For some, the thought of planning your own funerals can be sad. But the key thing to remember is that it doesn’t have to be. Rather, it’s a way for you to make important decisions and arrangements yourself, saving your family the emotional burden.

What sort of service do you want? Would you prefer to be buried or cremated? What music would you like to be played? Who should give the eulogy? Do you want to pay for the service now? These are just some of the questions you need to think about.

When many people think about funeral pre-planning, their mind immediately jumps to the conclusion that it means they have to pay for arrangements upfront. But that’s not necessarily the case.

Yes, you can pre-pay for a funeral during your lifetime. But there are other pre-planning options that are also worth considering.

You may wish to pre-plan your funeral and leave the payment to be dealt with at the time of need. Or, if you’re concerned about enough money being available at the time of your death to pay for your funeral, there are a number of different financial options available.

Here’s a rundown of some of your options.

Pre-planned funerals

When you pre-plan your funerals, there’s no money involved. You simply document what you want for your funeral service.

Some of the decisions you’ll need to make include:

  • When and where will the funeral be held?
  • Will there be a burial or cremation?
  • Will there be a coffin or a casket?
  • Who will attend the service?
  • What vehicles will be required?
  • What flowers are preferred?
  • Will music be incorporated into the service?
  • Is an order of service booklet required?
  • Will there be a tribute presentation?
  • Who will give the eulogy?
  • Will the funeral be advertised in the newspaper or online?
  • Will there be an after funeral gathering?
  • What sort of memorialisation will there be?

Case study: Mary pre-plans her funeral

Mary’s best friend, Sandra, recently died. Her death was unexpected and Mary saw the emotional toll the funeral planning process took on Sandra’s family. It was hard for them to make choices for her service at a time when they were struggling to come to terms with her sudden death.

Mary doesn’t want her family to go through the same thing should the worst happen to her, so she’s decided to pre-plan her funeral. She knows her estate will be able to cover the funeral costs, but she wants to make sure her family and friends know what she has in mind for her final send off.

Known for her bright and bubbly personality, Mary wants the service to reflect this. So she’s picked happy music, bright flowers and has made a special request that no one wears black to the service. Mary has recorded all her choices and has nominated her funeral director of choice. She’s also provided a copy to her family and her solicitor.

While Mary understands that some people might think pre-planning your own funeral is a bit morbid, she wants to be realistic. She now feels more comfortable that her family will not carry the same emotional burden as Sandra’s did when it comes time to plan her funeral.

Pros of pre-planned funerals

  • You will have the peace of mind of knowing that your affairs are in order
  • It’s a way to let your family and friends know what you want for your service and make your wishes known
  • You have time to do your research and make informed choices about all the options available
  • You are taking a heavy burden away from your loved ones during their time of grief by making many of the big decisions about your service for them
  • You can provide the information needed for registration of your death, some of which your family may not know It can help to stop any potential misunderstandings or disagreements among family and friends when it comes to planning your service.

Cons of pre-planned funerals

  • You need to update your details and choices as and when circumstances change (for example, when you move or change doctors)
  • Those organising the funeral may feel your decisions are locked in and they’re unable to make personal choices that will help them mourn. But you can make it clear that while you have identified your preferences, they can also contribute elements.

The Walter Carter Funerals team can step you through the pre-planning process and help you record all your funeral choices. We can keep a copy of your choices on file or you may choose to provide a copy to a family member, friend, solicitor or the executor of your will.

By nominating Walter Carter Funerals as your funeral home of choice, we can ensure your family is aware of your pre-planned choices and provide them with the care, support and reassurance they need ahead of the funeral.

Pre-paid funerals

Put simply, a pre-paid funeral is a pre-planned funeral that’s paid for in advance. You arrange the funeral service you want at today’s prices – so, subject to any specific provisions in the pre-paid funeral contract, your funeral plan will not be affected by any future price rises.

A pre-paid funeral takes an enormous emotional and financial burden away from your family. It’s one less thing for them to deal with at a difficult time.

When you pre-pay for a funeral, your money is in safe hands. While your pre-paid funeral contract is between you and Walter Carter Funerals, the money you pay under the pre-paid contract is held independently. The contract can be taken out by a single person or in joint names, and the money is securely invested and capital guaranteed. You can also take out an optional travel protection plan to help protect against the potentially significant costs of transportation from the place of death to the funeral home.

We will hold a copy of your pre-paid funeral contract for you. You should also keep a copy in a safe place and let a family member, friend or the executor of your will know where it is.

Walter Carter Funerals has a long association with Funeral Plan Management, which is part of the Australian Unity Group. Funeral Plan Management ensure all money paid under any pre-paid contract is properly invested and safeguarded in accordance with the Funeral Funds Act 1979 until it is needed.

