Financial assistance for funerals
Funerals cost money, and the family may have trouble getting immediate access to funds when faced with an unexpected death, or when the deceased has no assets and the family, as the deceased’s next of kin, may be responsible for paying the funeral director.
The person who contacts the funeral director and orders the funeral is legally responsible for paying the funeral bills, although the money will usually come out of the deceased’s estate. If money is a problem, it is worth contacting a few funeral directors to ask about their basic funeral option and enquire about payment options. Banks and other financial institutions usually release funds from the estate of a deceased person to pay funeral expenses. Financial assistance may also be available from the institutions described below.
Centrelink should be notified as soon as possible after a death of a Centrelink recipient to ensure the payments are calculated correctly. Bereavement payments to pensioners and allowance recipients are different for each type of payment, and may be in the form of a lump sum and/or a continuation of a payment for a certain period. The Centrelink website has information about bereavement payments.
A pensioner whose pensioner partner dies can apply for a lump sum bereavement payment of up to the value of 14 weeks’ payment of the difference between the combined partnered rate the couple were paid and the single rate the survivor will be paid.
When a single pensioner dies, their estate will receive one more fortnightly payment.
Death of a spouse
A person with no dependent children whose spouse dies receives a bereavement allowance if they are not already receiving a pension or benefit. If they can satisfy the requirements of the normal pension assets and income tests, the allowance is payable for 14 weeks after the death of the spouse.
Carer payment recipients retain their pension for 14 weeks after the death of a pensioner in their care. They may also be entitled to a lump sum payment.
Death of a child
If a person was receiving Family Tax Benefit instalments for a child who has died, the Family Tax Benefit will continue for 14 weeks from the date of the child’s death. This can be paid as a lump sum or fortnightly instalments.
People not receiving Family Tax Benefit instalments for a child, but who may have been eligible for Family Tax Benefit, may receive a lump sum Bereavement Payment of Family Tax Benefit. Baby Bonus and Maternity Immunisation Allowance may also be payable for a young child.
Bereavement payments also apply where one member of a couple is a pensioner and their partner has been receiving an allowance for at least 12 months.
Department of Veterans’ Affairs
The surviving partner of a veteran who received a service pension is eligible for a lump sum bereavement payment equivalent to six fortnightly payments of the combined partnered rate service pension the couple were paid, less the surviving partner’s new single rate of pension. A funeral benefit of up to $2000 can be paid to assist with the funeral costs of an eligible veteran or dependant. A veteran surviving their partner receives the same payment in transition to the single pension rate.
In the case of a veteran who receives a disability pension, the bereavement payment is the equivalent of six pension instalments, at the rate paid before death or at the general rate, whichever is less.
Bereavement payments are not made following the death of a single disability pensioner. Their estate receives one extra payment of the service pension. A war widow’s pension ceases at the recipient’s death.
In cases of financial hardship, extra financial assistance may be available for funeral expenses in certain circumstances. Each case is individually assessed. The Department of Veterans’ Affairs can provide more information.
Local Health District
Local Health Districts may provide assistance to someone who is responsible for a funeral and claims financial hardship. The Local Health District has complete discretion about whether to grant assistance and, if so, to what amount. Any assistance will be provided after the funeral has taken place. Applications should be made to the Chief Executive of the Local Health District in a letter stating the applicant’s and the deceased’s assets, income and expenditure
Pensioner associations and registered clubs
Some associations and clubs, such as the Returned and Services League (RSL), may pay a small funeral benefit for members or people who need assistance following bereavement. You can apply to individual organisations to find out if you qualify.
It is worth inquiring if the union to which the deceased belonged will provide any benefits.
Health insurance schemes
Some health insurance schemes cover funeral benefits. The deceased person’s policy should be checked or the health insurance company contacted.
In some circumstances, agencies such as St Vincent de Paul or Anglicare may assist in a small way, or refer people to a funeral director prepared to discount the costs.
Banks may lend money to pay funeral costs. An application for a loan would
be considered on its merits, and commercial interest rates would apply. People
who apply for a loan need to know:
the precise rate of interest to be paid
exactly how much will have to be paid back
over what period of time the loan will continue.
Insurance: motor vehicle accidents
Relatives of a person who dies in a motor vehicle accident where the driver was not at fault should seek legal advice as to their rights. In such cases, relatives are entitled to claim funeral expenses from the other driver’s insurance company.
Rest Assured: a Legal Guide to Wills, Estates and Funerals in New South Wales, 5th edition, by Rosemary Long and Trudy Coffey. Published by The Federation Press, 2011.
Online edition published by the Legal Information Access Centre, State Library of NSW. The online version has been updated to reflect changes to the law. Last updated October 2014.
© Library Council of New South Wales, 2011.