Everything you need to know

Do you have questions about funerals? Maybe you want to know more about coping with grief? Walter Carter Funerals can help you find the answers you need.

After a death

What happens when someone dies at home?
When someone dies at home, the first person you should contact is the deceased’s doctor. They’ll issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. The next person to contact, after family and friends, is your funeral home of choice.
What happens when someone dies at a hospital?
When someone dies at a hospital, the hospital will arrange for a doctor to issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. It’s generally up to the family to contact a funeral home.
What happens when someone dies at an aged care facility?
When someone dies in an aged care facility, the staff at the facility will arrange for a doctor to issue the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death. At many aged care facilities, it’s common that a funeral home has been nominated in advance. If this is the case, the facility will contact the nominated funeral home. If one hasn’t been nominated, it’s up to the family to contact their funeral home of choice.
What happens when someone dies overseas or interstate?

When someone dies overseas or interstate, you may wish to bring them home for their final farewell. This is called repatriation. At Walter Carter Funerals, we can make all the necessary arrangements.

When will the deceased be transferred to the funeral home?
Once the doctor has issued the Medical Certificate of Cause of Death, or has indicated their intention to do so, the funeral home can arrange to transfer the body of the deceased into their care.
When is the Coroner needed?

If the doctor is unable to certify the cause of death, the police will be contacted. The police will then liaise with the Coroner. Instances where this may happen include where the death:

  • is not by natural causes (including by accident or due to violence)
  • occurs while under anaesthetic (or within 24 hours thereafter)
  • is unexpected
  • occurs in an institution, while in prison or police custody, or at a drug or alcohol rehabilitation centre
  • is someone diagnosed with dementia.

Coronial staff or a government-appointed funeral company will transfer the body to the Coroner’s Office. The Coroner will conduct an autopsy to establish the cause of death. Where the deceased has been diagnosed with dementia, this may not be deemed necessary following police investigation.

How soon should the funeral be held?

There is no set time period within which you need to hold a funeral. It can vary depending on the funeral arrangements you want to put in place and the circumstances of the death. The important thing is that you take the time you need – there is no need to feel rushed. However, it should be noted, that some religions require the funeral and/or burial to occur within a specified timeframe. If there is some delay, preservation work on the body may be required.

Who should I notify about the death?
When someone dies, it will generally be necessary to notify a variety of government departments and other businesses and organisations. We have put together a Notification Checklist to help you identify who you may need to contact.
How do I get a death certificate?

Certified death certificates are issued by the NSW Registry of Births, Deaths & Marriages. At Walter Carter Funerals, we register the death electronically on behalf of the family or executor. This normally occurs the next working day after the funeral. Once the death is registered, the Registry will issue a formal Death Certificate.

Arranging a funeral

Why is it important to have a funeral?

Funerals help us say goodbye. They help us to begin to acknowledge the reality that someone in our life has died. According to Alan D Wolfelt PhD – a respected author, educator and consultant to the funeral industry – when we experience the death of someone we love, a funeral serves to satisfy a number of needs:

  • The need to acknowledge the reality of death
  • The need to move toward the pain of loss
  • The need to remember the person who died
  • The need to develop a new self identity
  • The need to search for meaning
  • The need to receive ongoing support from others.

 

Who is responsible for arranging a funeral?
In most instances, the responsibility for arranging a funeral falls to the next of kin. In those instances where there is a dispute and a Will exists, the arbiter of the arrangements is deemed to be the executor. In those instances where the deceased does not have any known relatives, a relevant authority will be called upon to make the arrangements.
Who is responsible for paying for a funeral?
If you arrange a funeral you are responsible for ensuring payment of the expense, so it’s best to first check where the money is coming from and whether there will be enough to cover the relevant expenses.
How much does a funeral cost?
The costs for a funeral fall into two categories: funeral director’s costs and disbursements. The total cost will depend upon the type of funeral service you choose. Each funeral service is unique and is planned to meet the particular needs of the family, so it’s difficult to provide a ‘typical cost’ for a ‘typical funeral’.
What is the difference between a funeral and a memorial service?
A traditional funeral is usually held within a few days of the death and the body is generally present. It is usually held at a funeral home, religious place of worship, at a chapel at the cemetery or crematorium, or by the graveside. A memorial service, on the other hand, is usually held more than a few days after the death and the body is generally not present. It can be held anywhere of personal significance.
Where can the funeral service be held?
A funeral is very personal. It should reflect the personality and beliefs of the person who has died. The funeral service may be held in its entirety at one location or may be held in two parts (for example, at a church and then at a graveside).
Can I participate in the funeral service?
Yes, of course. At Walter Carter Funerals, we encourage family and friends to participate in the funeral service. There are lots of different ways you can participate – delivering a reading or eulogy, acting as a pallbearer, forming a guard of honour, decorating the coffin and more. Participating in the service allows you to express your feelings. Talk to your funeral director about the options.
How do I choose a funeral director?

Every funeral home is different, as is every family. So when you’re choosing a funeral director you should ask yourself:

  • Where is the funeral home located? A local funeral home will likely be more convenient when making arrangements and may cut down on some costs (such as transfer charges).
  • What is the range and cost of services? A funeral is a very personal thing, so you need to be sure that the funeral home you select will be able to cater for your choices and will be transparent regarding costs.
  • Does the funeral home come highly recommended? Recommendations from doctors, clergy, family and friends can be a good yardstick when making your choice.
  • Does the funeral home’s style fit with that of you and your family? The quality of service and amount of information provided is important when selecting a funeral home. So it’s helpful to look at the funeral home’s website and their other resources when making your decision.
  • Is the funeral home a member of the Australian Funeral Directors Association? The AFDA is the only national professional association for funeral directors. Members adhere to a strict Code of Ethics and Code of Conduct designed to meet both community needs and expectations in all aspects of service delivery. Walter Carter Funerals is an AFDA member.

 

What does a funeral director do?
There are few services you will need that are as sensitive or as personal as those provided by a funeral director. Their role starts from the moment they are called after someone dies, and doesn’t end until the wishes and needs of the family are met. From transferring the deceased to the funeral home and consulting with the family about funeral arrangements to preparing the body and attending the service, the list of tasks a funeral director is called upon to carry out is extensive.
Can you help me find a minister or celebrant for the funeral service?
It’s your choice who should lead the funeral service. It could be a member of the clergy or a celebrant – or even a family member or friend. We can work with the person you choose or, if necessary, introduce you to someone who can assist with the service.
What is the difference between a coffin and a casket?
The terms coffin and casket are often used interchangeably, however they are not the same thing. The shape of a coffin typically resembles the shape of a body – wide at the shoulders and tapered at the head and foot – and they are generally made from materials such as particleboard, customwood and solid wood. A casket, on the other hand, is rectangular in shape and is usually constructed from better quality materials such as solid timber or metal.
What is a eulogy?
A eulogy is a speech or presentation given at a funeral or memorial service. It celebrates and pays tribute to the life of the deceased, and can be delivered by a family member, a friend, or the officiating clergy or celebrant.
What should be included in a eulogy?

Being asked to deliver a eulogy is a great honour, but it can also be quite daunting. We’ve put together some helpful tips to get you started. Of course, you can also always speak to one of our funeral consultants at Walter Carter Funerals for advice.

What is an Order of Service?
An Order of Service is a program for the funeral and is given to everyone who attends the service. It acts as a guide during the service and is generally personalised with your choice of photos, readings, wording, prayers, text and thank-you messages. At Walter Carter Funerals, we have an exclusive memorial range that you can personalise to suit your needs.
What music should I choose?
The music you choose for a funeral is a very personal choice. If your loved one had a favourite song, you might like to consider including it in the service. You can also use music to remind guests of a certain time in the deceased’s life, a meaningful relationship or to leave them with a special thought or message. If the funeral is a religious service, tradition may dictate the type of music or specific songs that should be included or excluded from the service.
What flowers should I choose?

Though you can have any type of flowers or style of arrangement at a funeral or memorial service, there are some that are more common than others. Traditional arrangements include:

  • Casket sprays, which sit atop the coffin or casket
  • Standing sprays, which may be in the form of bouquets, wreaths, hearts, crosses or other shapes
  • Bouquets or a number individual blooms in baskets or vases.

 

What do different flowers symbolise?

