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This section has information about arranging a funeral after someone dies.
The person responsible for arranging the funeral depends on whether the deceased had a will.
If the deceased had a will, the executor is responsible for arranging the funeral unless he or she decides to pass the responsibility to another family member.
If the deceased did not have a will, or if no executor was appointed in the will, then the next of kin or close relative of the deceased can arrange the funeral.
If there is a dispute about who should arrange the funeral, you should get
For more information, see
The person who organises the funeral is legally responsible to pay for the funeral. If there is enough money in the estate, funeral expenses are repaid from the estate.
The deceased may also have made other arrangements to pay for their own funeral. For example the deceased may have had funeral insurance, a bond or life insurance that would cover the expenses.
When there is no money in the deceased's estate to pay for the funeral and no relative or friend who can afford to pay for the funeral, then the deceased may have a 'destitute funeral'.
For more information, see
Paying for the funeral.
Disputes often arise when a family member, relative or friend of the deceased is not notified of the death or funeral arrangements. If you have arranged a funeral, it may be a good idea to notify relatives or other people who may want to attend the funeral.
There are no legal rules about who can go to a funeral. If the family does not want a particular family member, relative or friend to attend the funeral or you are aware that the deceased did not want a particular family member, relative or friend to attend, it may be a good idea to try to contact the person to let them know before the funeral. They may be able to make other arrangements to say goodbye.
If you are having a dispute with another person and you are finding it difficult to talk to them on your own, you may consider attending mediation at a Community Justice Centre (CJC) to try to resolve the dispute.
For more information, see the
Mediation topic on this website.
If a destitute funeral is being held, NSW Health is responsible for contacting the next of kin so that relatives and friends have an opportunity to attend the funeral.
It is important to recognise the cultural and spiritual practices of any deceased person, including Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people.
If you are arranging a funeral and having some difficulties, you may contact the Aboriginal Liaison Officer at the hospital or an Aboriginal Community Organisation which may be able to assist you.
If you want to bury the deceased in a special way, for example, without a coffin, you must contact the Local Health District Public Health Unit to ask for permission before you bury the deceased.
For more information, contact
Aboriginal people who are ordinarily resident in New South Wales or members of the Land Council may be entitled to limited financial grants from the New South Wales Aboriginal Land Council to assist with the costs of a funeral.
For more information on grants, go to the
Aboriginal Land Council website.
If the deceased was cremated, the person who arranged the cremation is entitled to collect the ashes of the deceased from the crematorium or funeral director.
After collecting the ashes, there are many things that you may choose to do with them, including:
If you want to scatter the ashes, you must obtain permission from the owner of the land or relevant authorities such as NSW Roads and Maritime Services, NSW Department of Environment and Heritage and local councils. If you scatter the ashes without permission you may be charged or fined. When you have permission, you may still have to comply with restrictions. For example, if you get permission to scatter the ashes in the ocean, you may need to do this a certain distance offshore.
If you do not want the ashes, you can ask the crematorium to dispose of them or speak with the deceased's family or friends about what they would like to do with the ashes.
Sometimes disagreements may arise between family members who want to keep the ashes or want some of the ashes.
It is important to try to resolve disputes between family members. Some crematoriums may charge storage fees if the ashes are not collected within a certain time. If no one collects the ashes, the crematorium may dispose of them after twelve months.
If you are having a dispute with another person about the ashes and you can't agree, you may consider attending mediation at a Community Justice Centre (CJC).
If there is a dispute about the ashes of the deceased, you should get
There does not have to be a headstone or monument on the grave. If the executor or next of kin arrange the funeral, they may choose a headstone or monument. The person who orders the headstone will be legally responsible to pay for it. Whoever orders the headstone may also choose what is written on it.
Sometimes disagreements may arise between family members who prefer a particular type of headstone or writing on the headstone. You should talk to other family members and take into account the deceased's wishes, especially if it was stated in their will.
It is important that you first contact the cemetery to check if they have any special requirements and also obtain their permission before you order the headstone or plaque from the monumental mason.
Headstones can be very expensive so you should also check if there is enough money in the deceased's estate to cover the expense.
If there is a dispute with family or friends of the deceased about choosing the headstone or writing on the headstone, you should get
State Library NSW - Rest assured: a legal guide to wills, estates and funerals in New South Wales
NSW Fair Trading - Avoid a funeral rip-off
NSW Trustee and Guardian
Supreme Court of NSW