Funeral Plans Australia: Expert Advice On How To Get Started
When we die is often an unpredictable part of our life. While some people could have more notice than others, it still does not make it any less emotionally easy for our loved ones left behind. No matter how it happens, it will certainly be a challenging time for family and friends- in particular those responsible for your funeral service. While funeral plans have been around in Australia for decades, an increasing amount of people are taking control of their end of life planning.
What can be controlled however is how we would like our funeral. Often people might not think about this until later in life, but having a say in your own funeral plans can bring a lot of peace of mind.
Whether it’s a proper funeral plan or a small list of requests, a lot of relief can be provided when the person who is passing away plans out their arrangements. This article will go through:
- What are pre-planned funerals
- Paying for a funeral in advance
- Creating a plan for your memorial service
- How to get started
Funeral Plans: Why think ahead?
A pre-planned funeral is a normal funeral service, but thought out and arranged in advance. From being completely arranged by you to getting assisted by a funeral director, planning out your funeral can be as detailed as you need it to be. It can be paid for in advance (Pre-paid funeral) or just documented by a funeral company. Thinking about your funeral plans can have numerous benefits both for yourself and family:
– The Way You Want: When you pass away, there will be a lot of mixed emotions and planning that needed to be done by your loved ones. This can be a lot easier to manage if they know exactly what you want. It is not uncommon for family members to have disagreements at such an emotional time. Taking the guess work out will help avoid this and allow your family to focus on their grief.
– Save Your Family Money: Family members will find it hard to make clear decisions based on logic and will be more likely to act on emotional choices instead. This can be a costly situation for those who are already strained from the emotional loss of your passing. Instead of having to debate over what you would have wanted, pre-planning means there is no doubt or opportunity for a family member to be swayed into making a financially excessive choice.
By using a financial instrument (Pre-paid options) to pay for your funeral in advance, your loved ones will be spared last minute guessing and high costs. If you are interested in learning more about pre-paying for a funeral, the second part of this article will go through some of the options available.
– A Sense Of Calm For Everyone: When you pass away, everyone reeling from your death will have a lot of emotions. All of this planning can mean a lot for your family, but also you. Knowing that everything’s been taken care of and how the ceremony will be can bring a sense of great relief.
Funeral planning checklist
Going through a funeral planning checklist can be a good place to start to see what areas need to be covered. It should give you an idea of the process and what decisions need to be made. From there, you can put together some notes or discuss the details with a funeral director.
How to prepare a funeral plan
If you’re looking to take control with a funeral plan, the first step is to find a funeral director near to you. Be sure to enquire if they offer the service of pre-paying and other type of payment options. A funeral director should be to provide advice and assist with the whole planning process- from choosing a suitable to service to working out a payment plan.
Finding a funeral director
If you’re living in the city, there should be quite a few funeral providers to have a look at. To get an idea about services and pricing, it’s a good idea to have a look at two or three different places. There are a number of ways you can do this, both online and offline.
- Company websites: Do a search in Google to see what funeral homes are located in your area. Most places will have a website with enough information to do some thorough research.
- Directories: You might be able to find reputable funeral directors on online directory sites like the Yellow pages or other specific funeral directories like the Australian Funeral Directors Association.
- Walk-in: If you know the physical location of a few funeral homes, go in and speak with a director.
- Word of mouth: If you have friends and family that have dealt with a provider before, get a recommendation from them.
Comparing funeral plans
It’s good idea to speak with a number of providers in order to compare different funeral plans. Be sure to:
- Compare prices between the different companies
- Pay attention to the repayment terms if opting for a pre-paid funeral
- Review exactly what’s included in the service
Paying for a funeral: What plans are available
Without planning, a funeral can be a sudden and unexpected cost. The result can be a huge financial burden for you and your family. So with the price of a funeral continually rising, it makes sense to have some kind of payment plan figured out. Depending on your financial situation and funeral wishes, there are a number options that might appeal to you:
Pre-paid funeral plans
The most straight forward option available, a pre-paid funeral allows you to design and pay for your service in advance. Working with a suitable funeral director, you go through the process of choosing your ideal service. After deciding on all of the funeral options, you will be given a quote, which can either be paid in full or in instalments.
Key points about pre-paid funeral plans:
- The price you’re quoted is based on today’s prices and will not rise in the future. Therefore you’re basically locking in a fixed price. So with the price of a funeral going up every year, you will probably end up saving a lot- especially if the funeral takes place in more than five years.
