In Loving Memory

Funeral Flowers

DIY- the Right Choice?

This page will help you to consider whether you truly have the capacity to deal with a loved one's death yourself. Some tasks are not pleasant and many people are happy to pay a funeral director to deal with them. However if you have found your way here then you are probably the kind of person who is willing to roll up their sleeves to save the significant costs incurred by using professionals.

Things to consider - the practicalities

For a straightforward death, for instance of an aged parent who dies at home or in a rest home, where their medical history is known and the coroner is not involved, dealing with their dead body means at least the following:

  • Organising everything to do with legal compliance. That means liaising with many people and agencies to obtain certificates and fill out forms correctly. The agencies may include doctors, hospitals, rest homes, mortuaries, local council and government bodies including the crematorium or cemetery and the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages;

  • Obtaining or constructing a casket and having access to a vehicle which can transport it, as well as enough people to carry it with the weight of a dead body inside;

  • Physically handling, cleaning, dressing the body and placing it in the casket;

  • Arranging a funeral or other gathering, which may require hiring a venue, instructing a celebrant, arranging catering and notifying people of the person's death directly and through placement of notices;

  • Keeping the body cool for the duration of all these events;

  • Arranging the person's cremation or burial, usually with a local council which will require payment in advance, transporting the casket to its place of final cremation or interment and collecting any ashes afterwards.

Your situation

A DIY funeral will work best when a death is expected and you have had time to plan. For everything to go smoothly you will need to act reasonably quickly, have funds available to pay for the outgoings, and be a practical person who is not overly squeamish about death and has the support of others. However if you are not feeling resilient, you are unsupported, have never seen a dead body and never want to see one, or have no means of transport, it will be very difficult for you to carry out the necessary tasks.

An ideal situation is if at least some family members are close by, they are cooperative with one another and different tasks can be delegated to different people. You will need people to carry the casket, unless you have access to a trolley. It will help not only if you have the deceased's documents but if you are the type of person who can maintain a sense of humour in a crisis. If you joked with the deceased about burying them in the garden or making their coffin out of beer crates then you're going to be absolutely fine at this.

A less ideal situation is where you or your family are not well resourced, or where the deceased's documents are not readily available and their wishes were not known. If a death was accidental or particularly shocking and the family is in conflict it might be better to let professionals handle it. In some situations embalming or long-term storage of the body may be necessary, perhaps because relatives are not close by, or there is a family dispute. In that case the services of a funeral director may genuinely be needed.

Financial Matters - Funeral Insurance

Funeral insurance can be expensive, but depending on the type of insurance you may be able to use it to cover the cost of a DIY funeral. Some policies are provided by organisations such as FDANZ and only cover services provided by members of that organisation. Other policies will cover the actual costs involved in carrying out a DIY funeral.

The WINZ Funeral Grant

There is a WINZ grant which will cover funeral costs up to the amount of $2445.37. How did they work that out. This grant can be available whether or not the person who died was a beneficiary. It is nowhere near enough to cover the cost of a funeral home's services but it may be just enough to cover a totally DIY funeral. Information on how the grant works and how to apply can be found here.

The Final Decision

Ultimately you have to decide if you (or the people who will be left behind, if you're planning your own funeral) are willing and able to shoulder the significant responsibilities involved in dealing properly and well with someone's death and to discharge those duties capably. If you can succeed in that, it will give you a huge amount of satisfaction which you will look back on with a sense of pride forever. This page has a checklist which will help you with planning ahead.

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