A ‘pauper’s funeral’ is a common term for what can be a respectful arrangement for someone who dies destitute and without anyone to pay for their funeral.

Have you ever wondered what happens if your family can’t afford a funeral? Or what happens if there is no Next of Kin? We have put together this guide to paupers funerals to help Australians understand how a funeral can be paid when the family can’t afford one.

This article will explain the following:

  1. How much does a funeral cost?
  2. What happens if the family can’t afford a funeral?
  3. What if someone dies with no Next of Kin or known identity?
  4. What if a person dies in hospital with no family or Next of Kin?
  5. Direct cremation: an affordable funeral option
  6. Centrelink lump sum bereavement payment and other benefits
  7. Department of Veterans’ Affairs
  8. Early release of your Super
  9. State-based government funeral assistance
  10. GoFundMe and other crowdfunding to cover funeral costs
  11. Prepaid funerals can save families from hardship

1. How much does a funeral cost?

First of all, it’s important to understand that funerals are expensive.

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.

The price of an average Australian funeral costs about $7,499 according to finder.com.au and that price is expected to skyrocket past $16,000 in the next 15 years.

The average price of a funeral in each state, across Australia.
The average price of a funeral in each state, across Australia.

2. What happens if your family can’t afford a funeral?

If a deceased person’s estate can’t cover their funeral costs and the family are unable to contribute, this is what’s known as a ‘pauper’s funeral’.

Authorities will contact funeral directors to arrange a destitute or pauper’s funeral service on their behalf. Arrangements will then be made for a simple state-funded funeral. The deceased will be given a simple cremation, or burial in a shared or common grave.

A pauper’s funeral generally takes place at a crematorium unless a coroner has advised otherwise, or if it was known that the deceased person had expressed wishes that they did not want a cremation.

The grave where the deceased’s body or ashes are buried will remain unmarked, however the plot number is noted for the public record.

3. What if someone dies with no Next of Kin or known identity?

When someone dies alone in Australia, the authorities will make every effort to track down and notify their relatives or friends who may not have been aware fo the person’s death. The deceased’s family or friends may not have been aware of their passing and may wish to arrange and pay for the funeral.

Sometimes when the Next of Kin is located, the relative may have been estranged and may not wish to take responsibility for arranging the person’s funeral. In those circumstances, or when the relatives cannot meet the funeral costs, a government contractor will make the funeral arrangements.

Australian authorities will do their best to keep families informed about the funeral details so that they can attend if they wish.

4. What if a person dies in hospital with no family or Next of Kin?

When a person dies in hospital with no next of kin to claim them, the hospital will arrange the funeral on their behalf. If it is later found that the person who died left assets, or that their Next of Kin could have met some, or all, of the costs, health authorities may claim back the funeral expenses from the estate.

When a baby is stillborn in hospital, after the 20th week of the mother’s pregnancy, a state-funded funeral may also be arranged.

5. Direct cremation: an affordable funeral option

For families seeking a low-cost funeral option, a ‘direct cremation‘, or ‘simple cremation‘ is the most affordable funeral option. A direct cremation is a service to simply and affordably carry out the cremation of a loved one separately to any funeral home or ceremony, with the ashes returned to the family. Then, when the time is right, a personalised memorial can be arranged in line with the family’s budget.

A direct cremation won’t break the bank and it also gives Australians the choice to plan a tailored end-of-life service themselves, to ensure the memorial is reflective of the deceased’s life.

You can find out more about direct cremations and a Bare Cremation service here or call 1800 071 176.

Australian citizens dealing with the loss of a partner may be eligible for Centrelink bereavement payments and other government assistance. A Centrelink lump-sum payment can also help with funeral costs.

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.
  • 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.

Pensioners can find themselves in financial hardship after paying funeral costs after a spouse's death.
Pensioners can find themselves in financial hardship after paying funeral costs.

7. Department of Veterans’ Affairs

If your loved one was an ex-service man or woman who died in impoverished circumstances, Australia’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs can offer financial assistance towards the funeral costs.

If 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.

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 DVA may also be able to assist with pensions for war widowed partners and other payments. 

For tips on personalising a veteran’s funeral, you might also like to read our article: How to plan a veteran’s funeral.

8. 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. 

9. State-based government funeral assistance

Some states in Australia provide government assistance when there is no money to pay for the funeral. Families 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.

An Indigenous funeral benefit also exists. Both the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council have schemes to help with the funeral costs of an Aboriginal person who meets their criteria.

10. 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 

The cost of funerals place Australian families under huge financial stress
Paying for a loved one’s funeral is placing Australian families in financial hardship.

11. Prepaid funerals can save families 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 202 901.

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. 

For emotional support after the loss of a loved one you, can 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 202 901, or click the button below:

About Bare Cremation

Bare Cremation is Australia’s best direct cremation service. Our mission is to ensure every Australian has the option of an affordable, seamless and stress-free funeral service that can be arranged online or over the phone in minutes, at a fraction of the price of traditional funeral homes. We’ve cut out the need to go to a funeral home and made a complicated process simple by offering an affordable, transparent and easy alternative. Find out more by visiting the Bare Cremation website.