Step 7 – Deceased Estate Administration Guide

How To Organise a Funeral in Australia

  • Last Updated: October 2023

This step explains everything you need to know about how to organise a funeral and some important considerations before engaging a funeral director or any related services. You should check if a funeral insurance, pre-arranged or pre-paid funeral plan is in place or for any relevant instructions or wishes in the Will.

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Overview
The Executor or appointed Next of Kin (where a Will does not exist) are responsible for organising the funeral. Several steps need to be undertaken to:
  • agree if the body is to be buried or cremated;
  • consider the wishes stated in the Will if available;
  • understand the various options and services, including alternative funerals;
  • determine if there is sufficient money to allow for the payment of funeral expenses from deceased bank account or consider how to pay for funeral expenses before Probate;
  • organise the funeral;
  • issue invitations;
  • decide whether to hold a viewing of the deceased for friends and family; and
  • inform the funeral director of any religious or other customary wishes.

By now, you will have already determined if a Will and any pre-arrangements are in place, who the Executor is or the likely Administrator (appointed Next of Kin in the absence of a Will) of the Deceased Estate will be. Also, you will most probably have engaged a funeral director to take the body into their custody from the place of death.

If you have not completed these steps yet, we recommend you read about how to find a will, who is the executor of a will, and funeral transfer services before proceeding.

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7.1 Who Organises a Funeral

In most cases, the person who organises a funeral is the Executor appointed in the Will to decide on funeral arrangements. As much as possible, they should try to follow the wishes of the deceased person. However, it's important to note that directions in the Will regarding the funeral are suggestions and may not be binding.

Nevertheless, the Will, spouse, de facto partner or senior Next of Kin may determine, in some situations, if, for example, the cremation of the deceased person's body will be allowed or not.

If there is no Executor, the court will likely give the right to organise the funeral to a Next of Kin. It is recommended that this be the same person who will most probably be applying for Letters of Administration to be formally appointed to administer the Deceased Estate.

Note: The Executor should only organise the funeral if taking on all Executor duties and submitting the Probate application.

7.2 Pre-Arranged Funeral, Pre-Paid Funeral or Funeral Insurance

If the Will makes a reference to any of the following:
  • pre-arranged funeral;
  • pre-paid funeral;
  • funeral insurance plan; or
  • pre-paid burial plot,
or you have discovered that such arrangements have been made separately, then you need to find out from the provider what:
  • funeral home you can choose from;
  • types of services are included; and
  • the total budget is.

In case a funeral insurance was put in place, you will need to find out from the provider if you need to pay for the funeral upfront and claim the insurance after the funeral; if you can claim the funds beforehand; or if the provider will pay the funeral director directly.

Note: The providers of such arrangements may specify which funeral directors and what services you can and cannot use.

If the deceased person passed away in an accident or because of a health problem, the person's accident, health or travel insurance may cover parts or all of the funeral costs.

7.3 Paying for the Funeral

7.3.1 Overview
7.3.2 Paying for Funeral Expenses From a Deceased Bank Account
7.3.3 Paying for a Funeral Before Probate

7.3.1 Overview

If you’re wondering how to pay for funeral expenses before Probate, there are two things to consider.

First, it's worth noting that the average cost of a funeral is between $4,000 and $15,000, depending on the services requested by the deceased and the preferences of the Executor or appointed Next of Kin. Therefore, it is important to establish how much money is available; that is, unless the funeral is already pre-paid.

Second, it is important to weigh up paying for funeral expenses from the deceased's bank account, or the Executor or Next of Kin paying for the costs and seeking reimbursement from the Estate after Probate is granted and assets have been transferred to the Estate.

Note: Before incurring any costs, it is advisable to confirm if the Estate will have sufficient funds to pay for the funeral expenses and is not an insolvent Estate.

If the deceased person served in the Australian Army and was receiving a pension or payments from the Department of Veteran's Affairs, you may be eligible to receive financial support from the department.

Department of Veteran's Affairs:

Phone: 1800 555 254
Hours: Monday – Friday 8:00am – 5:00pm AEST
Email: GeneralEnquiries@dva.gov.au
Post: Department of Veterans’ Affairs, GPO Box 9998, Brisbane QLD 4001

7.3.2 Paying for Funeral Expenses From a Deceased Bank Account

Typically, the funeral expenses are paid from the Deceased Estate, and the bank managing the funds may settle the invoice. It's advisable to contact the bank in the first instance to check the amount of money available before organising the funeral.

When it comes to paying for funeral expenses from a deceased bank account, withdrawing money from said bank account by the Executor or appointed Next of Kin is only allowed for the withdrawal of funds to cover funeral expenses until the necessary documents are verified.

To manage funeral expenses from deceased bank account and make withdrawals for such, the Executor needs to provide the bank with a receipt for the funeral expenses and then withdraw that amount from the account. In some cases, if the bank is already aware of the death, they may allow funeral expenses to be paid directly from the deceased's bank account before the account is frozen.

In the case of an insolvent Estate, there are additional steps to be taken discussed in Step 14 of this guide.

Let us notify banks and other service providers about the death to freeze/close accounts, stop payments and seek reimbursements where applicable.
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7.3.3 Paying for a Funeral Before Probate

If you're wondering if an Executor can pay for funeral expenses before Probate is granted, the answer is yes.

However, before making any payment of funeral expenses before Probate, the Executor must ensure that there is enough money available in the deceased's bank account to cover the costs.

If there isn't enough money, the Executor may need to hold back on paying for any funeral expenses before Probate. Alternatively, if the Executor chooses to cover the expenses personally, they can seek reimbursement from the Estate later. It's important to keep all correspondence, quotes, invoices, and receipts related to the funeral to support any future reimbursement claims.

Download the simplyEstate Testamentary Costs & Executor Expense Tracker to keep track of all expenses for reimbursement.
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7.4 How to Organise a Funeral

First of all, if you're wondering how long it takes to organise a funeral, it may be useful to know that most funerals in Australia are held within a week from the date of death, so organising one only takes a few days.
There is no specific timeline, and how long it takes to organise a funeral depends on whether a funeral director is involved; if a DIY funeral is being organised; or if an alternative funeral is found to be most appropriate to celebrate the life of your loved one in a unique way.

The main question then is not how long it takes to organise a funeral but what to organise for a funeral, what type of funeral you will be holding, what level of support you'll get and what budget is available for it.

It's ideal for the Executor or appointed Next of Kin to discuss what to organise for the funeral when making funeral arrangements with the deceased person's family. This helps to prevent disagreements around the funeral and burial. While the family's wishes are important, it is important to note that the Executor, in most situations, has the final say in how the funeral is to be arranged.

The most common steps to organise a funeral are:
  1. Choose between getting a funeral director or taking a Do-It-Yourself (DIY) approach: Depending on the general preference and budget, a funeral may be organised using a funeral director or organised by the Executor or appointed Next of Kin. Funeral directors can provide professional assistance and a wide range of services.
  2. Determine religious and cultural requirements: Depending on the deceased person's or family's beliefs and cultural heritage, certain traditions may need to be observed or included during the ceremony. It is important to let the funeral director or celebrant know about these beforehand to ensure they can be catered for appropriately.
  3. Decide if the deceased person's body will be buried or cremated: When choosing how to dispose of the body, religious and other factors need to be considered. A burial is generally more expensive due to transport cost, needing a cask and a burial plot with ongoing maintenance. A cremation is generally simpler and less costly.
  4. Decide if a viewing will be held: Viewings can be held at the family home or another appropriate location, such as a funeral home. The deceased person can be viewed in an open coffin or casket, to give family and friends the opportunity for a final moment to say their wishes and farewells.
  5. Choose a location and venue: You will need to decide if the funeral service should be held in church, a funeral home, a cemetery chapel or any other place that is appropriate.
  6. Select a preferred date and time: Once you have chosen the location, you will need to decide on a date and time for the service. This will usually take place within a week of the person's passing.
  7. Post funeral notices and newspaper tributes: Place a notice and tribute in the local newspaper in honour of the deceased person. The funeral details may be added if deemed appropriate and can work to extend invites more broadly.
  8. Notify friends and family: You will need to notify friends and family of the date, time, and location of the funeral service.
  9. Choose a coffin, casket or urn: Select a casket or urn to transport the deceased person's remains. The funeral director can provide you with a range of options to choose from or you can have one made from a provider. If a burial is chosen, a coffin or casket is a requirement for transportation. A casket is rectangular in shape and mostly made of wood or metal, whereas a coffin is mostly made of wood and is typically six-sided or hexagonal in shape.
  10. Arrange for transportation: You will need to arrange for the transportation of the person's remains to the funeral location. If you choose a Funeral Director, this will generally be included in the service.
  11. Choose a celebrant: You will need to choose a celebrant to lead the service. They can help you plan the order of service, select appropriate music and eulogy readings.
  12. Plan the reception: After the service, you may wish to hold a reception for friends and family. You will need to arrange for catering and a venue if necessary. This may be held in a small and intimate circle or may include all persons who attended the funeral.
  13. Make final arrangements: It may be appropriate to scatter the ashes if cremation was done. Sometimes, the scattering of ashes may be done at a place of meaning to the deceased person. It is important to confirm that this is allowed at certain places before going ahead.

As with all significant life events, a funeral is a way to gather with family and friends and support each other during a difficult time. This connection, as well as traditions, life celebration and memories help with processing the loss.

Before choosing a funeral director or funeral home for the funeral planning, it may be worth checking the Will again, if one is available, and discuss with the family what the known wishes are.

Once you have an idea about what needs to be done:
  • contact the funeral director of the pre-arranged funeral, pre-paid funeral or funeral insurance to discuss what services you require and what they can offer within the budget or restrictions of the pre-arrangement; or
  • where no pre-arrangement is in place, contact three funeral directors to request three itemised quotes with your specific requirements to compare prices and get a better idea about the services provided as these can vary significantly.

Once you have selected a funeral director or funeral home, you will most likely be invited to discuss the funeral requirements and wishes in person. You will need to provide the deceased person's name, age, religion and other information.

simplyEstate has partnered with Funeral Directors across Australia to make your search simpler and can be found to the right side of your screen or below.

7.5 How to Organise Alternative Funerals

According to tradition, arranging a funeral promptly after someone's passing is customary. Typically, this occurs within a week and involves a formal service held either in a church or funeral home, following a specific format.

Nevertheless, it's not mandatory to adhere to this formality, and you have the freedom to choose a personalised farewell that honours the unique qualities of the deceased person with alternative funeral services.
Just as every individual is distinct, so too can their final tribute be tailored to reflect their individuality.

Alternative funerals allow friends, family members and loved ones of the deceased to celebrate the life of the departed in a meaningful and personalised manner. To organise one, consider these steps:
  1. Choose a location: Opt for a location that reflects the interests or personality of the person who has passed away. It could be outdoors, at a special venue, or even in a private home.
  2. Decide on a date and time: You can choose a date and time that is meaningful to you and your loved ones, and is available at the chosen venue.
  3. Select or come up with a format: There are many alternate formats for funerals, such as a memorial service, celebration of life, or even a themed funeral. Think about what format would best reflect the personality and wishes of the person who has passed away.
  4. Ask for contributions: Family and friends may want to provide a speech, a story, play music, show photographs, read a poem or a eulogy
  5. Establish if gifts should be given: Oftentimes family and friends attending a funeral will want to know if flowers or donations are a preferred gift. Thinking about what the deceased person would've preferred helps and it is important to communicate this beforehand.
  6. Choose a celebrant: You may choose to have a celebrant lead the service, or you can ask a friend or family member to do it.
  7. Plan the order of service: Consider including elements that reflect the person's personality, such as music, poetry, or readings. You may also want to include time for guests to share memories or stories.
  8. Notify friends and family: You will need to notify friends and family of the date, time, and location of the funeral service.
  9. Arrange for transportation: Make arrangements for the transportation of the person's remains to the funeral location if necessary.
  10. Plan the reception: After the service, you may wish to hold a reception for friends and family. You will need to arrange for catering and a venue if necessary.
  11. Make final arrangements: Finally, you will need to make final arrangements for the burial or cremation of the person's remains.

It's important to remember that an alternate funeral can be tailored to suit your specific preferences and that you don't have to follow any particular format or tradition. You can work with a celebrant to create a service that truly reflects the unique qualities of the person who has passed away.

7.6 What Happens if no One Wants to Take Responsibility or There is no Money

If there is no money or no Executor and no Next of Kin who want to take on the responsibility of arranging for body transport, disposal and funeral arrangements, the funeral may be arranged through the relevant government contractor. This is said to be a destitute funeral and you should contact your Local Health District.

7.7 What to do After the Funeral

You may wonder what happens after funeral. Once the funeral has been organised and held, the Executor or Administrator of Estate will have to complete the Deceased Estate administration process.

The simplyEstate Deceased Estate administration guide provides all steps and activities that need to be completed. Follow Step 8 – How To Get a Death Certificate to Step 34 – Finalisation & Distribution of Estate to Beneficiaries.


Read Further

You are currently on Step 7 – How To Organise A Funeral In Australia. Other steps of interest may be:

< Step 4 – How to Find a Will & Funeral Insurance Information > Step 8 – How To Get a Death Certificate > Step 14 – Paying Deceased's Bills Before Probate (Solvent & Insolvent Estates)

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Actions and Decisions to Complete Step Yourself

If you have decided to complete this Step yourself, some actions and decisions may be to:

  1. Find out who organises a funeral (see Step 7.1 above);
  2. Review the Will for specific instructions about the funeral and any pre-arrangements that may already be in place (see Step 7.2 above);
  3. Contact the relevant insurance company or funeral director to enquire about the pre-arrangement, how it can be accessed and what inclusions and exclusions of the plan are (see Step 7.2 above);
  4. Understand the budget of the funeral and how it will be paid (see Step 7.3 above);
  5. Consider if a traditional funeral or an alternative funeral is more appropriate, research service options and source two to three itemised quotes (see Step 7.4 and Step 7.5 above);
  6. Discuss with the family of the deceased person and decide if the body is to be buried or cremated as well as other funeral details;
  7. Decide with the family of the deceased whether or not to allow family and relatives the opportunity to view the deceased person;
  8. Organise the funeral with help from the family and/or the funeral director, and note any religious or other customary wishes (see Step 7.4 and Step 7.5 above);
  9. Issue invitations and publish a notice in the newspaper;
  10. Hold the funeral to celebrate the deceased person's life and memories with family and friends; and
  11. Read about what to do after the funeral (see Step 7.7 above).

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