Have you ever wondered what happens if your family can't afford a funeral? Or what happens if there is no Next of Kin?
A 'pauper's funeral' is a common term for a respectful arrangement for someone who dies destitute without anyone to pay for their funeral.
We have put together this guide to paupers funerals to help Australians understand how a funeral can be paid when the family can't afford one.
Looking for funeral services in Melbourne? Look no further, Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals is here.
How Much Does a Funeral Cost?
First of all, it's essential to understand that funerals are expensive.
The Cost of Death report, published by Australian Seniors, reveals that almost a third (32%) of Australian families are left in financial hardship after paying for a funeral – and they take at least six months to recover from the debt.
The price of an average Australian funeral costs about $7,499, according to finder.com.au, and that price is expected to skyrocket past $16,000 in the next 15 years.
What Happens When Australians Die Alone?
A funeral is an essential time for family and friends to say goodbye to a loved one.
When someone dies alone, the authorities will make every effort to trace and notify their next kin before making arrangements for a simple state-funded funeral.
If a person had no family to claim them and had no money of their own, they would be laid in a coffin and given a simple cremation or burial in a shared or common grave.
Australian authorities have contracted funeral directors to arrange destitute funeral services on their behalf.
The authorities do their best to keep families informed about the funeral details to attend and say goodbye to their loved ones.
Sometimes, when they are traced, the deceased's relatives cannot cover the funeral costs.
In other cases, they may have been estranged and do not wish to take responsibility for arranging the person's funeral.
In such cases, the state or a government contractor will make the funeral arrangements.
State-funded funerals may also be arranged when a baby is stillborn in hospital, after the 20th week of the mother's pregnancy.
When a Person Dies With No Family or Next of Kin?
When a person dies with no next of kin to claim them in a hospital, the hospital will arrange for their burial or cremation.
Area health authorities may claim back funeral costs from someone's estate if they found that the person who died left assets or was next of kin could have met some or all of the expenses.
Sometimes, the authorities will call on the police to help them track down friends or relatives who may have been unaware of their death and circumstances and wish to arrange and pay for the funeral.
Outside of the Northern Territory, most so-called pauper's funerals take place at a crematorium unless a coroner has advised otherwise, or the person expressed in a will, or to family and friends, that they did not wish to be cremated when they died.
After the funeral, the plot number where the person, or their cremation ashes, are buried is noted for the public record, but these graves are generally left unmarked.
Australia's Department of Veterans' Affairs helps towards the funeral expenses of an ex-serviceman or woman who dies in impoverished circumstances.
What If Someone Dies With No Next of Kin or Known Identity?
When someone dies alone in Australia, the authorities will make every effort to track down and notify their relatives or friends who may not have been aware of the person's death.
The deceased's family or friends may not have been aware of their passing and may wish to arrange and pay for the funeral.
Sometimes when the Next of Kin is located, the relative may have been estranged and may not wish to take responsibility for arranging the person's funeral.
In those circumstances, or when the relatives cannot meet the funeral costs, a government contractor will make the funeral arrangements.
Australian authorities will do their best to keep families informed about the funeral details to attend if they wish.
What If a Person Dies in Hospital With No Family or Next of Kin?
When a person dies in hospital with no next of kin to claim them, the hospital will arrange the funeral on their behalf. If it is later found that the person who died left assets or that their Next of Kin could have met some, or all, of the costs, health authorities may claim back the funeral expenses from the estate.
When a baby is stillborn in hospital, a state-funded funeral may also be arranged after the 20th week of the mother's pregnancy.
Direct Cremation: an Affordable Funeral Option
For families seeking a low-cost funeral option, a 'direct cremation 'or 'simple cremation 'is the most affordable funeral option.
A direct cremation is a service to and affordably carry out the burial of a loved one separately to any funeral home or ceremony, with the ashes returned to the family.
Then, when the time is right, a personalised memorial can be arranged in line with the family's budget.
A direct cremation won't break the bank, and it also gives Australians a choice to plan a tailored end-of-life service themselves to ensure the memorial is reflective of the deceased's life.
Centrelink Lump Sum Bereavement Payment and Other Benefits
Australian citizens dealing with the loss of a partner may be eligible for Centrelink bereavement payments and other government assistance.
A Centrelink lump-sum payment can also help with funeral costs.
The Australian federal government provides several payments, financial support, and other services to help when a loved one dies.
These are administered through The Department of Human Services. The type and amount of bereavement payment you get will depend on your circumstances, relationship to the person who has died, and when you notify Centrelink about the person's death.
This can be done by calling Centrelink on 132 300 or filling out the Services Australia Advice of Death form available here.
Centrelink will then share the information with Medicare.
Australian residents are eligible for the following Centrelink bereavement payments:
If you currently receive a Partner Allowance and your spouse dies, you may be eligible to receive a further 14 weeks of their pension.
However, you will need to contact Centrelink and apply for another income support payment. You may also be eligible to receive a Centrelink lump sum bereavement payment (explained below).
Pension Bonus Bereavement Payment
A lump-sum payment may be available to the surviving partner of a Pension Bonus Scheme member who didn't successfully claim the Age Pension and Pension Bonus before they died.
If you provided additional daily care for someone who has died, you might be entitled to a further 14 weeks of pension following their death in a lump sum.
Double Orphan Pension
Provides help with the costs of caring for children who are orphans or unable to be cared for by their parents in certain circumstances. There is no income or assets test required.
