According to New Zealand’s Citizen Advice Bureau, the average Kiwi funeral costs $8,000 to $10,000 – an astronomical amount to many families. Worse still, payment in full is often required in advance of the interment or cremation.
Families often find it difficult to afford funeral costs, and more people are taking advantage of Funeral Grants, when possible. Designed to help low-income families bear the cost of the unexpected death of a family member, grants are available up to a maximum of just under $2,100 NZD.
But that amount scarcely makes a dent in the average funeral cost.
Furthermore, Funeral Grants are both asset- and income-tested, meaning the actual amount of the grant received may be far less (if a family is eligible at all). The application process takes time and paperwork, all while the family is still distraught.
So how can forward thinking Kiwis help their loved ones shoulder the expense of their own funeral?
What goes into an average funeral
Before brainstorming ways to help pay for a funeral service, it may help to understand what goes into them. This can help explain why New Zealand funerals can be so costly.
The usual expenses to be considered are:
- Obituary and newspaper notices
- Fees for the burial plot, or cremation process
- Major expense of a coffin, or an urn for the cremains
- Fees for transporting the body (including hearse costs)
- Fees for use of the church or funeral home for viewing and service
- Celebrant’s fees, or donation for the minister
- Costs for printed programs
- