How do I organise a funeral?

Urgent Support

In an emergency, call 000.

For crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For 24/7 telephone interpreting service, call TIS on 131 450. In an emergency, call 000 and ask for an interpreter (do not call TIS directly in an emergency).

There are several words and phrases to be familiar with if you have to organise a burial, cremation, gravestone, funeral or other event to mourn someone’s death and celebrate their life.

Burial

‘Interment’ is the burial of a body or storing of cremated remains. The rights to a place of interment are sold by cemeteries. Right to interment can be purchased before or after death. Pre-purchasing a burial helps ensure the person gets what they want.

Most cemeteries in Victoria are publicly owned and run by trusts. You can find the fees and locations of cemeteries and cemetery trusts on the Health.vic website. To bury a body anywhere else, you must get approval from the government to bury a body on private property.

The person who purchased the burial plot, or their nominee, is known as the holder of the ‘right of interment’. This is the only person who can legally authorise the burial of the body.

There is flexibility in where the body is buried or where the cremated remains are stored. For example, a body can be buried in a grave, crypt, mausoleum or ‘naturally’ – where the body is buried in soil without a casket or coffin so that nothing stops normal decomposition. Likewise, cremated remains can be stored in many places, such as in an urn at home, in the ground with a plaque, or in an urn in a niche wall at a cemetery.

Cremation

In public cemeteries in Victoria, bodily remains are interred in perpetuity (forever), while cremated remains are interred in perpetuity or for 25 years (known as ‘limited tenure’, it costs less).

Cremated remains (ashes) can be buried or scattered on private property without government approval. To scatter ashes on public land, approval is generally not required in Victoria, but it’s best to check with the local council.

You can search Precious Time’s directory of services for cemeteries or crematoriums local to you.

Memorials

‘Memorial’ can mean:

  • an object, a monument at a place of interment, such as a headstone, a plaque or a rose bush

  • an event, a type of celebration, like a funeral service or wake.

Memorial objects

Headstones, monuments and other memorial objects are purchased from stonemasons. The stonemason also installs the memorial object at the cemetery. The cemetery will authorise the work for a fee.

Memorial events

Memorial events can be organised directly with venues, including cemeteries, which often have chapels and other function spaces. Funerals can also be organised with the help of a funeral director, who will often also include care of the body, the venue, a celebrant, hearse hire, flowers, memorial cards, music and so on.

The first meeting with a funeral director is known as the ‘funeral arrangement‘. In this meeting, the funeral director will record personal details about the person who has died for the purpose of registering the death. They will also discuss the options available for the funeral service, placing a death notice in the newspaper, caskets and other products and services.

It is not mandatory to use the services of a funeral director. Your spiritual or cultural leader may be able to help explain your options.

Finding funeral service providers

You can search Precious Time’s directory of services for funeral and memorial services local to you.

For religious or culturally-specific funeral needs, speak to your spiritual, community or cultural leader. If you have specific cultural needs around care of the body, notify the GP, treating team or palliative care team before the person dies, if possible.

Paying for funeral services

One of the most common ways of paying for a funeral is by using the superannuation of the person who has died. Other ways include funeral bonds, pre-paid funerals, life insurance or a savings account. Government payments or allowances can also help. Marketing of funeral insurance has grown in recent years but funeral insurance can be costly in the long run.

Bereavement payments from the Australian Government vary in type and amount. It depends on your individual circumstances, your relationship to the person who has died, and when you inform the Government about the person's death.

In Victoria, funeral directors must provide clear, legible and detailed price lists (including any separate coffin price list) upon request.

Urgent Support

In an emergency, call 000.

For crisis support, call Lifeline on 13 11 14.

For 24/7 telephone interpreting service, call TIS on 131 450. In an emergency, call 000 and ask for an interpreter (do not call TIS directly in an emergency).

Conversation starters:

How do you want to spend your time?

More information

COTA: Death of a Partner

a practical guide for partners and family

Choice

What to do when someone dies

Victorian Government

Interments and memorials

Consumer Affairs Victoria

Price list requirements for funeral directors

Australian Government

What help there is when an adult dies

Choice

Funeral insurance: do you need it?

Funeral and Memorial services

Lately services list

Disclaimer:

This information is general guidance and may not be applicable to your specific circumstances. For personal advice, please contact a medical or legal practitioner or a spiritual, cultural or community leader.

This content was written for people in Victoria, Australia. Laws and practices differ in other states, territories and countries.

See more answers
See more answers