Life and death are not always predictable. Sometimes a loved one passes and you weren’t fully prepared, or it has come completely unexpected. You are left with organising a funeral and depending on your choices this can become very expensive. As we all know in life such large sums of money are not always available when needed.
Here are a few suggestions you could follow to try and cover the costs of a funeral and gain some extra financial support at this time.
The deceased’s bank account
As soon as the bank becomes aware of your loved ones passing their bank accounts will be frozen if the accounts were in the sole name of the deceased. However, if you are needing funds to pay for funeral expenses most banks will release funds only for this purpose.
You need to obtain the invoice from your funeral service provider and present this to the bank. They will release funds to meet the invoice to the funeral provider, not to you. No other funds will be able to be withdrawn from any account held solely by your loved one once a bank has been notified and until the estate has been administered. But this may be an option for paying funeral expenses.
Now is the time to see if your loved one had any policies that may be able to release funds to the Next of Kin or chosen beneficiaries. Look amongst your loved one’s documents and see if there are any of the following:
Funeral insurance or pre-paid funeral arrangements
It is surprising how many policies are not claimed because families do not know about them. Your loved one may have had a prepaid funeral arrangement or funeral insurance. If so contact the relevant company straight away. These policies are set up to be able to release funds quickly to cover funeral expenses.
If someone has any kind of private health, sickness, accident, life or disability insurance policies, then it is important to find the details and begin to action the policy. Contact the responsible insurance company. These claims can often take some time so it is a good idea to get on to this quite quickly.
A person’s superannuation fund will often include some form of life insurance, so you should check that as soon as you can. Contact the Super Fund your loved ones super was kept with to begin the process of making a claim. Once again the claim process can take time so get on to this quickly.
The federal government provides a number of financial supports after a loved one passes. These are administered through The Department of Human Services.
Australian residents are eligible for the following Centrelinkbereavement payments:
- Partner Allowance – If you currently receive a Partner Allowance and your spouse dies, you may be eligible to receive a further 14 weeks of their pension. However, you will need to contact Centrelink and apply for another income support payment. You may also be eligible to receive a Centrelink lump sum bereavement payment (explained below).
- Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment – A lump sum payment may be available to the surviving partner of a Pension Bonus Scheme member who didn’t successfully claim the Age Pension and Pension Bonus before they died.
- Carer’s Allowance – If you were providing additional daily care for someone who has died, you may be entitled to a further 14 weeks of pension following their death, in a lump sum.
- Double Orphan Pension – provides help with the costs of caring for children who are orphans or who are unable to be cared for by their parents in certain circumstances. There is no income or assets test required.
- Stillborn Baby Payment in the case of a stillbirth. Or call the Bereavement Line on 132 850 between 8am and 5pm Monday to Friday for further assistance.
Please Note: Centrelink entitlements can change without notice, so you should contact your nearest Centrelink office for further information on 132 300.
Department of Veterans Affairs
If you are the spouse, dependant or carer of a deceased person who was receiving a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs you may be eligible for a bereavement payment. Typically, the benefit is a one-off payment up to $2,000.
If your loved one was a veteran and you think you may be eligible, you must notify the DVA as soon as possible after the death by going to the DVA website or calling 1800 555 254.
Early release of your Super
You generally can’t get your super before you reach your preservation age. However, in some circumstances, the law does allow you to access your super early. These limited circumstances include specified compassionate grounds and severe financial hardship. Paying for a funeral can be a time funds can be withdrawn if you meet certain criteria. Before considering this option, you should consult a financial planner for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.
For more information about early release of superannuation due to severe financial hardship, contact your super fund. Alternatively there are organisations that assist you in these claims. Supercare is one such example.
Some states in Australia have state-based assistance schemes that families can utilise. You will need to meet strict criteria in being unable to pay funeral costs. Please contact each state body for specific requirements for each scheme.
In Queensland, if you are unable to pay for a funeral, you may be able to get funeral assistance by applying to the Queensland Magistrates Court or the Coroners Court of Queensland. To be eligible you must have confirmed that no other family members are able to pay for the funeral.
New South Wales
NSW offers destitute funerals to those who are unable to pay for the cost of a funeral, and whose friends and relatives are also unable to help with the funeral costs. The service will be a basic cremation unless a burial is requested by the deceased’s next of kin. This is administered by NSW Health.
South Australian residents who are not able to pay the costs for a funeral and have exhausted all other options may be eligible to arrange a funeral through FuneralAssistance SA.
The Bereavement Assistance Program provides assistance to people who are unable to pay for the cost of a funeral. Applicants must also show that family are not able to meet the costs.
GoFundMe and other crowdfunding to cover funeral costs
This option may seem a little out of the box, but crowdfunding is used for so many different causes these days. There are always generous people out there willing to give a helping hand if asked. A crowdfunding request can be set up online to help with funeral costs for pensioners through websites like My Cause or Go Fund Me.
Victims of crime of road accident deaths
If your loved one died as a result of being a victim of crime or a road accident your funeral expenses will most likely be covered by your States Victims of crime Boyd or Transport Accident Commission. Your Funeral Service Provider will be able to assist you with these claims if this is applicable to your situation
Final thoughts on financial assistance to pay for a funeral
Our final piece of advice is not to feel pressured into paying for an expensive funeral service that you simply cannot realistically afford. Bare Cremation was set up to make basic funeral arrangements affordable for Australian Families. We do not believe this is a time you should be adding greater financial stress to your life. Bare Cremation can simply and affordably carry out the cremation of your loved one and then, when the time is right you can have a personalised memorial for them in a way that is reflective of their life and will not break the bank. You can also find out what’s involved with a state-funded pauper’s funeral here.
If you’d like a recommendation on estate planning professionals at any stage of the process, give us a call on 1800 531 936 and we’d be happy to connect you with our specialist estate administration partners.
This article is not legal advice. You should chat with a solicitor or accountant for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.
If you have any further questions or to get a quote for a cremation visit the Bare Cremation website or call 1800 319 568.