Stillborn Baby Payment in the case of a stillbirth. Or call the Bereavement Line on 132 850 between 8 am and 5 pm Monday to Friday for further assistance.
Please Note: Centrelink entitlements can change without notice, so you should contact your nearest Centrelink office for further information on 132 300.
Department of Veterans Affairs
If your loved one was an ex-serviceman or woman who died in impoverished circumstances, Australia's Department of Veterans' Affairs could offer financial assistance towards the funeral costs.
If you think you may be eligible, you must notify the DVA as soon as possible after the death by going to the DVA website.
If you are the spouse, dependant or carer of a deceased person receiving a pension from the Department of Veterans Affairs, you may be eligible for a bereavement payment.
Typically, the benefit is a one-off payment of up to $2,000. In addition to funeral benefits for veterans, the DVA may also assist with pensions for war widowed partners and other fees.
Early Release of Your Super
You generally can't get your super before you reach your preservation age. However, in some circumstances, the law does allow you to access your super early.
These limited circumstances include specified compassionate grounds and severe financial hardship.
Paying for a funeral can be a time funds can be withdrawn if you meet specific criteria. Before considering this option, you should consult a financial planner for specific advice on your personal or financial situation.
For more information about the early release of superannuation due to severe financial hardship, contact your super fund.
Alternatively, some organisations assist you with these claims. Supercare is one such example.
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.
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 cannot 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.
Let Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals help you select the type of funeral service that best fits your needs and your budget.
Funeral Assistance Victoria
Not-for-profit funeral charity Bereavement Assistance provides dignified funeral services for low-income Victorians who have limited or no funds, where the alternative is a pauper's funeral at state expense.
Non-profit charity Bereavement Assistance provides funeral services for low-income people in Victoria, helping them meet the cost of a dignified funeral service and cremation where the alternative is a 'pauper burial' at state expense.
Funeral Assistance Queensland
In Queensland, if you are unable to pay for a funeral, you may be able to get funeral assistance by applying to the Queensland Magistrates Court or the Coroners Court of Queensland.
To be eligible, you must have confirmed that no other family members can pay for the funeral.
In Queensland, funeral assistance may be available to families when they cannot pay for the funeral of a loved one and have not already begun making funeral arrangements of their own.
The person must have died in Queensland, with no assets of their own to cover funeral costs.
Queensland's Department of Justice & Attorney-General oversees arrangements for a simple burial or cremation when a family applies for funeral assistance.
Funeral Assistance Northern Territory
In the Northern Territory, an application for a funeral service can be made to the Indigent Persons Funeral Scheme.
If the estate can't pay for funeral costs and the family cannot contribute, the Public Trustee can apply to the Coroner's Office for financial assistance under the Scheme.
An Indigenous funeral benefit also exists. Both the Northern Land Council and the Central Land Council have schemes to help with the funeral costs of an Aboriginal person who meets their criteria.
In the Northern Territory, an application for a funeral service can be made to the Indigent Persons Funeral Scheme.
Funeral Assistance Tasmania
In Tasmania, the Department of Health and Human Services manages a publicly funded direct cremation.
Tasmania provides an Essential Care Funeral Package to people who die unclaimed by relatives and with no money to cover the cost of their funeral.
The Essential Care Funeral Policy can arrange for the funeral and cover costs for a person whose estate and relatives cannot pay for one.
This program also arranges for people's funerals, where relatives are unable to pay. It stresses that this is not an assistance package for people on low incomes, although some states have means-tested support to help with funeral costs.
Funeral Assistance NSW
NSW offers destitute funerals to those who cannot pay for the funeral cost and whose friends and relatives are also unable to help with the funeral costs.
The service will be a basic funeral unless the deceased's next kin requests a burial. NSW Health administers this.
In New South Wales, the public or area health services arrange for the cremation or burial of someone who has died destitute.
In cases where families in difficult financial circumstances have already arranged and held a funeral for a loved one who died in similar hardship, they may be able to apply to Area Health Service for an ex-gratia ('out of goodwill') contribution to help with funeral costs.
However, bereaved families cannot make an ex-gratia claim for a contribution from the state if they were already offered a public health funeral service for their loved one and turned it down.
Funeral Assistance Western Australia
The Bereavement Assistance Program assists people who are unable to pay for the cost of a funeral. Applicants must also show that the family is not able to meet the expenses.
In Western Australia, the Bereavement Assistance Program assists WA residents who cannot pay for the cost of a funeral.
Like other state programs that help with funeral costs, applicants must also show that families cannot meet the costs.
Funeral Assistance South Australia
South Australian residents who cannot pay the costs for a funeral and have exhausted all other options may be eligible to arrange a funeral through Funeral Assistance SA.
In South Australia, a Funeral Assistance SA program may help low-income families unable to cover a loved one's funeral costs.
Subject to meeting the program's criteria, Funeral Assistance SA may cover the cost of a full contract cremation funeral, including a funeral service and floral coffin tribute.
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 dead.
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/spouses.
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.
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.
As new service options become available, many Australians take matters into their own hands and prepay their funeral to ensure they get the send-off they want.
These can be arranged with many funeral providers months or even years in advance.
By prepaying your funeral, Aussies can determine their wishes in advance and cover the costs ahead of time to take the burden off families later on.
Visit Peter Tziotzis Orthodox Funerals to know more about our prepaid funeral service and find the best funeral option for your unique situation.
The other advantage of prepaying is that you lock in today's price and ensure that your family has nothing left to pay, whether it's needed in 5, 10 or 50 years.