Funeral Directors are naturally enough very supportive and mindful of all of the emotions, sensitivities and tensions. Essentially, they will take control of everything for your loved ones who can be as involved or not involved as they wish or are able to.
Many are not aware that the executor of a deceased person is ultimately responsible for all decisions regarding a funeral. Coffins and caskets, the hearse, pall bearers, burial or cremation (and dealing with and possession of the ashes) floral tributes, donations to a worthy cause, advertisements, legal notices, photos, the music, the eulogy (who will do it and what will they say), church or no church, a viewing or no viewing and the wake.
In most cases an executor making these decisions will not be an issue (as the process will be consultative). If a decision your executor may make could lead to unhappiness you can of course:-
- review who your executor is; or
- make your funeral arrangements before you die.
Offence taken (rightly or wrongly) before and after a funeral will be remembered for generations. No doubt many situations are delicate and sometimes things can go awry despite the best of intentions. If there is “a scene” at a funeral it can often spawn litigation (discussed in other chapters) for years to come.
The estate of the deceased is of course liable for the funeral and wake costs. Dealing with a stranger namely the funeral director at a time of grief can be daunting and whilst the funeral director will take charge of a process your loved ones would rather not be involved in (in a professional and mindful way) they should be wary about the costs involved and whether or not they are getting value for money.
It can be very expensive indeed.
Many people worry about not burdening their loved ones with the costs of a funeral. Relying on this worry, insurance companies and funeral homes promote funeral insurance and pre-paid funeral plans or funeral bonds. Either way there is no doubt this ends up costing way more than the funeral itself so a better option may be to simply set up a bank account and put money aside regularly on account of the cost.
What also commonly happens is that the arrangements set up are not discovered or are not paid out due to "a technicality" (the policy being a rort).
There is no such thing as funeral insurance that is not a rort. The Hayne Royal Commission recommended that all forms of funeral insurance now be subject to the same regulatory scheme and supervision as other ‘financial products’.
This has been a long time coming.
In our strange world there are many things to worry about other than funeral costs. Worrying about funeral costs to the point of signing up to expensive insurance and prepaid plans has always been curious to me as:-
- most people will have enough money to cover the cost particularly if they have superannuation;
- if there is no money to pay the State Government will pay (in the form of very basic funeral assistance).
The minimum cost is usually about $4,000.00 for a basic cremation.
The sky then is the limit depending on what is necessary or required. I alluded to some items above but the following are usually essential:-
- Funeral Director fees
- Death certificate
- Burial / cremation
- Headstone and Cemetery plot
- Other expenses, such as a celebrant or clergy, flowers, newspaper notices and of course, the wake.