How to arrange a funeral in Australia? Organising a loved one’s funeral service can be a daunting task, particularly for those who have never had to do so before. The process is unfamiliar territory for most and it is natural that bereaved families will have a lot of questions.

We want to assure any families going through the process of arranging a funeral that no question is stupid or inappropriate. Here are answers to some of the most common questions we are asked…

When someone dies

Whether a death occurs at home, in hospital or in a public place, the first person who should be contacted is generally the person’s doctor. A doctor must certify that death has occurred. Normally funeral arrangements cannot be completed until the doctor has signed and issued a Death Certificate. The Funeral Director can then take the deceased into their care.

In Australia the great majority of deaths occur in hospital or other care facilities, in which case those authorities take care of the medical formalities.

In certain instances it may not be legally possible for the doctor to issue a Death Certificate and there is necessity for police and coronial involvement. We would advise that you contact the relevant authorities for full details as regulations do vary from state to state.

The funeral arrangement

The funeral arrangement is the initial meeting you have with the funeral director and can be at their offices or in your home, whichever you prefer.

In most instances, the Next of Kin is responsible for arranging the funeral of the deceased, for example: spouse, child, parent, legal partner or sibling.

In the instance of dispute, where it is known a Will exists, the arbiter of arrangements is deemed to be the nominated Executor. The Executor may in his/her discretion appoint a person to make necessary arrangements with a Funeral Director.

Such occasions however, are infrequent and most arrangements are made by the Next of Kin. In some cases authorities in institutions where a person may not have any known relatives may need to make necessary arrangements. This is usually done by the Social Worker or another authorised officer.

The Timeframe

The length of time between death and the funeral service can vary depending on your instructions but it is generally 2-5 days. Importantly it will take as long as you need. There is no need to feel rushed. Allow enough time for out-of-town guests to make travel arrangements to attend the service. Family and friends should also have enough time to read the death & funeral notice in newspapers and arrange for time off from work. If the death has been referred to the Coroner, it may be necessary to factor in their requirements before a funeral can take place.

The standard timeframe to arrange a funeral service from the time of the appointment with the funeral director is 3-5 working days (except in special circumstances).However, it is important to remember that there is generally no need to rush this process.

When someone dies, we often feel a great need to do something. In our shock we try to regain control by organising things. However, it’s important to allow yourself time to be with your family to talk, cry and share memories.

Rushing arrangements may impair your ability to think clearly and you may end up with more pressure on yourself. While you should contact your funeral director as soon as your loved one passes away, the appointment to go through the paperwork can be made for 24-48 hours later.

Before planning the funeral service

Before planning the funeral service, you may need to do the following.

  • Contact a doctor and obtain a Medical Certificate for Cause of Death2
  • Notify friends, relatives, and other parties about the death
  • Check whether your loved one has made any requests about their funeral and burial
  • Check for financing options, including your loved one’s funeral funds and insurance policies

The paperwork

If you are the executor, next of kin or other authorised representative, you may be asked to sign some or all of the following documents. A funeral director will help you with all of these if needed.

  • Application for Cremation / Burial
  • Authorisation of Embalming or Hygienic Preparation
  • Application for Permit to Cremate (for cremation only)Certificate of Identification
  • Form: Funeral Contract
  • Form: Contract for payment
  • Death Registration Form (Registry of Births, Deaths and Marriages)
  • Relevant Statutory Declaration/s

The Funeral Director

The role of a funeral director is to provide a very special service and ensure the wishes of the family and the deceased are filled. A funeral director advises on and arranges all the details that make up a funeral service.

If you’re working with a funeral director, they’ll be able to help you with making a decision on many of the following considerations.

