Funeral and Memorial Planning Guide
If you have recently had someone dear to you pass away, I am sorry for your loss. I do understand how traumatic and difficult it can be to make decisions at a time when you are grieving.
I have lost both my parents and when planning their funerals I sadly found that there was a lot of misinformation that I had to sift through to create a DIY funeral for each of them, thus I was encouraged by friends to share what I had learned. This website is the result.
While members of the funeral industry offer the invaluable service of handling a situation most of us would prefer to avoid, it's important to remember that they are profit-based businesses and to stay in business they need to sell you (and those organising your funeral) as many services as possible, and at as high a price as possible.
And this is crucial: there is no charity or government organization that will pay off any debt you've accrued if you arrange a funeral that's beyond your means. It's your family's responsibility to spend within its budget.
Whether you are thoughtfully pre-planning your own funeral or are organising a funeral for someone who has died, this guide is designed to help you through the process.
Some things to consider
Your Funeral Organiser
According to case law in New Zealand it is the Executor of your Will that has the primary responsibility to either organise or delegate your funeral organisation. They also have the legal authority (established by the New Zealand Courts) to over-ride family wishes, and even your own wishes (unless those wishes are expressly directed in your will).
An interesting note here however is that if you do use a commercial funeral director, it is important to note that the person who rings / calls on the undertaker may hold liability to pay for the services hired - even though that may possibly be, say, a neighbour or even a helping hand stranger!
The person organising your funeral has to inform the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages of your death. There is a moderate amount of information needed by them. Click here for a full list of information required.
This information needs to be collected by the Next-of-Kin or family or the Executor of your Will whether you have a DIY funeral or you use a Funeral Director. A Funeral Director can fill in the form for you, but that is the easy part simply copying the information you supply. The hard part is finding and collecting the information - and the executor and family have to do that!
Demystifying the Paperwork
Anyone - not just a funeral director - can organise the burial or cremation of a body and deal with the paperwork. Normally there is actually far less paperwork than most people realise.
There are a number of forms that may be needed and used in different situations. This page (click here) should demystify the paperwork involved
Newspaper Obituary Advertisements
Newpapers will normally want proof of the death of the person before they will publish an Obituary Notice. Use the "Medical Certificate of cause of death (HP4720)". They generally (wrongly) use the term Death Certificate for this document which can lead to some confusion. For more information about Demystifying the Funeral Paperwork click here.
People to Contact
There may be a number of people and organisations that need to be contacted. Some of these may also become involved in the Funeral or Memorial Service. For example, RSA, service clubs, or sports clubs may wish to also pay tribute during the service.Some of the other people and organisations that may need to be contacted are: family, and extended family, WINZ, lawyer, clubs, organisations the deceased was a member of, RSA, significant friends ...
Funeral or Memorial Service
A Funeral Service is when the coffin or casket is present. The casket or coffin can be either open for viewing, or already closed.
A Memorial Service is when the casket or coffin is not present. For many reasons the deceased person's body may not be available, or may have already been interred or cremated at a private ceremony.
There is no legal requirement to have either a funeral service or a memorial service. Funeral and Memorial services are a time when friends of the deceased can gather together to celebrate the life of someone they all loved and support each other in their grief.
Services can be a complex or as simple as your wish, and can incorporate whatever religious or cultural elements you desire.
Final Resting Place
There are many options available ranging from cremation to burial in a variety of locations such as: at sea, an eco-cemetery, in a private family cemetery or mausoleum, or a plot in a council cemetery. You may have a strong preference, based on religious or cultural views. If the deceased has already expressed their wishes then decisions will be easier for those who are organising the funeral.
...can often be the most affordable option. However, there are also personal, religious and cultural considerations that may affect your decision as to whether you have a cremation or a burial.
Cremation is a heat process which reduces the remains to ashes. The ashes can be stored in a urn, or buried, placed in a niche at a cemetery, kept at home, or scattered. There may be some restrictions on where ashes can be scattered.
Burial on Land and Entombment
...can vary considerably in expense. From a DIY funeral using a private cemetery (eg a registered private cemetery on a family farm) to as elaborate and expensive as you can afford, or are willing to go into debt.
If you would like to request burial in a private burial place, you would need to make a submission to the Ministry of Health and the local Council.
Burial At Sea...can be an expensive option. There are a number of places where a body can be buried at sea around New Zealand. Generally the places are away from fishing grounds and, in some cases, have been used for ammunition dumps and dumping of other unwanted materials. Costs can be higher than for land burials because of the need to use an ocean-going boat or a helicopter.
If you wish to have a sea burial, you will need:
Bequest to Medical ScienceThis is an altruistic action by members of the public to maintain teaching of, and research into, human anatomy. The two medical schools in New Zealand are based in Auckland and Dunedin.
If you wish to do this you will need to have discussed this issue with your family and those who are organising your funeral, and also have made arrangements with your chosen Medical School.
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