Case study: David pre-pays for his funeral

David is in a long-term, committed relationship with his partner Julian – but unfortunately, David’s family has never accepted the relationship. When David was diagnosed with terminal cancer, they decided to enter into a pre-paid contract for David’s funeral.

Both David and Julian have firm ideas for David’s funeral service, but are concerned that David’s family will not allow Julian to be part of the planning process when the time comes.

By having the pre-paid contract in place detailing all David’s choices for his funeral and paying the associated cost, they both have the peace of mind of knowing that everything is locked into place and the nominated funeral director will ensure David’s wishes are carried out.

Both David and Julian feel that a big emotional and financial burden has been lifted and they can focus on making the most of the time they have left together.

Pros of pre-paid funerals

  • Costs are fixed, so you can pre-pay for the funeral you want at today’s prices
  • Your money is securely invested in compliance with strict government guidelines
  • You make the choices you want for your funeral
  • You can pay in a lump sum or by instalments. If you pay by instalments, you have up to three years to pay in full (conditions apply)
  • You’re not locked into a particular funeral director. The pre-paid contract is transferable
  • A pre-paid funeral can be cheaper than a funeral bond or funeral insurance if you live longer than another five to 10 years
  • The amount you pay for the pre-paid contract will be exempt from any asset and income means testing when assessing eligibility for the aged pension.

Cons of pre-paid funerals

  • If you change your mind about the pre-paid funeral during the cooling-off period, you’ll generally forfeit the administrative set-up fee
  • If you pay in instalments, the pre-paid contract is not claimable until the final payment is made. This means if you die before the contract is paid in full, any funeral costs will be payable at current prices less the amounts already paid against the pre-paid contract.

Funeral bonds

A funeral bond is a capital guaranteed investment product that can help you save specifically for funeral expenses. It can be a useful way to save for your funeral without having to decide upon all the arrangement details. It is a type of policy whereby the benefit becomes payable upon death and must be used to meet the costs of your funeral expenses.

A funeral bond offers you the flexibility to nominate (or assign your funeral bond to) a funeral director in conjunction with a pre-paid contract. Alternatively, you may invest in a funeral bond with the option of nominating a funeral director at a later date.

At Walter Carter Funerals, we work with Funeral Plan Management to provide funeral bonds.

Case study: John gets a funeral bond

When he decided to retire at the age of 65, John wanted to get his finances in order. In addition to sorting out his will and other paperwork, he decided to make arrangements to pay for his funeral.

John doesn’t want to think about the details of the funeral itself, so he’s decided to purchase a funeral bond with some of his retirement savings. He believes the investment will grow over time and if he lives another 15 years the bond will cover all of his funeral costs.

John was happy for his family to assign the bond to a funeral director of their choice at the time of his death. He now feels satisfied that he’s crossed funeral costs of his planning list and his family won’t have to worry about them.

Pros of funeral bonds

  • The amount you pay for the bond will be exempt from any asset and income means testing when assessing eligibility for the aged pension
  • The bond keeps your funeral money separate from other accounts and investments
  • As an investment, your savings will generally grow over time. Be sure to read the Product Disclosure Statement carefully before taking out the bond
  • You don’t need to make decisions about funeral inclusions
  • You are not locked into using a particular funeral director
  • You can pay for the cost of your bond in a lump sum or by instalments.

Cons of funeral bonds

  • If you pay in instalments and die before the bond is paid in full, only the amount paid into the bond up to the date of your death will be payable (as well as any interest earned)
  • Investment returns on the bond may not keep up with inflation
  • A bond will not lock in funeral costs at today’s prices
  • You may not be entitled to a refund if you decide to discontinue with the bond.

Getting started

The Walter Carter Funerals team can step you through the pre-planning process and help you record all your funeral choices. We can keep a copy of your choices on file or you may choose to provide a copy to a family member, friend, solicitor or the executor of your will.

By nominating Walter Carter Funerals as your funeral home of choice, we can ensure your family is aware of your pre-planned choices and provide them with the care, support and reassurance they need ahead of the funeral.

Recording your funeral choices

We’ve put together the My funeral choices form, which sets out the choices and decisions you need to consider when planning your funeral.

You can fill in the form online. Once completed, a copy will automatically be emailed to you.

Alternatively, if you would prefer to fill in a hard copy, email enquiries@waltercarter.com.au and we’ll send one to you.

Want to know more?

If you would like more information about your funeral planning options, please contact the Walter Carter Funerals team by emailing enquiries@waltercarter.com.au.