The death of a husband, wife, or spouse is a tough thing to go through already. But the financial impact of funeral costs for pensioners and other expenses can add significant weight to the stress, especially for those who rely on Centrelink benefits to get by.
The Cost of Death report, published by Australian Seniors, reveals that almost a third (32%) of Australian families are left in financial hardship after paying for a funeral – and they take at least six months to recover from the debt.
Pensioners dealing with the loss of a partner may be eligible for government assistance through bereavement and pension payments. A Centrelink lump-sum payment can also help with funeral costs for pensioners.
We have put together this guide to help Australian pensioners understand the benefits they may be entitled to, following the death of a spouse. The following will be explained below:
- The impact on pensioners paying off funerals
- How to pay for a loved one’s funeral
- Centrelink lump sum bereavement payment and other pensioner benefits
- Other allowances and funds to help with funeral costs for pensioners
- State-based funeral assistance
- Prepaid funerals can save pensioners from hardship
1. The impact on pensioners paying off funerals
First of all, it’s important to understand that funerals are expensive. The price of an average Australian funeral costs about $7,499 according to finder.com.au.
When a loved one passes unexpectedly, families often feel the pressure to arrange a funeral at short notice. In the rush to book something quickly, the default choice is generally what has been done for generations – and expensive. But is it necessarily right for your loved one?
The industry, historically, has made its money but upselling grieving families on premium caskets, expensive catering packages, and other things they don’t necessarily need. Families often felt shame in trying to keep funeral costs down, despite a third of Australians experiencing financial hardship for months after paying funeral expenses. But why do we need to burden our most vulnerable citizens with such a huge expense?
While it can be a heartbreaking time, take a moment to weigh up your options and consider what your loved one would really want from a funeral service. If you can’t afford it, is an expensive funeral really worth going into financial hardship over?
2. How to pay for a loved one’s funeral
After deciding on a funeral and making arrangements with a funeral provider, you will have a few different options on how to pay for it.
If the deceased had a prepaid funeral plan, funeral bond, or funeral insurance, this could cover most or all of the funeral costs. Otherwise there are a number of Centrelink allowances that may be available to assist pensioners to pay for a funeral. These will be explained further below.
3. Centrelink lump sum bereavement payment and other pensioner benefits
Pensioners may be eligible for Centrelink bereavement payments and other government assistance.
The Australian federal government provides a number of payments, financial support, and other services to help when a loved one dies. These are administered through The Department of Human Services. The type and amount of bereavement payment you get will depend on your individual circumstances; your relationship to the person who has died; and when you notify Centrelink about the person’s death.
This can be done by calling Centrelink on 132 300 or filling out the Services Australia Advice of Death form available here. Centrelink will then share the information with Medicare. For other prompts on who to notify after a loved one’s death, you can also download the checklist: Who Do I Contact When Some Dies in Australia.
Australian residents are eligible for the following Centrelink bereavement 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.
Centrelink allowances no longer available
- Widows Allowance – New claims for Widow Allowance closed on in July 2018, however you may be able to claim a different benefit, such as the JobSeeker Payment or the Age Pension, if you meet the eligibility.
- Bereavement Allowance – This pension ended March 20, 2020. It was a short-term income support payment for recently widowed people to help them adjust after their partner has died. If your partner has recently died, other bereavement assistance may be available from the above list.
Please Note: Centrelink entitlements can change without notice, so you should contact your nearest Centrelink office for further information on 132 300.
How to stop age pension payments after a death
Following a pensioner’s passing, their government benefits will stop once Centrelink has been notified (Phone 132 300).
When a single allowance recipient dies, their regular payment will be paid to their estate up to their date of death. Their payment stops on the day they die.
4. Other allowances and funds to help with funeral costs for pensioners
You may also be eligible for allowances through the Department of Veterans Affairs, insurance companies, some private health funds and unions. Find out if those apply to you.
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 of up to $2,000. In addition to funeral benefits for veterans, the Department of Veteran’s Affairs may also be able to assist with pensions for war widowed partners and other payments.
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. You might also like to read our article: How to plan a veteran’s funeral.
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.
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.
5. State-based funeral assistance
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.
Funeral assistance Victoria
Not-for-profit funeral charity Bereavement Assistance provides dignified funeral services for low-income Victorians who have limited or no funds, where the alternative is a pauper’s funeral at state expense.
Funeral assistance Queensland
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.
Funeral assistance NSW
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.
Funeral assistance South Australia
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.
Funeral assistance Western Australia
The Bereavement Assistance Program provides assistance to people who are unable to pay for the cost of a funeral. Applicants must also show that the family is not able to meet the costs.
Funeral assistance Tasmania
In Tasmania, the Department of Health and Human Services manages a publicly funded direct cremation. The Essential Care Funeral Policy can arrange for the funeral and cover costs for a person whose estate and relatives are unable to pay for one.
Funeral assistance Northern Territory
In the Northern Territory, an application for a funeral service can be made to the Indigent Persons Funeral Scheme. If the estate can’t pay for funeral costs and the family are unable to contribute, the Public Trustee can apply to the Coroner’s Office for financial assistance under the Scheme.
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 and Go Fund Me.
6. Prepaid funerals can save pensioners from hardship
As new service options become available, many Australians are taking matters into their own hands and prepaying their own funeral to ensure they get the send-off they actually want. These can be arranged with many funeral providers months or even years in advance.
By prepaying your own funeral, Aussies can determine their wishes in advance and cover the costs ahead of time, to take the burden off families later on. Bare customers have – and they’re using the savings to enjoy life while they can!
The other advantage of prepaying is that you lock in today’s price and ensure that, whether it’s needed in 5, 10 or 50 years, your family has nothing left to pay. For more information on a Bare prepaid cremation, call 1800 531 936.
Bare Cremation also offers an at-need service to simply and affordably carry out the cremation of your loved one. 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.
Remember, it’s important to not feel pressured into paying for an expensive funeral service that you cannot 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.
The loss of a loved one can be a difficult time and you may be going through many different emotions, so it’s also important to speak with your GP if you feel you are struggling with grief more than expected. Your GP can assist you with strategies for coping and referrals. Our article Experiencing grief on the death of a loved one might also help you understand the grieving process a little better.
For emotional support after the loss of a loved one you, can also contact the Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement on 1800 642 066, or consult your GP. For more immediate help call Lifeline on 13 11 14.
Want to see what our direct cremation service will cost in your area? To get a free quote for a cremation, visit the Bare Cremation website, or call 1800 531 936.