  • Burial or cremation – Decide whether it will be a burial or cremation and ensure that you have the necessary documents prepared.1
  • Embalming – Check whether embalming is required or appropriate.1
  • Choose a venue – Find a venue or location (such as a cemetery or church) for the service and choose a time and date.
  • Choose a burial plot – If there will be a burial, you’ll need to find a burial plot in a cemetery.
  • Clothing and accessories – For burials, decide on what your loved one will wear and the accessories they will have (if any).
  • Arrange for the gravestone – For burials, obtain quotes from monumental masons for the gravestone or memorial, and then choose a gravestone.
  • Coffin or casket – For burials, choose a coffin or casket for the deceased.
  • Find a crematorium – If the deceased requested a cremation, obtain quotes from crematoriums.
  • Choose an urn – For cremations, choose a cremation urn and decide what to do with the ashes.
  • Choose the pallbearers – If there will be a burial, choose the pallbearers and contact them with instructions.
  • Type of service – Decide on the type of service, music and multimedia (such as photo slide show or videos), and floral arrangements and decorations.
  • Officiating person – Choose a minister, celebrant, or other officiating person to conduct the funeral service.
  • Eulogies – Speak to family and friends about making eulogies.
  • Casket and viewing – Decide on whether it will be an open-casket or a closed-casket service, and whether there will be a viewing.
  • Memorial cards – Organise memorial cards for guests at the service.
  • Transportation – Arrange transportation to and from the funeral service for friends and family.
  • Invitations – Notify all guests about the time and place of the service and the wake.
  • Catering – Arrange for catering and refreshments at the service and the wake.
  • Death notices – Arrange for death notices in local publications, whether online or offline.
  • Donations – If your loved one was involved in causes, you could arrange for guests to make donations instead of flowers and gifts.

The responsibilities of a funeral director include:

  • Arrange all matters requested by the family taking into consideration the legal, social, cultural and religious considerations relating to the deceased and to the mourners.
  • Transportation of the deceased from the place of death to the mortuary.
  • Preparation of the deceased
  • Collation of certificates from hospital or doctor’s surgeryCompletion of statutory requirements
  • Preparation and insertion of newspaper noticesContact with clergy or funeral celebrant
  • Organise bookings at the venue, church, cemetery and/or crematoriumOfficially register the death
  • Obtain copies of the death certificate
  • Organise all details of the funeral service, including the supply of vehicles and pall bearers
  • Advise on religious and ceremonial requirements in relation to the funeral service and to visitation and other customs prior to, during and after the funeral.

Burial or Cremation

The number of people in Australia choosing to be cremated is steadily increasing. Whilst there is some variance between states and territories, cremations now outnumber burials. Cremation funerals are much higher in city areas where crematory facilities are available. Rural and remote regions predominate in burials.

People have a choice of either burial or cremation. In certain cultures cremation is not favoured (or may be prohibited within the relevant faith belief). In other cultures the opposite may occur with cremation being the custom, for example, in the Hindu tradition.

Ultimately, this decision is a matter of personal choice. Future trends may see higher instances of cremation due to increasing limits on cemetery space within or convenient to population centres.

The Location

Traditionally, a service is held at the funeral homes private chapel or at the cemetery. However, a funeral service can be held in almost any location provided the appropriate permits are sought. Your funeral director will seek permission and make the arrangements on your behalf.

This is a wonderful way of personalising the service and creating a celebration or tribute that will be remembered for many years to come. Our member funeral directors have conducted services on the beach, in a sportsground, at a family home, on a golf course, in a garden setting, on a boat, and other public areas.

The Costs

The obvious and understandable question, like building a house – the answer could be almost limitless. There are certain necessary inclusions and certifications required, some of which have fixed costs, some of which are negotiable.

The concept of cremation being much less in cost than burial may not always be the case if the family already have a licence/lease for a grave which has allowed provision for further interments, in which case reopening and digging fees would apply.

As a guide the cost of a funeral is categorised under three main areas:

  • professional service fees which incorporates all the tasks and services involved in arranging, planning and conducting a funeral including legal requirements
  • disbursements which are the costs a funeral director pays for on your behalf for services offered by a third party such as flowers, catering, newspaper notices, etc
  • coffin or casket choice.


About eziFunerals

eziFunerals supports individuals and families cope with end of life decisions, death and funerals. We are an independent, Australian-owned and operated company. We are not part of any other funeral company.

Our member Funeral Directors are chosen for their knowledge, quality, service, personalisation and experience. They go above and beyond, and will take the time to support the family.

For more information or to make contact with a trusted Independent funeral director, call eziFunerals on 1300 236 402 or visit

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Peter Erceg is the Owner and Founder of eziFunerals. He has had a long history within the funeral industry, and is a published author of ‘What Kind Of Funeral: A self help guide to planning a meaningful funeral’. Prior to eziFunerals, Peter worked in the public sector and health industry for more than 30 years. The views and opinions expressed on posts are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of eziFunerals and members.