the deceased can be transported by a funeral director.

    In Australia the great majority of deaths occur in hospitals or other care facilities, and in that case, the facilities’ staff take care of the formalities. In some instances, it may not be legally possible for the doctor to issue a Cause of Death Certificate, and it will be necessary for police and the coroner to be involved.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘What To Do When Someone Dies’

  • Interstate – If a family member or friend passes away in another state, your chosen funeral director will liaise with the interstate funeral director, on your behalf. They will prepare the necessary forms, paperwork and coordinate the mode of transport to bring the deceased interstate. The law states that the death has to be recorded in the state that the death occurred. The deceased can be repatriated interstate with the ‘Cause of Death Certificate’ issued by a doctor. Please note that the ‘Cause of Death Certificate’ is different to the ‘Death Certificate’ issued by the State or Territory’s office of Births, Deaths & Marriages.

    Overseas – When a death has occurred overseas, your chosen funeral director in Australia will liaise with the funeral director in the overseas location, on your behalf. They will prepare the necessary forms, paperwork and coordinate the mode of transport to collect the deceased on their arrival in Australia. In the event of a death occurring overseas, the death must be registered in the country where the death occurred. The Australian Government will do what it can to assist families, however there are legal and practical limits as to what the government can do on your behalf. Please visit the Australian Government’s Smartraveller website.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Interstate or Overseas Death’.

  • In some cases, a doctor may not be able to issue a Cause of Death Certificate for various reasons, so they will refer the death to the Coroner. You do not have the right to object to a death being referred to the Coroner, though if you have religious or other strong objections to a post mortem examination, you should contact the Coroner’s Office.

    Most States and Territories have Coroner Acts of Parliament that govern what are deemed to be ‘reportable’ deaths. Please see our downloadable checklists on ‘Coroners’ for guidelines on the Coroner in your State or Territory, or use our ‘Useful Organisations’ section for further information on all Government Acts.

    Your funeral director will liaise with the Coroner’s Office to arrange bringing the deceased into their care.

  • Immediately following a death, you might want to take some time to start the grieving process.

    It is important to realise that while decisions need to be made, you have time to carefully consider all of your options before finalising funeral arrangements or even selecting a funeral director. Do not feel pressured into making immediate decisions before you have had an opportunity to discuss your needs with family and friends and talked over your various options.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Arranging a Funeral’.

  • The role of the funeral director is to provide advice and information about the options available to you when planning a funeral, and assist with many practical tasks following the death of a loved one including:

    • transportation of the deceased person from the place of death to the funeral home
    • applying for a death certificate
    • implementing your choices regarding the funeral service and disposition of the body.

    Still many aspects of a funeral service, such as flowers, music, poems/readings, the eulogy and choosing a celebrant, can be organised by friends and family, and getting involved in this way may also help in the grieving process.
    The best compromise may be for the family to choose which parts of the funeral service they wish to arrange by themselves, and leave the rest to the funeral director.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Arranging a Funeral’.

  • There are two types of funeral homes in Australia. Independent funeral homes are locally or family owned businesses that were established and are still currently operated, without being owned by a large corporation.

    The other type of funeral home is owned by a large corporation, for example those that are publicly listed on the Australian Stock Exchange, like Invocare Limited.

    Some independent funeral homes have been trading for many decades in their local community, whilst others have sold their brand to larger corporations. It can be quite confusing, so if having a family or independently owned funeral home is important to you, then you have the right to ask this question, before engaging a funeral director.

    There are benefits and disadvantages to both, however it is important to know which type of funeral home is most appropriate for you.
    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Choosing an Independent Family Owned or Corporate Owned Funeral Home’.

  • The length of time between a death and a funeral service can vary depending on many factors, the most important of which is your personal preference. When making decisions on a funeral, you will have to discuss difficult subjects at a time when you are experiencing feelings of sadness and loss, and you should not feel pressured into rushing into these decisions.

    Sometime the circumstances of a death will determine the time frame of when a service can take place. Usually a deceased person will not have to be embalmed if a service takes place within two weeks of death.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Arranging a Funeral’.

  • It is usually the case that family members, friends or the Executor named in the Will make the funeral arrangements in agreement with each other. However, where a disagreement arises as to these arrangements, you will have to refer to the Successions Act for your State or Territory to determine the order of priority for the person with the highest right to make the final arrangements.

    For more information, please see our ‘Wills, Probate, Estates, Executors and Public Trustees’ article, and the ‘Wills and Probate Acts’ for your State or Territory listed in our ‘Useful Organisations’ section.

  • A funeral service is a traditional and symbolic way of expressing religious beliefs, personal thoughts and feelings about the death of a family member. It is a time for family and friends to come together to express the love and respect they feel for someone who was important to them, and to pay a special tribute to their life.

    It can also fill important needs like acknowledging and facing the reality of the death, which is a first step towards working through grief. Funerals can also help us find meaning and purpose in our continued living, even in the face of loss. The support and consolation given by mourners at a funeral service can be of valuable assistance to a family in adjusting to their loss.

