What happens if you can’t afford a funeral? Assistance with funeral costs in Australia
The loss of a loved one is a difficult time for those who are left behind, and it only gets more difficult when facing financial hardships that leave you struggling to pay for the funeral. With estimates that funerals typically cost anywhere between $4,000 and $15,000, funding a proper farewell for your loved one can add a lot of unnecessary stress to the grieving process.
But a funeral is an important aspect of honouring the lives of those who have passed, and can also be vital to giving families and friends the closure they need to begin healing. Thankfully, there’s a lot of financial support for low-income Australians who are struggling to afford a funeral.
Please note: Bethel Funerals is not a financial adviser. The information on this page is of a general nature and should not be considered financial advice. Where possible, we have included links to the relevant authorities should you need specific advice and guidance.
The funeral essentials
Every funeral is different, but there are some key factors that remain largely consistent, from the simplest funerals to the most extravagant. These costs can add up fast without financial support:
- Dignified mortuary care: a qualified embalmer will prepare your loved one for their final goodbye.
- Chapel and/or graveside service: while not a necessity, organising a time for friends and family to gather and share in the memory of their loved one can offer much-needed closure.
- Death certificate: an official Death Certificate is essential to arranging a burial or cremation, as well as managing financial affairs, such as accessing bank accounts and assets, transferring ownership of vehicles and real estate, and filing life insurance claims.
- Casket or Coffin: even if your loved one is to be cremated, they will still need a casket or coffin to carry them on their final journey.
Funeral assistance for low-income families in Australia
Not everyone has the funds available to pay for a funeral, which is why the Federal Government, along with State Governments, offer special assistance with funeral costs for those experiencing financial hardship.
Aimed at supporting you through this difficult process, these payments will help supply the funds you need to give your loved one a dignified farewell.
If you’re experiencing extreme hardship or other unique circumstances, a Part 10 Order may be issued by either the State Coroner or Magistrate. This can direct a cemetery trust to provide for the interment or cremation of a loved one when the next-of-kin, family, or friends are unable to do so.
Typically, a Part 10 Order prefers cremation over interment, however, interment may still be available if it was specified by either the deceased or their family based on cultural or religious request.
Please be aware that a Part 10 Order does not include funeral ceremonies, flowers, or anything else beyond the bare necessities.
Centrelink Funeral Assistance
As of 20 March 2020, Centrelink’s Bereavement Allowance is no longer available. However, Centrelink still offers funeral assistance and other services based on the situation and circumstances of those mourning a loved one.
Carer Allowance is a fortnightly supplement for those who give daily care to a person with a disability, medical condition, or who is of frail age. In the event of this person dying, Centrelink may pay up to 12 weeks of Carer Allowance as a lump sum.
This sum is aimed at supporting those left behind, though some of the money can also be used to fund the funeral.
Different from the Carer Allowance, if you get a Carer Payment for a person who dies, you may be able to continue receiving this payment for up to 14 weeks after their death.
Supporting you through this difficult time, the Carer Payment gives you one less thing to worry about while you organise the funeral and apply for an alternative form of income support.
If you and your partner were both receiving a pension or income support payment for 12 months or longer before your partner passed, you may be eligible for a bereavement payment lump sum. This payment is typically equal to the combined payment that you and your partner would have received, minus your new single rate.
You may receive this payment for up to 14 weeks after your partner’s death.
Superannuation Death Benefit
Many superannuation funds include some form of life insurance which is to be paid to the beneficiaries in the event of a loved one’s death. This payment may come in the form of a lump sum or an income stream to help support those who are left behind.
This money can be used however you like, and some of it may be used to fund a respectful and dignified farewell for your family member.
In some cases, this payment may be released early, such as in the case of terminal illness. This can give you the opportunity to plan the funeral with your loved one to ensure a service that best reflects their wishes.
Once a bank becomes aware that your loved one has passed, they will freeze all bank accounts for which they were the sole account holder (joint bank accounts will continue to operate as normal). But, if you’re earning a low income and are struggling fund the funeral, you can request access to some of the money to assist with the costs.
In most cases, banks will release funds from the frozen account to cover funeral expenses. To organise this, you will typically need to present an invoice or receipt for the funeral service. The appropriate funds will then be released to the funeral provider to cover the bills.
The rest of the funds will be inaccessible until the estate has been administered.
Financial Assistance with Funeral Costs in Victoria
The state of Victoria offers some additional funeral funding for low-income Victorians who have lost a family member:
Essential Care Funeral (ECF)
Under the Funerals Act 2006 (Vic), funeral directors can invoice State Trustees for up to $2,500 when a bereaved family is unable to raise the funds for a burial or cremation, and where the estate is held within Victoria.
This grant covers the essentials, but not the cost of a service or memorialisation.
Financial Support for Families of a Child Who Dies
There are few things harder than losing a child, which is why there are additional payments available to grieving parents. Please note that while these payments may not necessarily be reserved for funeral arrangements, some of these funds can be directed towards organising a fitting farewell for your child.
