What you need to know about funeral homes in Australia
Research by consumer advocate group Choice has discovered major issues with pricing practices among funeral homes in Australia. Choice investigative journalist Saimi Jeong found that funeral providers often fail to had over written cost information to clients, and even if they do the, there is rarely a breakdown of costs.
“We found large differences in costs for a direct cremation with no ceremony, with prices ranging from $1,200 to $5,600.”
“A White Lady funeral home quoted $5,600 for a direct cremation in our mystery shop. When we looked at the costs, over half of this was made up by an opaque ‘professional service fee’.”
“We saw unexplained price differences for services like body viewings. On one end of the scale a provider was charging $110 for people to view their loved ones, while another charged an outrageous $1,600,” says Ms Jeong.
“Many funeral homes are clearly charging inflated prices and profiting off a lack of price transparency. When you’re grieving, the last thing you need is the added stress of paying for expensive extras.”
With that in mind, it's more important than ever for families to be aware of the pricing tactics used by funeral homes, and learn about the funeral options that are actually available to them.
Be careful when getting quotes from funeral directors
When getting a quote from a funeral director, be prepared to get a very board ballpark figure, anywhere between $4000 and $8000. According to funeral home online comparison site Gathered Here, this figure only includes services that are payable to the funeral director, it does not include a headstone or cemetery fees.
A headstone, depending on size and the kind of stone, marble or metal it is made from, can cost between $750 for a simple grave marker and $12,000 for a double monument. You don’t have to let the funeral director choose where you get a headstone. In many cases, it can work out to be cheaper if you purchase it yourself.
When it comes to cemetery fees, you have to pay for ‘right of internment’ and an ‘internment fee’. The cost for ‘right of internment’ in places such as Sydney can start at $4000 but can increase up to tens of thousands of dollars depending on location. The cost of internment fees is influenced by the current cost of land. Internment fees range from $1500 to $3000. Sometimes you also need to pay for a grave liner, which is $500 to $1000.
It’s okay to shop around
While many funeral directors will put pressure on families to spend big to honour their loved ones, a dignified funeral needn’t use up an family’s entire life savings. While there are mandatory costs associated with death care, there are options you can opt out of, and choices you can make that will change pricing. Ask for an itemised price list from each funeral director before choosing to use their services. Keep in mind things such as condolence books and death notices aren’t as relevant today thanks to electronic communications and social media, and the cost of a hearse can be replaced by having an early coffin transfer in another form of transport such as a van.
What are your other options?
In Australia, a direct committal – a cremation or burial without a service – usually costs around $1500.
The number of cremations in Australia has been increasing for some time, and now make up 70 per cent of all funerals. According to Gathered Here, the average cost of a cremation, including fees, casket, transfer of the deceased, urn, viewing, a hearse, celebrant, death and cremation certificates is about $7,500. However, cremation fees can vary from $572 to $1,200. If you choose to bury the cremated remains in a cemetery, the internment fees are considerably cheaper than a traditional burial. However, this is not mandatory. If you choose to bury the remains, the cost jumps to around $11,920.
A Green Funeral
A Green Funeral makes as little impact upon the environment as possible. It involves burying the deceased at a green burial site in an environmentally conscious coffin, casket or shroud and burying the body without a grave liner or burial vault. The deceased are usually dressed in biodegradable clothing and are prepared without the use of chemical preservatives or disinfectants. Green burials may have a headstone, or a green headstone, and are usually directed by a specialist provider. In Australia it is not yet permitted to bury without any outer covering. The body is then buried in a specially designated green cemetery or bushland area where, rather than marking the grave with a large marble headstone, there is either no headstone or a natural marker (such as an engraved stone, tree or flowers). Sometimes the only marker will be satellite navigation coordinates. Finally, instead of requiring the body to be buried 6 feet under, green graves are dug at a depth of around 3 feet.
Green Funerals are growing in popularity as many people feel like they offer a more natural, traditional way to honour the deceased, without the commercial aspect of funeral directors. In Australia the typical cost for a Green Funeral falls between the cost of cremation and traditional burial.
How can you pay for a funeral?
You can pre-pay for a funeral, use superannuation, a funeral bond, take out a loan, apply for a government allowance or use funeral insurance to cover the costs. However, Australians have been warned off funeral insurance as the payouts often don’t compare to premiums paid, and largely perpetuate the idea that funerals should be large and expensive to be acceptable. According to The New Daily, the Financial Ombudsman Service receives hundreds of complaints every year relating to funeral insurers.
You might also like: