Before World War I many funerals were taken care of in the home setting. The deceased person and the funeral were prepared at home by family and friends. This was considered to be an honour and mark of respect for the deceased, as well as an important and natural part of the grieving process.
After the war, some families chose to pay a funeral home to organise a funeral for them. Funeral homes had existed before this time, but were not as common as they are today.
Today many people who find themselves in the position of having to arrange a funeral or cremation are unaware of the options available to them. Fewer still are aware that the costs involved can be reduced substantially by members of the deceased’s family or friends making arrangements themselves.
There is no rush to make these decisions. You can consider all of the options in your own time, and if you wish, you can perform all or some of the tasks associated with the funeral.
You may wish to engage the services of a funeral director but this is not required by Australian law. Nor does the law require a formal funeral or cremation ceremony.
Home-based Care and Home Funeral
Home-based care makes it possible for your loved one to remain in their own home for an extended period of up to five days. Even if the deceased has died in a hospital or other facility, you can have them brought back to your home.
Some funeral homes can help by renting you a cool plate, which is a metal plate that keeps the deceased cool, but you don’t have to have one of those by law.
How much you do and how much a funeral home does for you is entirely up to you. You can contract a funeral director to simply transport a person home and to the funeral if that is all you require. If this option appeals to you, then you can call crematoriums and burial grounds directly yourself for quotes, but some facilities have a policy they will only accept a deceased person from a funeral director.
Or you could have the funeral director take care of the more difficult parts of the process eg transportation, dressing the deceased and making arrangements with the crematorium or burial ground. You can then be free to concentrate on all the ceremonial elements.
Some funeral directors have a home-based funeral facilitation service, whereby they assist you with advice and support during this period even if you don’t engage them to perform the full funeral director process.
A home funeral allows you to privately celebrate the deceased person’s life and mourn their loss for several days if you so choose. Choosing to care for your loved one in this way means they are never alone on their final journey, and your family and friends have the opportunity to say their final goodbyes in their own meaningful way.
The choices are yours.
Things You Need To Know
Who Is Responsible?
If the deceased has a Will then the Executor of the Will is responsible for the disposal of their body. If there is no Executor, it is the responsibility of the next of kin, according to the Succession Act for your state or territory.
If there is no Executor or next of kin, then a friend can organise the funeral without necessarily becoming obliged to administer the deceased person’s affairs. The next of kin are not obliged to arrange a funeral. Whoever authorises a funeral director will be personally liable to meet the costs incurred, unless it is clear the estate is liable to pay the account.
If the next of kin does not want to be involved, or there is no next of kin or friend, the process can be treated as a destitute funeral facilitated by a government contractor.
Disposal A Deceased Person
There are rules around what you do with the deceased’s body. See the Australian Department of Human Services’ – What to do following a death website for details on what has to happen when someone dies.
There are some minor differences between the states and territories in Australia regarding local requirements, and the laws regarding properly interning the deceased are strict. Failure to properly file paperwork or follow regulations can results in fines.
For further information, please see Disposal of a Body Legal Procedures for your state or territory.
Cause of Death Certificate
A medical officer’s certificate is required to confirm that a person is dead and to state the cause of death. If the circumstances surrounding the death involve an accident or are unusual, then the body is remanded to a coroner for determination. When a body has to be examined by a coroner there can be a delay in the time it is released to the family.
For further information, please see the Coroner’s Act for your state or territory.
A Death Certificate must be requested and filed with the Births, Deaths and Marriages office of the state or territory in which the death occurred.
For further information, please see the Births, Deaths and Marriages Act for your state or territory.
Cremation Authorisation Form
An application for cremation authorisation must be made using the prescribed form for your state or territory and submitted with any additional required documentation.
A funeral director can handle all the paperwork required above, or alternatively, the state and territory governments have the paperwork available as downloadable forms that can be filled out and returned.
Preparation of the Decease Person
Caring for someone’s needs, does not end with death. It is the usual custom to bathe, disinfect and dress the deceased person. This is done not only for the safety of the family and friends, but also for dignity and respect of the deceased person. A human body starts to change immediately after death occurs and bathing and disinfecting are necessary.
For further information, please see our article Preparation of the Deceased.
You can make your own coffin, and some natural or green burial grounds will let you be buried in just a shroud.
There are rules around what type of coffin you require for above-ground burials in crypts. And coffins do need to meet certain standards to be accepted at crematoria and burial grounds.
For further information, please contact the crematorium or cemetery of your choice for their list of requirements, and also refer to Australian Coffin and Casket Regulations for your state or territory.
You are not obligated to purchase a coffin from the funeral home you’re working with. You can buy a coffin online and have it delivered within a couple of days. However, some funeral directors will charge a fee for handling of a coffin from another supplier.
You can even rent a coffin from some funeral homes. This is to allow you to use a more expensive for the service or viewing, and the deceased is then cremated or buried in a simple cardboard or plywood coffin.
For further information please see our article Coffins and Caskets.