What Happens When a Family Can’t Afford a Funeral?

Losing a loved one is really tough. But the situation can become even more troublesome if you can’t afford a funeral. Below we’ll explain what happens when a family can’t afford a funeral.

There is no way to sugarcoat this: funerals in Australia are not on the cheap side. Although there are no set fees for funerals, the total funeral costs of a traditional burial on average can range from $7000 to $15000 while a cremation can cost anywhere between $3000 and $7000. These figures can go even higher, depending on your local cemetery fees and regulations.

The funeral fees usually cover the essentials, including logistics, death certificate, filing notices and permits, etc. If you’re looking for anything extravagant, like a metal casket, viewings, special celebrant/clergy or exotic flower arrangement, you may have to shell out a lot more money.

In most cases, the person who arranges the funeral, whether it is a friend or family member, has to sign a contract with the funeral director. The cost of the funeral may be retrieved from the estate of the deceased if there is no funeral insurance in place. However, if there is not enough money in their estate, the person who signs the funeral contract is legally responsible for paying for the funeral.

‘Although there is no legal obligation on next of kin to arrange or pay for the funeral of a deceased relative, they are obliged to provide personal details of the deceased to the contracted funeral director so that the death can be registered.’

So, What Happens When a Family Can’t Afford a Funeral?

Families that can’t afford a funeral don’t have to stress out as they can access several financial assistance options to cover the immediate funeral costs of their loved one. These include:

Government Assistance With Funeral Costs

Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for government funeral assistance if you can’t afford a funeral.

There are several government schemes and programs you can access, including:

  • bereavement allowance
  • bereavement payment
  • widow allowance
  • pension bonus bereavement payment
  • as well as non-financial support and assistance.


You will have to contact your nearest magistrates court or find out more from a legal counsel on how to apply for funeral assistance.

State Assistance With Funeral Costs

Many state governments also help families in need cover the cost of a loved one’s funeral. To access these state funeral assistance funds, you may be required to prove that you are unable to pay for the funeral costs.

In some cases, even if you successfully apply for state funeral assistance, you may be required to contribute a percentage of the funeral expenses, which is usually about 50 per cent.

Releasing Funds From the Bank

If your loved one has money in the bank, you can get in touch with the financial institution to release the funds to help pay for the deposit and remaining invoice of the funeral.

‘You will need to contact the deceased's bank and provide your identification to confirm your relationship to the deceased. The bank may also require you to complete documents, provide a copy of the death certificate, the deceased's will or an invoice from the funeral director before they will release any money.’

Using Superannuation and Life Insurance

You can pay for a funeral using superannuation or life insurance if previously taken out. This is one of the most common ways most families in Australia cover the relevant costs of burying their loved ones. Super funds let individuals nominate who their super is given to after death or is automatically ascribed to dependents/spouse.

The only downside is that it usually takes some time before this money is disbursed (generally between one and six months). So you may have to pay the burial costs upfront and be reimbursed once it is approved.

Additionally, you may even be able to access your own Super on compassionate grounds to help pay for the associated funeral costs.

Prepaid Funerals

To help ensure you get a preferred burial after passing, some people have begun paying for their funerals beforehand. Prepaid funerals also help alleviate any financial burden placed on family members at an already difficult time.

In this case, they create a funeral plan which includes details of how they want their funeral to play out. Next, they pay the money into a funeral fund and this is paid directly to the funeral director after they pass on.


Worried you can’t afford a funeral of someone dear to you? Or want to plan ahead for your family? Talk to us about our prepaid funerals.