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Frequently Asked Questions

People often have questions about arranging the funeral service that they may want to discuss. Our experienced staff are available 24 hours, 7 days, to give you independent help and advice. You can phone to discuss any questions you have about what needs to be done at this time.

We have answered some of the more frequently asked questions that people have about arranging a funeral service. Click on a question to view the response.

Cremation or burial?

The choice of cremation or burial is a personal, religious or sometimes cultural decision. We can make arrangements for cremation, burial, crypt or vault.

Cremation costs are between $1000 and $1300 depending of which crematorium you choose.

Burial is more expensive than cremation. The difference is due to the cost of the cemetery fees, which usually include:

Purchase of a grave $4,500 – 11,000
Opening of a grave $2,000 – $3,000
Plaque or Headstone included – unlimited
Should you wish to personally select a grave site beforehand, our staff can arrange a time for you to meet with the cemetery staff.

We are able to give you detailed pricing for each cemetery or crematorium. The cemetery and crematorium fees are charged at cost. We will make all the bookings and arrange the required paperwork.

We are able to make arrangements for a service at any crematorium or cemetery in Sydney or NSW. We are also able to organise for a person to be transferred anywhere in Australia or around the World.

When do we have to have the funeral?

There are many things that have to be organised for a funeral service and you will need to allow yourself time to arrange these without feeling rushed.

There is no set time frame for when you must have a funeral service. There are however a number of factors to be considered that will determine when the service will be held.

Family preferences are the most important consideration. Family and friends will need to be contacted so they can plan time off work and time to travel. We will do our utmost to arrange the funeral for a day and time that suits you.

Most people find that a funeral service assists with their grief and bereavement, so it is preferable to not wait too long before having the service.

The timing of a funeral may also be determined by religious or cultural traditions. This is an important part of a funeral that we can accommodate.

We are able to delay a funeral for a period of time if required. This may be the case if a family member is overseas.

Please discuss your needs with us and we can advise you on the best option in each situation.

What makes up the cost of a funeral?

There are three main parts that make up the cost of a funeral service

Disbursements
These are the costs that we pay out directly on your behalf such as cremation fees, doctors certificates, flowers, clergy, musicians, booklets, etc. We will arrange and pay for all the services and options that are needed so that you don’t have to worry about paying money on the day. We send you a final account after the service.

The purchase and opening of a grave would usually be paid by the family prior the service.

Coffin or Casket
There is a wide range of coffins and caskets for you to select from including;

A number of simple and dignified economy coffins, usually made from particle board and laminate.
A selection of traditional coffins made from timber.
An Eco coffin range made from plantation timber or cardboard.
New printing processes that allow for the production of personalised coffins using your designs or photos.
You can paint or decorate the coffin before the service.
We also have range of caskets from local and overseas suppliers in solid timber and metal.
Funeral Directors Fees
This covers our professional services which include the arrangement, bookings and administration for the service, lodgement of legal forms, our offices and facilities, the hearse and staff for the service on the day. It covers our availability 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, the use of our mortuary facilities, standard mortuary care and preparation.

Who should I notify when someone has passed away?

Make a list of people who should be notified when someone has passed away so that they know when the funeral is going to be held.

Family and friends, including those who live overseas or on holidays.
Family doctor
Minister of your church
Employer or previous work colleagues
Clubs and Associations
Executor of the will
Hospice and palliative care services
Home care services
Solicitor

Do you have to place a notice in the newspaper?

A newspaper notice is a good way to let people know that someone has passed away. It can be difficult to contact all the friends and colleague a person knew in their lifetime. There may also be many people that a person has lost contact with over the years. The notice in the paper lets everyone know when and where the service is going to be held.

The funeral director’s details appear at the end of the notice so that we can answer enquiries about the service and provide advice for forwarding flowers or cards.

There is however, no obligation to place a notice in the newspaper – you may simply advise family and friends yourself.

People may also use social media to let people know when and where the service will be held.

If you wish to have a private service let us know at the arrangement and we will not give out any details of the service. We will also instruct the cemetery or crematorium of this.

How can children be involved?

It is a good idea to allow children to attend the funeral; it can help them with their own grieving and understanding of what has happened.