Unsure about what flowers to send to a funeral? Before you tell the florist to “put something nice together”, take a moment to consider what your flowers are actually saying:

  • Lilies
    White lilies – Purity
    Stargazer lilies – Sympathy
    Oriental lilies – Eternal life
  • Roses
    White roses – Reverence, humility, innocence and youthfulness
    Red roses – Respect, love and courage
    Pink roses – Love, grace, appreciation and gentility
    Dark crimson roses – Grief and sorrow
    Yellow roses – Friendship and strong ties
  • Carnations
    Pink carnations – Gratitude, remembrance and a mother’s enduring love
    Red carnations – Yearning and true love
    White carnations – Purity, faithfulness and innocence
  • Tulips
    Yellow tulips – Cheerfulness
    White tulips – Forgiveness
    Purple tulips – Royalty
    Red tulips – Perfect love
  • Orchids
    No matter what the colour, they say “I will always love you”
  • Chrysanthemums
    The meaning of their colours varies globally, but overall they’re seen to express grief, sadness, sincerity and loyalty.

 

Burial

Why should I choose burial versus cremation?
The choice of burial or cremation is a deeply personal one. In some instances, the deceased’s religious or cultural background may dictate how their body is to be treated after death. Equally, the deceased may have made their preference clear prior to the death. In Australia today the number of people choosing cremation is steadily on the rise. While there is some variance from area to area, the number of cremations now outnumbers burials.
Is burial more expensive than cremation?
Costs will vary depending upon the arrangements you put in place for the funeral service, however burial will generally cost more than cremation – particularly if you don’t already have access to a burial space and need to purchase one.
What is the difference between earth burial and interment in a mausoleum?
An earth burial, as the name suggests, is where the coffin or casket is buried in the ground. A monument or marker is generally placed at the site. Mausoleums are above ground. They are structures that contain concrete or stone crypts in which the coffin or casket is placed and then sealed.

Cremation

What is cremation?
Cremation is the process of reducing a deceased human body to ash using high heat and flame. It’s a process that has been practised throughout human history and is an alternative to traditional earth burial or entombment.
Is a coffin or casket required?
Yes. Crematoriums require the body to be housed in a suitable container for the cremation process.
How long does a cremation take?
The time it takes to cremate depends on a number of factors, including body mass, bone density and the materials from which the coffin or casket is made. The average time the cremation part of the process takes is 90 minutes at a temperature of 800 to 1000 degrees Celcius. From insertion to final cooling, the entire process may take up to four hours.
Is more than one person cremated at the same time?
No. Only one person is ever cremated at a time. The exception to this rule may be in the case of a mother and baby, or twin children.
How do I know I’m getting the right ashes?
You can rest assured that the ashes you receive are those of your loved one. Crematoriums operate under strict guidelines. An identity label is placed on the outside of the cremator as soon as the coffin is placed into it. The label stays with the remains until they are placed in a container, which is then also labelled. Each cremation chamber only accepts one coffin and the remains must be removed before the cremator is used again, so all cremated remains are kept separate throughout the process.
Does cremation mean I can’t have a funeral service?
Not at all. Regardless of whether you choose burial or cremation, you can still have a funeral service.
Are special cremation urns and momentos available?
Yes. When a loved one dies, it’s natural to want to remember them and preserve their cremated remains in a special way. Whether kept in an urn, placed in a memorial park or garden, or worn close to your heart, there are a wide range of choices. Talk to one of our funeral consultants about the options.

Embalming

What is embalming?
Embalming is similar to a surgical process and achieves three things: sanitisation, preservation and presentation of the body. This is achieved by treating all parts of the body with various chemicals. The process uses the vascular system of the body as the vehicle for distribution of fluids to the tissue bed. Other procedures are used to treat organs and external features.
Why embalm?

There are many reasons to embalm a body:

  • To satisfy requirements for transporting a body by air, sea or other long-distance transportation
  • To assist in maintaining the cleanliness of the body
  • To enable others to handle a deceased person without the risk of infection or contamination
  • To prepare the body, by firming tissue, for any required reconstructive and cosmetic work
  • To try to remove the devastation caused by long-term disease or illness
  • To help minimise the results of trauma, chemotherapeutic drugs and the visible post-mortem changes that have started to appear
  • To enhance the appearance of the body and return the deceased person to a more natural presentation for a viewing by family and friends
  • To temporarily preserve the body, so that the funeral does not need to take place immediately
  • To meet government legal requirements (if applicable).

 

Etiquette

Do I need to wear black?
In some cases, it may be appropriate to dress in darker colours such as black, dark grey and navy. But more and more, as society changes, people are choosing to dress in colours or styles that reflect the life of the deceased.

