Funeral costs can be expensive, and there are any number of reasons why bereaved persons may not have adequate financial reserves to pay for a burial or cremation. The following financial support options are available depending on the personal and financial circumstances of the deceased, and of the person requesting help.
1. Court Order
When extreme hardship or other special circumstances exist, a 'Part 10' order can be issued by the State Coroner or a Magistrate.
This order may direct a cemetery trust to provide for the interment or cremation of the deceased person whose family is experiencing extreme hardship, or in other special circumstances at the Coroner or Magistrate's discretion. In making a determination, the Coroner or Magistrate must assess whether the deceased person and/or their immediate next of kin, wider family or friends have the capacity to pay for the funeral service. However, family or friends having a financial capacity to pay does not compel or otherwise create a legally binding case for them to pay.
A Part 10 Order is generally required to specify cremation over interment, but interment is readily specified based on cultural and/or religious request of the deceased (where known) or at the family's request. Part 10 Orders do not provide authority for the Coroner or Magistrate to include other matters such as a funeral ceremony, flowers or other items outside of the basic necessities.
For information about accessing a Part 10 Order, contact your funeral director.
2. Essential Care Funeral (ECF)
Administered by State Trustees
Under the Funerals Act 2006 (Vic), funeral directors can invoice State Trustees for up to $2,500 when a bereaved family is unable to finance a burial or cremation in circumstances where the deceased (or the bereaved) had minimal assets, and where the Estate is held in the State of Victoria. Where the assets held by the deceased are difficult to assess at time of death, but where the family lacks the means to pay for burial or cremation, State Trustees may support the $2,500 ECF payment.
The basic grant covers the essentials in an appropriate manner with a no-service burial or cremation without memoralisation, at an available location, though not always the preferred location for the bereaved. Some additional funding may be available to pay for additional, essential expenses including costs associated with certain cultural or religious requirements .
For information about accessing Essential Care Funerals, talk to State Trustees.
3. Bereavement support
Administered by Centrelink
The Centrelink bereavement payment is a means tested benefit for people already in a Centrelink benefit scheme, including carers payment, Newstart, sole parent payment and other benefits. The benefit is usually in the order of about $2,000.
Centrelink payments following a death range from direct payment to assist with “adjustment” (including the costs of managing the death) through to a payment of $63 per fortnight for the carer when both parents are deceased (or otherwise unavailable). Centrelink also provides up to 18 weeks’ parental pay for eligible partners following a stillbirth.
4. Community support
In recent years, crowdfunding communities have been utilised to raise money for funerals and memorials. One Australian crowd-funding platform has reported supporting 125,000 memorial campaigns, raising around $400m per year. Families or loved ones may set up a page to collect donations from community members to cover the cost of a funeral.
Philanthropic support is also available in certain cases. For example, the Rebecca Jane Foundation, based in Mitcham, was set up by Robyn O’Connell, a funeral celebrant and credit union director, 39 years after the loss of her 9-month baby daughter, to support families with funeral costs.
5. Other options
The Transport Accident Commission (TAC) covers funeral, burial and cremation expenses when someone dies in a road accident or in an incident involving a motor vehicle. This scheme was recently expanded to include cyclists. The bereaved is required to apply for this funding, which may be up to approximately $14,000.
The Victims of Crime Assistance Tribunal (VOCAT) will award funeral and other expenses to the bereaved in the event of the death of a victim of crime. The Tribunal must be satisfied that a violent crime has occurred and that the death was directly linked to the criminal actions. VOCAT will generally rely on information provided by Victoria Police to satisfy itself that a violent crime has taken place and will also consider whether other entitlements through agencies such as TAC and WorkSafe have been exhausted.
Any person who has incurred medical, burial or cremation expenses as a result of the work-related death of a worker in Victoria is eligible to claim for such reasonable expenses through Worksafe.
Many superannuation funds provide life insurance cover that includes death or trauma support, even if the person is not working at the time of death, so long as the account (and therefore the policy) remains active. The bereaved financial dependent or the Executor would need to make the application.