Family Tax Benefit
After the death of a child who was eligible for the Family Tax Benefit (FTB), families can continue receiving the FTB, either as a lump sum or as a fortnightly payment for up to 14 weeks.
A parent who was eligible for the Parenting Payment may continue to receive this payment for up to 14 weeks after the child’s death.
Funeral Assistance for Australian Pensioners
As a pensioner, the loss of a loved one can feel like a particularly heavy blow that only grows heavier with the stress of funding a funeral while on a pension. Thankfully, the government offers additional financial support to help pensioners with the funeral costs.
In addition to the payments already listed above, here are some of the funeral help options that pensioners can receive to ensure a fitting service.
Single pensioners will continue to receive their regular payments across the fortnight in which they died. This payment can be accessed by the executor of the estate, who may choose to direct this money towards funeral costs if needed.
Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment
If your partner was registered for the Pension Bonus Scheme with Service Australia or the Departments of Veterans’ Affairs but was unable to claim for the Age Pension and Pension Bonus before their death, you may be eligible for the Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment.
This payment is based on what your partner would have received under the Pension Bonus.
Please note: to receive this payment, you must submit a claim within 26 weeks of your partner’s passing.
If you are currently receiving a Partner Allowance and your spouse dies, you may be eligible to receive a further 14 weeks of their pension. However, it’s important to note that Partner Allowance is ending on 1 January 2022, at which point you’ll need to transfer to Age Pension.
Funeral Insurance and Prepaid Funeral Arrangements
As they get older, many pensioners choose to take out a funeral insurance policy, or even make prepaid funeral arrangements. This not only ensures that your loved one is honoured in the way they wish to be, it can also ease a lot of strain and stress on the surviving friends and family.
In these situations, policies are set up to release funds quickly to cover funeral expenses. It’s important to contact the relevant company as soon as possible to access these funds.
Alternative Methods of Support for Funeral Costs
Based on the circumstances of your loved one’s death, you may be able to access additional support, either from the government, other supporting bodies, or even from members of the community.
Additional Support for Veterans
If your loved one was a member—or former member—of the Australian Defence Force (ADF) covered under the Military Rehabilitation and Compensation Act 2004 (MRCA), you may be able to access compensation to assist with paying the funeral costs.
Compensation can be awarded if:
- Liability for the deceased or former member’s death has been accepted under the MRCA; or
- The deceased member received or was eligible to receive the Special Rate Disability Pension (SRDP); or
- The deceased member was entitled to the maximum rate of permanent impairment compensation for accepted conditions immediately before their death
Alternatively, if your loved one was an active member in the permanent forces (and, in some cases reserve members), the ADF may provide up to $12,500 to cover funeral costs.
TAC Funeral Assistance
If your loved one was the victim of a road accident, or their death involved a motor vehicle, the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) may offer assistance for covering the funeral costs. If the bereaved successfully applies for this funding, they could be eligible for a maximum of $16,410 towards the funeral. This includes burial, cremation, and monument costs.
Funeral Assistance for Victims of Crime
If your loved one’s passing was directly linked to a violent crime, the Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) can award funeral expenses for family members, as well unrelated individuals who incurred costs as a direct result of the primary victim’s death.
Funeral Help from WorkSafe Victoria
In Victoria, any person who has incurred medical, burial, or cremation expenses due to a work-related death may be eligible to claim those expenses through WorkSafe.
WorkSafe can pay up to $15,230 towards the costs of a burial or cremation service and a moderate gathering to honour and celebrate the life of your family member. The funds can be used to cover the costs of the following:
- Funeral director
- Cremation, coffin, grave site costs, or other fees associated with a burial
- Transport of your loved one to the funeral home, service, or gathering
- A simple identification plaque
- Other costs, such as flowers or a death certificate
- Newspaper obituary
WorkSafe may also pay up to $5120 for travel and accommodation expenses to help immediate family members attend the funeral if they live more than 100km away.
If your loved one was particularly active in the local community, you may find that their death has a broader impact than you may have expected. Under these circumstances, many communities can come together to help fund a memorial service to honour the positive impact a person had on society.
You may wish to consider approaching clubs, church groups, and members of the community to let them know what’s happened and ask for their support.
In recent years, crowdfunding has quickly grown in popularity with entire communities dedicated to raising money for worthy causes. Such communities and platforms can be used to fund funerals or memorials to honour the memory of one who has passed.
MyCause, for example, was Australia’s first crowdfunding platform. Running for over a decade, MyCause has a particular focus on medical and local community campaigns.
Another popular crowdfunding platform is GoFundMe. Featuring 0% platform fees for the organiser, this platform is a particularly good option for people with limited funds. GoFundMe has reported over 125,000 memorial campaigns, with over $400 million raised ever year for these causes.
Everyone Deserves a Dignified Remembrance
Here at Bethel Funerals, we understand that every person deserves a meaningful celebration of their life. Once you’ve explored your funeral assistance options, one of our directors would be happy to talk to you about tailoring a package that best suits your needs while respecting the wishes of your loved one.
For all enquiries about our services, we’re available 24 hours a day to help you make the preparations for a proper and dignified farewell.