5 myths busted about burials and funeral planning

Most of us don’t think about funeral planning or the burial process until we are faced with the task of organising a funeral. Often when we start, it can be overwhelming to wrap our heads around the range of legalities and requirements, and the whole process results in more questions than answers.

To help make the process as easy as possible, we’ve collected some common myths and questions about burial to help you sort through common misconceptions.

Myth 1: You must have a funeral director

You aren’t legally required to have a funeral director, but it can certainly make things easier. As professionals, they are across all the legal documents required to register a death in your state or territory, such as a Medical Certificate Cause of Death. And they can also walk you through the necessary arrangements and bring up things you may not have considered.

There are no laws that you must hold a ceremony to mark the event of death, but there are rules around what happens to the body. If you don’t want a service, you can have a direct committal. This means the body is taken straight from the mortuary or place of death and cremated or buried without any service. In most cases you can organise this directly with a crematorium or cemetery, but some places have a policy where they will only accept the deceased from funeral director so it’s important to discuss your wishes with the funeral director early on.

Myth 2: Loved ones can’t bring your body home

It’s difficult to know how we will react when a loved one dies, but it’s comforting to know that in Australia you are able to bring a loved one’s body home, even if they pass away in hospital.

Many times someone who is elderly or ill will be under the care of family or friends in their own home. In this instance there is no need to notify anyone straight away – only if the death is sudden or unexpected do you need to contact an ambulance and the police.

And to make the process slightly easier, funeral homes offer what is generally known as a ‘cool plate’ to preserve the body after death. Some people prefer this option as it can often help things remain as ‘natural’ as possible and give you time to say your goodbyes to your loved one, even though cold plates aren’t required by law.

Myth 3: I can be buried wherever I want

In Australia there are laws around where you can and can’t be buried. These are different in every state, so it’s best to check your state’s regulations before making any solid arrangements.

In New South Wales, for example, you can apply to your local council to bury someone on private property (if the land is greater than five hectares). In most cases the proposed site will be surveyed, which may attract some hefty fees.

If you wish to be buried at sea you will need to obtain a permit from the Department of the Environment. There are multiple rules and regulations around choosing a burial site at sea – for example, it must be deeper than 3,000 metres. This means that being buried at sea can often be a difficult task in terms of logistics and cost.

Myth 4: I can choose to be buried in any type of coffin I like

There is plenty of creative licence when it comes to coffin design, so long as they are quality assured by the maker and are acceptable to the chosen crematoria or burial grounds. When it comes to an above-ground burial in crypts, there may be more restrictions about what the coffin looks like and how it is made – for example, an easily degradable material won’t be compatible with above-ground burial.

Essentially, the choice is yours. If you’re not keen on building your own coffin, there are plenty of options either online, at coffin-specific retail stores or at funeral homes. Rental service is an option at some funeral homes, which can help people use a high-quality casket during just the funeral proceedings. If you’re not keen on burial in a coffin, some cemeteries will allow burial in a shroud.

Myth 5: Once I buy a plot, I own it forever

Think about a burial plot like a lease – you’re buying access to it for a period of time rather than buying the actual land. Each state has different rules around how long that period is. For example, in Victoria the “right of internment” may last 25 years, depending on whether there are ashes or a coffin in the plot. However you can seek permission for an extension of that right. No matter where you live, it’s best that you read up on your state’s laws about burial plots.

You can still buy a plot permanently but bear in mind this will be much more expensive than a typical burial plot purchase. It’s best that you speak with the chosen cemetery and confirm that the right of interment is perpetual.

A burial plot refers to a specific place, like a cemetery plot or mausoleum. It also refers to the “right to be interred”, which may be any available plot in a cemetery the person chooses.

myths about funeral planning infographic

There are many things that Australians are unclear of when it comes to burials and funerals but clearing up some of the common myths can help people to feel empowered to make the correct deskins for their loved ones. To find out more about how Real Funeral Insurance could work for you and your family, contact Real Insurance today on 1300 007 325.