    A memorial service is very similar to a funeral service in every aspect as described above. The only difference being the fact that the deceased’s body will not be present at the service (although the deceased’s ashes may be present, if you wish).

    A memorial service may take place whenever and wherever you wish. It can be soon after the death, or may take place on anniversaries of the death. Many of the options available for a funeral service can be used in a memorial service eg celebrant or clergy, flowers, orders of service, music, photo slideshow and guest book etc.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Arranging a Funeral’.

  • It is difficult to give a definitive answer to this question, due to the number of options available. Funeral directors’ professional service fees can differ greatly, so before you make a decision on the funeral director to be used and the types of services you would like, ask for an itemised quotation. This will enable you to compare costs without emotions taking over, and help with decisions about what services you think are essential and any that you won’t require.

    There are three main components to the cost of a funeral service.

    Funeral Director’s Professional Fees – This is the funeral home’s fee for their professional services and use of their facilities.

    Disbursement Fees – These are the payments the funeral director makes to other suppliers on your behalf, and these costs will be the same for every funeral director, eg cematorium/cemetery fees, church, clergy/celebrant, and death certificates.

    Personal Choices – These are items that can be provided and costed directly by the funeral home, or alternatively, you can arrange these items yourself, eg flowers, service booklets, guests attendance book, refreshments and special items to personalise the service such as musicians, helium balloons etc.

    Special Packages – Many funeral homes offer special fixed price packages, which may cost less than purchasing individual items or services. It would be advisable to check the packaged offer for any items or services that you may not want or need. These packages are generally not negotiable, and it could work out that the services and items you require are less expensive, if purchased individually.

    For more detailed information to assist you in making a decision, please see our article ‘How Much Will a Funeral Cost?’

  • The family has complete choice in all of the funeral arrangements, with a few rare exceptions where the directions of a Coroner must be followed.

    A professional funeral director should advise a family of all available options, and allow them to choose whatever they wish, providing necessary legal requirements are met.

    States and Territories within Australia vary regarding their relevant Health Departments requirements for whether the deceased must be placed in a coffin or casket for burial or cremation. Please use our ‘Useful Organisations’ section for further information on all Government Acts regarding burial and cremation in your State or Territory.

    For more detailed information on funeral options, please see our article ‘Arranging a Funeral’.

  • One of the most important decisions you will make is deciding between burial and cremation. This is a personal decision made in advance by the deceased, or alternatively family members taking into consideration the deceased’s wishes, feelings and beliefs.

    Cremations are becoming a more popular choice with families today. Cremation is a simpler process that reduces the body to cremated remains within a matter of hours.

    The cremated remains can be stored in a cremation urn and displayed on a shelf at home, scattered on land, scattered from the air by plane, floated on water, placed in a columbarium, (a structure with small recessed compartments for placing urns containing cremation ashes), buried in a burial plot (does not require a full-sized plot), or entombed in a crypt within a mausoleum.

    Some people prefer a burial to allow the body to decompose naturally. Burial is also chosen as it is traditional within a family or religious belief.

    If it is important for you to be able to visit or be near to the deceased’s final resting place, you should take this into consideration when making a decision. If there is a possibility of moving away from the area in the future, you can carry the cremated remains of the deceased with you, but this not possible in the case of burial.

    For more detailed information to assist you in making a decision, please see our article ‘Burial or Cremation’.

  • This is a very personal decision for each person involved, and it should be considered carefully from a number of perspectives, including how you will look back on the experience in the future.

    People sometimes have difficulty making a decision regarding a viewing of the deceased as they are experiencing mixed feelings. They may be fearful as they have never seen a deceased person before, and they are concerned they will be disturbed by what they see, or will be embarrassed by becoming upset in front of others. On the other hand, they may be feeling a deep need to spend time with the deceased to say some final private words of farewell, and/or, come to a level of personal acceptance.

    The decision not to view a body can be equally difficult. It can result in feelings of regret at not seeing the person for the last time, or confirming the reality of their death. This is something that may be felt more often in cases of sudden death, due to the unexpected nature of the death, and therefore the feeling of unreality which is often associated with it.

    Some people simply feel they have said their goodbyes at an earlier time, and do not have a need for spending any further time with the deceased.

    For more detailed information to assist you in making a decision, please see our article ‘Viewing of the Deceased’.

  • Inviting family and friends to participate in a funeral service is a symbolic and meaningful way for them to pay their last respects.

    There are many different ways for them to contribute, including acting as a pallbearer, lighting candles, offering flowers, reading a poem or prayer and playing an instrument or singing.

    For ideas to assist you in personalising a service to include family and friends in the funeral, please see our two articles on ‘Ideas for Personalising a Funeral’.

  • A eulogy is a speech given at a funeral or memorial service in memory of the deceased as a respectful tribute. It can be delivered by a family member, close friend, celebrant or a member of the clergy.

    The average eulogy is about 5 minutes long, and you should confirm with the person conducting the service as to the time frame available to you.