 

  • For women – Think conservative. Funerals tend to be solemn events, so take care to dress in a manner that reflects a respectful attitude. This might include a nice business suit or a simple dress. Overly casual clothing such as jeans should be avoided, as well as any revealing clothing like mini skirts. And use good shoe sense. Funerals normally involve a lot of standing and walking, so leave the sky-high heels at home. The last thing you want to be thinking about is sore feet.
  • For men – Again, think conservative and dress in a respectful manner. A suit and a collared shirt is generally an appropriate choice. Wearing a tie is optional, but if you do take a pass on loud colours. Avoid wearing casual clothing such as jeans, short-sleeved shirts, althletic shoes and caps. And don’t forget to take an extra minute to shine your shoes.

You also need to be mindful of religious customs. For some cultures wearing black clothing is still the norm, while for others it is viewed as inappropriate. The funeral director will be able to advise you.

Do I need to turn my mobile phone off?
Please take a moment to turn your mobile phone off before entering the funeral service. Remember, checking text messages and emails may be seen by others as disrespectful. If you are expecting an urgent call, turn your mobile phone to silent or vibrate.
Should I send flowers?
In the past, it’s been traditional to send flowers to the family of the deceased or to the funeral home ahead of the service. However, these days, it’s becoming increasingly common for families to request that no flowers be sent. Instead, they opt to encourage mourners to contribute donations to a selected charity.
Can I bring young children to the service?
If you decide to bring young children with you, be sure to talk to them beforehand about the importance of the service they’re attending. Set aside some time for them to practise sitting quietly and speaking at a whisper. If they can’t sit quietly for 45-60 minutes at home, it’s unlikely they’ll be able to do so at the service – so it might be better not to bring them along in order to avoid disturbances.

Funeral industry

How do I become a funeral director?

Being a funeral director is by no means an easy career option. It can be both emotionally and physically challenging – and very stressful. But it’s also incredibly rewarding. It takes a special type of person to listen to a family’s needs, understand their emotions and, through conversations with the family, get to know the person who is now gone. It’s a true privilege to be asked by a family to organise the final goodbye for their loved one. For more information about a career as a funeral director, go to the Australian Funeral Directors Association website.

Planning ahead

What is the difference between pre-planning a funeral and pre-paying for a funeral?

When you pre-plan a funeral you make decisions about the arrangements for a funeral, however no money is involved. When you pre-pay for a funeral, you make the necessary arrangements and pay for them.

What is a pre-planned funeral?

Pre-planning a funeral involves making decisions about the arrangements you want in place for your own funeral or the funeral of a loved one. What sort of service will it be? Will there be a burial or cremation? What music should be played? Who will give the eulogy? These are just some of the things you need to think about. Our My life – My farewell – My funeral choices funeral planning booklet steps you through the decisions you need to consider. Contact us for your copy.

What are the benefits of pre-planning a funeral?

By pre-planning your own funeral, you can ensure that your final farewell reflects what you want and best celebrates your life. It also saves your family the emotional burden of having to make these decisions when they’re grieving after you have died.

What is a pre-paid funeral?
A pre-paid funeral is a pre-planned funeral that is 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 plan contract, your funeral plan will not be affected by any future price rises.
What are the benefits of pre-paying for a funeral?

Just some of the benefits of pre-paying for a funeral are:

  • 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
  • You are 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.

 

If I pre-pay for my funeral, can my family pay for extras at the time of my funeral?
Yes. While the pre-paid funeral contract only covers the cost of those things specified in the contract, if your family want to add extra items to the funeral arrangements that aren’t specified in the contract (for example, additional flowers or an AV presentation) they can certainly pay the additional costs of those items.
What happens to my money if I pre-pay for a funeral?
The money you pay for your pre-paid funeral contract is held independently of Walter Carter Funerals. 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.
What is funeral insurance?
Funeral insurance is much like any other type of insurance. You pay regular premiums for a fixed amount of cover that will be paid to your beneficiary when you die. With funeral insurance, you’re not saving for funeral costs. Rather, you’re buying insurance for those costs at a future date.

Viewings

What are the benefits of having a viewing?

A viewing can have many benefits, some of which are:

  • It provides family and friends with a chance to express personal thoughts, talk to the deceased and maybe just hold their hand
  • It’s an opportunity to deal with any unfinished business
  • If the deceased struggles in life or suffered from a long-term or devastating illness, a viewing can assure family and friends that the person is now at peace
  • It can help some people move through their grieving process.