Talk to children beforehand about what to expect. For example, while people may be very sad and crying, there may also be times when people tell funny stories and laugh. Explain that a funeral is an opportunity to remember the good and wonderful things about the person who has died, as well as a time to say goodbye.

You can ask older children if they have any questions or if there is anything they would like to include in the funeral service.

Offer them the choice to be a part of the service – ask them if there is anything they would like to do at the service? Would they like to read something at the service? Make sure someone they know well can be with them at all times during the service to support and reassure them. Young children may even need to have a break during the service.

Who can I contact to help me through this?

When someone close dies, even if it is expected, people react in many different ways. Acute stress and anxiety in some circumstances may accompany the loss of a loved one.

There are many support organisations who can provide you with assistance during this time. Your family doctor or medical centre will be able to help with a list of qualified practitioners.

24 Hour Grief Support
9489 6644

The Australian Centre for Grief and Bereavement
(03) 9265 2100

Lifeline
13 11 14

The Salvation Army Counselling Service Sydney
9331 6000

Kids’ Helpline
1800 551 800

Beyond Blue The National Depression Initiative
1300 224636

Cancer Support
13 11 20

Bereavement Care Centre
1300 654 556

The Compassionate Friends
9290 2355

Grief Link

Department of Human Services (Centre Link)

You can also look online for bereavement support groups.

Religious ministers are a natural referral point for many people. Relaxation and meditation centres can offer alternative methods for dealing with stress and anxiety, and some specialise in coping with death and dying.

When is the Death Certificate issued?

There are three certificates that are commonly referred to as a Death Certificate

Interim Death Certificate.
This is a certificate issued by a medical practitioner stating that the person has passed away. It is needed when the attending doctor is not available to allow the Funeral Director to transfer the deceased to a mortuary.

Medical Certificate of Cause of Death.
This is the certificate issued by a doctor who has attended the person within the previous six months.

Death Certificate.
This is the certificate issued by the Registry of Birth Death and Marriages that lists the information about the person including; where and where they were born, details about their marriages, children, parents and occupation, together with the information from the Medical Death Certificate.

It is this Death Certificate that is needed by the executor or solicitor to finalise a person’s estate.

It may take up to three weeks for the Registrar of Births, Deaths and Marriages to process the information, print and post the Death Certificate.

The Death Certificate is sent to the person who signed the application form at the time of the funeral arrangement. It is sent by Registered Post so someone has to sign to receive it. If no one is home a card is left in the letter box and it can be collected from the Post Office.

What happens with the ashes?

The ashes are usually available to be collected from the crematorium within 48 hours of the cremation. They can only be collected by the person who signed the cremation paperwork or if that person has given written permission for someone else to collect the ashes on their behalf. You will need to make a booking with the crematorium office to collect the ashes and some may require 24 hours notice before collection.

If you collect the ashes the staff at the crematorium will explain the options for placing the ashes in their memorial gardens. You also have the option to take the ashes and place them at another cemetery or crematorium. Alternatively, you could keep the ashes at home or scatter them somewhere special.

Unity Funerals can collect the ashes on your behalf and hold them safely till you are ready to collect them from our office.

If you intend to scatter ashes you may need to get permission from the local council or relevant authority. Councils and other government authorities may set a time or place when this may be done.

It is important to consider where you intend to place or scatter ashes. For example, access to the area may be restricted for some reason in the future, the land may be developed or a property may be sold.

If you intend to scatter the ashes at sea, you must gain prior permission from the captain or master of a vessel.

Ashes can usually be placed in a grave even though there has already been burials at the site. You may be able to place up to five or more cremated remains in a grave and have a plaque placed on the headstone.

What does the Executor need to do?

If you have been named as an executor in someone’s will, it means the deceased wanted you to administer their estate, perhaps in conjunction with another person.

An executor’s duty is to take charge of the deceased’s assets and property and see that the funeral and administration expenses are paid, as well as debts and taxes. Finally an executor has to distribute the assets to the beneficiaries in accordance with the will.

There can be any number of executors named in a will, though one or two is usually considered sufficient.

You may need the assistance of a Solicitor to deal with the duties and obligations of being an executor.