- You can pay for the funeral upfront or through regular instalments over a period of time (However a deposit is required).
- A pre-paid plan is not subjected to an income or asset test, meaning it won’t affect the level of your pension entitlements.
- The money contributed to a pre-paid funeral plan is held securely by an organisation entity such as a friendly society or trustee company. That way the funds are and properly invested and until they are needed to cover funeral expenses. Funds can only be withdrawn at the time of death, in order to cover funeral costs.
Funeral bonds are another investment tool that will help you save enough money to meet future costs of funeral plans. Money is invested securely and can only be taken out at death to cover funeral expenses.
- You don’t have to decide on any funeral director or ceremony when taking out the bond. So if you just want to make sure there’s enough money to cover funeral expenses, this may be an ideal option.
- Unlike pre-paid funerals, you’re not locking in today’s funeral prices. So there’s a possibility that the price of a funeral may rise more than the interest you’ve made on the bond.
- Funeral bonds are also not subjected to income or asset test, meaning it won’t affect the level of your pension entitlements.
With funeral insurance, you pay ongoing premiums (either fortnightly or monthly) in order to cover funeral expenses in the future. With this type of option, you select how much cover (usually in the range of $5000-$15000) and then pay the appropriate premium. At the time of death, the amount of cover selected will be paid out to the beneficiary.
- The concept of funeral insurance is easy to understand and is familiar to most people, mainly because it’s similar to other types of insurance. On top of this, getting cover is easy and available from day one.
- Premiums will usually rise over time. Therefore you need to think about whether future premium costs will be affordable. If you stop paying these premiums, cover will stop and you will lose all previous payments.
- You may end up paying more in premiums than the actual cost of the funeral itself. The longer you live, the more you will pay in premiums- which could possibly exceed the actual cost of the funeral.
Depending on the amount of superannuation that’s left over, it may be enough to cover any funeral expenses. Whatever the balance, the remaining amount will be paid out to the beneficiaries you’ve nominated. It’s worth noting that it can take time for a super company to pay the balance, which can cause an issue if the money is needed immediately for funeral payments.
Funeral Management Companies
There are a number of companies that specialise in the financing of a funeral. They generally sell financial products such as funeral bonds, insurance, travel protection, and other investment tools. They may also be able to point you in right direction of a funeral director (To which they’re probably partnered with). Alternatively, you can go straight to a director for a funeral plan. Check if they offer the services of prepaid funerals. If so, they will be able to sort out all the funeral planning including the service details and financing. Any funds put towards a pre-paid funeral is heavily regulated by the Australian government.
Planning a funeral service
Whether paying in advance for your funeral or not, you can still have a say in what type of funeral arrangements you wish to have. A pre-arranged funeral allows you to record your needs and preferences with a funeral director. At death, these wishes will be made known to your family and it is their responsibility to pay for these arrangements.
Pre-planned service- typical arrangements to be made
The Funeral Service: Deciding on plans for the venue, style, and program of the actual service:
- Choosing a coffin or casket from a selected range
- Viewing arrangements for mourners
- Hiring a Minister or Celebrant to conduct the funeral service
- Deciding on ceremony music and a digital display
- Catering plans for the service
- Selecting a suitable flower arrangement organised by the funeral director or a third party
- Deciding on memorial cards and memorial books
- Making death notices in newspapers, online, or with affiliated organisations
Burial or Cremation
Choosing between the option of burial or cremation is a big decision which needs to be made from the start. If you’re still unsure, this article goes into detail about the pro’s and con’s about burial vs cremation.
Cemetery or crematorium plans
Once you’ve decided on either burial or cremation, specific plans can be made for that option. In the case of burial, this would involve purchasing a plot in a cemetery and possibly selecting a monumental mason to build a memorial. Similarly if cremation is an option, you’ll need to select a particular crematorium.
Get started on your funeral plan
A good way to get started in making a funeral plan, and not be overwhelmed by all the information is to begin talking with funeral directors in your area. Don’t feel like you have to commit to anyone, the point of the exercise is to get some advice from them and see what they think. Funeral directors are professionals and deal with these type of scenarios on a daily basis. After speaking with some directors and doing your own research, you can start slowly putting together a plan that’s beneficial for both you and your family.