INsite discusses some of the practicalities around organising a funeral.

While the end of a life well lived is bound to bring grief and sadness, it also signals the opportunity to celebrate a person’s life and achievements. But so often families get side-tracked from this as they get caught up in the practicalities and expense of preparing for a funeral. Residential aged care facilities are typically well placed to gently point families in the right direction so that their loved one gets the perfect send-off.

A growing industry

The number of deaths in New Zealand is forecasted to increase to around 50,000 per year in 2048. Of these, a high proportion is expected to occur in rest homes. The number of people requiring palliative care is increasing rapidly.

The funeral industry is set to grow accordingly. At present the industry is valued at around $300 million a year.

Cost of a funeral

Two years ago, research from the University of Canterbury found many families went into debt to cover the cost of a funeral, and would resort to DIY solutions to bring down the cost. Researcher Dr Ruth McManus found that government grants – the largest of which is about $2000 – didn’t cover the basic costs of a funeral.

The Citizens Advice Bureau says the average cost for a funeral is around $8,000 – $10,000 “but can vary widely” depending on factors like where the burial takes place, the type and size of service, cremation fees and more.

Independent Cigna research revealed the following breakdown in costs:

Funeral director (including embalming, transporting body) $2,854
Burial fees $2,010
Flowers $110
Catering $500
Death certificate $26
Celebrant $300
Newspaper notices $125
Casket $2,875
Total $8,800


Other costs may lie in the venue fees for the church or funeral home, the organist/musician’s fee, audio-visual, printing of service programmes and thank you cards.

Paying for funerals

And although death is such an inevitable part of life, according to the Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand, fewer than five per cent of Kiwis plan for their funeral. Setting up a savings account, funeral trust or funeral insurance cover can all help ensure your family is prepared for your funeral.

Funerals can be paid for in full or in part from the estate of the deceased (if grant of probate is not required) , from an insurance policy claim, for instance life insurance or funeral insurance; by the person organising and authorising the funeral, or other family members; with a grant from Work and Income, ACC or the Veterans’ Association (if you meet the eligibility criteria); or by the deceased’s pre-paid funeral plan if there is one.

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand has a prepayment plan, as do some individual funeral directors. Depending on the scheme, you‘ll either have to pay a lump sum in advance or be able to pay instalments over a period of time. There will probably be a start-up fee, as well as annual administration fees.

Funeral insurance policies vary between providers. When shopping around for cover, it is a good idea to look into things like how much cover the policy provides, what happens when a payment is missed, cancellation options, whether it is linked to inflation, whether payment will be held in a trust or by the insurance company, and what proportion of payments will go to funeral costs as opposed to administration fees.

Planning ahead

Costs are just one part of it. Families will hopefully have a good idea about what their loved one might have wanted. But if not, home support or rest home staff might be able to help – after all, they are likely to have come to know the person well.

Did they wish to be buried or cremated? What did they want to be wearing? Funeral or memorial service or neither? Where to hold the service and who should lead it? Who should speak and what hymns or music should be played? A funeral director can help guide through these decisions and usually handles most of the arrangements around things like transporting the body, registering the death, filling out forms and meeting legal requirements, embalming and presentation of the body, death notices in the newspaper and organising the funeral, right down to the flowers and the food. They can also help with applications to government agencies for funeral grants.

A funeral director may charge a flat fee per funeral, or a fee based on the specific tasks they perform. Families may prefer to perform some – or all – of the tasks themselves.

Either way, residential aged care facilities will usually have some experience in working with local funeral directors and will be able to guide families through the process and help them through the difficult time.


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