    The eulogy does not have to be a biography of the deceased, and you shouldn’t attempt to sum up his/her entire life. The best eulogies are factual, honest, respectful and rich in stories.

    For guidance on how to write a good eulogy, please see our article on ‘Writing a Eulogy’.

  • Embalming is the process of chemically treating the body in order to preserve it for a short amount of time. It is needed in circumstances such as repatriation or when there is a longer than average delay between death and the funeral. In normal circumstances embalming is a personal decision. Embalming is also a requirement from cemeteries for above ground burial or entombment in vaults both above ground or in ground.

    For more information, please see our article ‘Embalming’.

  • Some people regard the coffin or casket as an important tribute to the deceased. It can also play a role in ‘personalising’ the service to reflect the individuality and/or lifestyle of the deceased.

    The difference between coffins and caskets is basically one of design and construction. Coffins are predominantly tapered at the feet-end and are widest at the shoulders, whilst caskets are rectangular in shape. In some cases, caskets are constructed of better quality materials, and feature higher standards of workmanship.

    Some people prefer a casket with either a fully hinged or half-hinged lid, together with superior interior lining, if they are planning to spend time with the deceased (viewing). A coffin is equally suitable for a viewing, with the lid either completely removed (coffin lids are not hinged), or left sitting crossways over the coffin.

    Please see our article ‘Coffins and Caskets’ for detailed information on the choices available.

  • When someone dies it can be difficult to remember all the organisations and people who need to be notified. With some of these organisations you may need to present them with a certified copy of the Death Certificate, before they will action your request. This is a photocopy of the original Death Certificate that has been sighted, stamped and signed by a Justice of the Peace or Commissioner for Declarations.

    After locating personal records and documents, please see our downloadable check list ‘Who to Notify’ for people and organisations you may need to contact.

    For more information on Social Media Accounts and Mailing Lists, please see our article ‘Who to Notify/Social Media Accounts/Mailing Lists’.

  • Death Certificates are issued by the Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages in your state or territory. Usually a funeral director will submit the death registration application form either online or by post, after the funeral service has taken place.

    If you choose to make the funeral arrangements for your relative or friend yourself, instead of using a funeral director, you should contact the Registry of Birth, Deaths and Marriages in your State or Territory for more information on the death registration process.

    Where an Australian relative or friend passes away overseas and needs to be registered, you should contact the Registry in the State or Territory where they lived or owned property for more information.

  • Most crematoriums have the deceased’s ashes ready for collection 48 hours after the service has taken place. You will have to give 24 hours notice of your intention to collect the ashes, and the crematorium will usually book an appointment for you.

    Crematoriums must abide by their relevant State or Territory Government’s Health Regulations. In general, should no instructions be received within a reasonable time (approximately 12 months), unclaimed ashes are interred within the grounds of the crematorium.

    For more detailed information, please see our article ‘Burial or Cremation’.

  • If a person dies without a Will, the Law sets out how their property will be distributed, after all the debts have been paid. These rules apply to everyone and do not take into account an individual’s wishes or personal situation. Many people believe the Government takes their assets if they die without a will. This isn’t necessarily true. It could only happen if you have no living next of kin.

    However, if you die without a Will, your assets will be distributed according to a legal formula. This might mean that your assets do not end up with the person you would have chosen. If you die without a Will, and there are no eligible recipients of your assets, according to the legislation, the State or Territory is entitled to keep everything.

    The legislation of each State and Territory is slightly different and is covered by various State and Territory Acts. For more information, please see our ‘Wills, Probate, Estates, Executors and Public Trustees’ article, and the ‘Wills and Probate Acts’ for your State or Territory listed in our ‘Useful Organisations’ section.

  • Pre-paid Funerals are when you plan and purchase your funeral in advance. You will visit a Funeral Director and plan the type of funeral you want, including the service location, coffin, flowers etc, and then pay for that funeral at today’s prices. All the details are documented in a written contract including the terms of payment, which may be made upfront as a lump sum or in instalments. The money you pay is then invested with an independently managed funeral fund, only to be released when it is needed.

    Funeral Insurance is paid by regular premiums in exchange for a fixed amount of cover to be paid at the event of your death. This amount is paid to the beneficiaries named in your policy to cover the cost of your funeral. Unlike a prepaid funeral, you are not paying for your funeral itself. Instead you are buying insurance to cover those costs at a future time.

    Funeral Bonds are a managed fund product which will generally grow over time with bonuses, that can assist you to save for funeral expenses. You can contribute to a bond either through an investment company, such as a life insurance company or friendly society, or directly from a funeral director.

    Pre-Arranged Funerals are where you discuss with a funeral director your preferences for a funeral service, and they will record your preferences for a funeral service, and personal information. A pre-arranged funeral is not a formal contract, and no payment is made. There is no obligation to use the services of that funeral director, and it will be the responsibility of the person arranging the funeral to decide if they wish to proceed with your pre-arrangements.

    Please see our article ‘Pre-planning a Funeral’ for detailed information on the choices available.

Don’t see your question above? Contact us to ask.