You can find out more information about wills, executors and probate from the Law Society of NSW.

What happens to a person’s bank account after they pass away?

After someone dies any Power of Attorney stops and the executor of a person’s will becomes responsible for the persons estate.

When someone dies, access to their bank account is limited to the executor and may only be used for specific expenses relating to the maintenance of the estate and the execution of the will.

If there is a joint bank account the other signatory to the account should still be able to access the account as normal.

Money can usually be released from the deceased’s bank account for the cost of the funeral. This can be done by presenting the funeral directors invoice and a copy of the death certificate to the bank. This may be easier than claiming the costs back from the estate. You should call the bank to confirm what papers you will need to provide.

You should check the person’s bank and credit card statements for any regular payment or direct debit amounts.  These could be for things such as insurance, club memberships, pay television, donations, etc.  These organisations will need to be contacted and the payments stopped.  You should be careful about any invoices that arrive after a person has passed away and check that they are legitimate.

What if there is no Will?

If a person dies without making a Will they are said to have died ‘intestate’. This may also apply if the deceased has left a valid Will which did not dispose of their entire estate.

There are laws that list the order of how a person’s assets are to be distributed when there is no will.

The order of distribution will depend on the particular circumstances of the deceased. In general terms the order of priority is as follows:

Spouses
Children
Parents
Siblings
Nieces and nephews
Grandparents
Aunts and uncles
If there are no qualifying beneficiaries then the estate will pass to the State of New South Wales. The State may waive its entitlement in favour of the following:

any person who was dependant on the deceased;
any person who has a ‘just and moral’ claim on the deceased’s estate;
any person or organisation for whom the deceased might reasonably be expected to have made provision
There are many legal issues that have to considered when a person dies ‘intestate’ and advice should be obtained from a solicitor or legal representative.

What Is Probate?

Probate is an order of the court saying that the will is valid and that the executor has the right to administer the estate.

The Executor or a solicitor usually applies for probate to the Probate Office.

You can find out more information about wills, executors and probate from the Law Society of NSW (www.lawsociety.com.au)

What happens to a person’s Pension?

It is important to contact the organisation that was paying any pension payments to let them know that the person has passed away, eg, Centrelink, the Department of Veterans Affairs, superannuation fund, etc.

Depending on the situation Centrelink may make a Bereavement Payment to a surviving spouse or carer.  This will depend on the type of pension and situation in each case.  On your instructions we can send a courtesy fax to Centrelink to inform them that a person has passed away.

A returned serviceman or woman may be entitled to a Funeral Benefit to help pay the cost of the funeral.  A surviving spouse of a returned serviceman or woman may also be entitled to a Payment after Bereavement to help meet the financial demands following the loss of their partner. You can to contact the Department of Veterans Affairs (ph: 1800 555 254) or the Welfare Officer of your RSL Sub-Branch about these payments.

Some RSL sub branches may also have a mortality fund which they pay out of on the death of a member.

Is there a Private Health Fund Payment?

Some Private Health Funds have a Funeral Benefits Scheme. This will depend on the fund and the amount of time a person has been a member. You should stop payments to a person’s Health Fund and ask about any Funeral Benefit arrangement.

Who do I contact after a Funeral Service?

There are many people and organisations that may need to be contacted to inform them that a person has passed away. These organisations may not need to be contacted till after the funeral service.

  • Solicitor and or accountant
  • Centrelink and / or Veterans Affairs
  • Health professionals, doctor, dentist, accountant etc
  • Banks, Credit Unions, Superannuation Fund
  • Insurance Companies
  • Landlord / Real Estate Agent
  • Home care nursing services, meals on wheels, etc
  • Australian Tax Office
  • Telephone / Internet / Pay TV companies
  • Medicare
  • Vehicle registration and drivers licence
  • Electoral Office
  • Post Office
  • Local Council for rates, etc
  • Motor registry
  • Health funds
  • Clubs and professional bodies
  • Utilities – gas, electricity, water, etc
  • Credit card providers and department store accounts
  • Hire purchase companies

Contact us, day or night

Our staff are here to help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us on 02 9747 4000 and our staff will assist you.