Funeral Arrangements & Disposal of Remains

So, you’ve been given the task of organising the funeral arrangements for a loved one. You may wish to access this handy checklist available through the site Most of the information from the page has been sourced from the Department of Human Services website.

The funeral

If a family member or friend dies and you are arranging their funeral, there are many things to consider and several steps to take. The first thing to check is the will, if there is one, as it may have directions for funeral arrangements.

And if you know that the deceased has already chosen a funeral director be sure to check that they haven’t entered into a pre-paid funeral agreement before making any new arrangements.

However, the will by itself isn’t sufficient to ensure funeral directions are followed (it may also not be read until after the funeral). It’s the duty of the deceased’s executor to arrange the funeral and in cases where there is no will the senior next-of-kin will be called on to provide personal details of the deceased within one month of the death, so that the death certificate can be registered. According to the law the executor will take possession and custody of the body from the moment of death until it is buried or cremated. If there is no person willing to take responsibility, the funeral may be arranged through the government contractor.

If there aren’t specific instructions for the funeral here are some things to consider before making arrangements:

  • Have any financial arrangements been made to pay for the funeral such as funeral insurance or a pre-paid funeral?
  • Did the deceased person have a pre-paid burial plot?
  • Is there enough money in the deceased person’s bank account to pay for the funeral and have you contacted the bank about accessing the funds?
  • Are there any sickness, accident, life, superannuation or private health insurance policies which may make a payment towards the funeral?
  • Was the deceased a returned service person or did they belong to any club, pensioner association or trade union which may entitle them to a funeral benefit?
  • If you or the deceased person received payments from Centrelink have you checked with Centrelink about a possible bereavement payment or allowance?
  • Did the deceased have a preference for where to hold the service? This could be different from the actual burial / memorial location.

If the deceased hasn’t specified any of the above, you may want to appoint a funeral director to manage some or all of the funeral arrangements. While there’s no doubt shopping around for one is probably the last thing you’ll feel like doing at the time, funeral directors vary wildly in terms of costs and services so it’s worth getting a few quotes or some personal recommendations, bearing in mind you can also organise most aspects yourself.

Choosing a funeral director

  • Were you given an indication of cost? While they may not be able to give you a solid quote, a ball-park cost including what services are included is really helpful.
  • Did they offer you enough information about what you need to do and what procedures need to be followed? Equally, were they engaged and prepared to listen to your requirements?

Once you’ve chosen and engaged a funeral director, a representative will see you as soon as possible to go through the details about what is to happen next and to transfer the body. You will also have to provide information such as the deceased’s name, age, religion, next of kin – the details of when the funeral might be held can also be discussed at the time or you can organise to discuss it a little later.

Burial Vs Cremation offers a wonderful explanation of the differences between the two processes, including environmental, religious and expense concerns.

Organ donation

If you know the deceased had wished to donate their organs it’s important to move quickly as the process of donation needs to happen soon after death. If the person dies in a hospital the staff can check that the person is a registered donor via the Australian Organ Donor Register (The Donor Register lets authorised medical staff who have permission from the Australian Government check your donation information anywhere in Australia, 24 hours a day, seven days a week). Consent is always needed before donation can go ahead, so it’s important if you are considering organ donation to discuss the decision with your next of kin and those close to you so the decision to donate is upheld. Read more about organ donation.

Body donation options

If the deceased made arrangements to donate their body to science on their death, then it is likley that instructions will be included in their will. You can still donate their body on their behalf, but you will need to contact the University or organisation first. Each Univeristy will have a program (details through their websites) and funeral directors are probably aware of the details too. has a good summary of the processes.

Even if pre-death arrangements have been made, it is possible that the University/Insitution may not be able to accept the donation. Reasons for refusal may include the following:

  • More than 72 hours has passed since the death & availability of the body
  • Transportation costs are inhibitive
  • Person died (or was suffering from) a communicable disease
  • An autopsy was required
  • Person died as the result of surgery
  • Organs donated upon death
  • Death was a result of a criminal activity/incident

Funeral costs

If you do not have the money to pay for the deceased person’s funeral, you might be able to access their bank account to cover the funeral expenses. If your spouse or a dependent is the one who has died and you are unable to pay for the funeral, you may be able to apply for part of your superannuation on the basis of compassionate grounds, through the Australian Government Department of Human Services.