Funeral costs

Planning ahead for the death of a loved one can save you a lot of unnecessary grief.
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02.Funeral costs


A typical funeral invoice will include the items below:

Coffins and caskets
A coffin has a tapered head and foot while a casket is rectangular with a hinged lid. Prices for basic particleboard or wood coffins start at $700, but the ones you’ll most likely be introduced to will cost between about $4000 and $9000. Metal caskets range between $7000 and $28000.
Professional fees
This usually appears as a lump sum in the cost quote and is the funeral company’s or director’s labour costs, which usually include mortuary care (when embalming is involved for viewing purposes or a longer wake, extra costs are usually involved) and transport of the body (some funeral directors charge more for multiple destinations and longer journeys). Weekend services also usually cost more. To avoid being double-charged, ask for all items included in professional fees to be specifically listed.
This refers to the payments the funeral director makes to other suppliers on your behalf. It includes costs involving the provision of death and cremation certificates, as well as newspaper obituaries should you choose to place one. Flowers, memorial attendance books, orders of service booklets, refreshments and live music are all common extras offered by funeral companies, but you and your family can organise these on your own.
Donations to clergy for the service are usually between $100 and $200. Celebrants usually charge between $150 and $300 for a service. Alternatively, your family and friends may wish to write and read out eulogies at the memorial service.
Cremation certificates typically cost between $80 and $140 and are used to obtain a cremation permit that costs between $40 and $65. Cremation fees typically start from $500. The price may or may not include some time for a service at the crematorium chapel, so make sure you check.
Burial is more expensive than cremation overall due to the cost of the burial plot, which can cost anywhere between $1000 and more than $10,000 in some city cemeteries, as well as digging fees ($500-$1250).


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Case studies

Catherine, a CHOICE member from NSW, paid about $10,000 for her mother’s burial in May 2009. “The total amount was close to what was estimated, but we were obviously quite distraught when going through the planning and we didn't take in all the details,” Catherine told CHOICE. “I'm sure they never mentioned a contribution to the priest, but we were billed $250 for this and we had already paid the priest directly.” The funeral home also took out a death notice in the newspapers, but in colour and including the name of their business, which her family also doesn’t remember agreeing to. “I asked for a receipt but never got one. I think there should be third-party receipts issued for these items.”

Last year, CHOICE member Sheila, from WA, paid $9200 for her mother’s funeral (including a $4000 professional fee), which she believes was overpriced for the services received. “It was a lovely, tasteful funeral, but the things that made it nice were the environment and our choice of music, although seating and a marquee helped. The overall price of $9200 was exorbitant for such a small, simple funeral for 15 people. We also used our own transport and organised our own after-service refreshments.”

Funeral finance

There are many funeral finance product plans that claim to help you secure payments for a funeral. Before committing to one, you should always compare it with putting your money in a savings account instead.

Pre-paid funerals involve making funeral arrangements now and paying for it at current prices. The money is usually held by a financial institution independently of the funeral company and registered with your state’s fair trading office.

Funeral insurance involves small, regular contributions for a specified cash payment on death. However, the premiums you pay over the years cannot be refunded if you decide to cancel the insurance. Age and health restrictions may apply when taking out the policy. The premiums may also increase over the years to keep up with inflation or other factors.

Funeral bonds are similar to bank fixed deposits. Your money is held as a bond and accrues annual interest. The principal amount can’t be withdrawn early and is paid when the funeral is required.

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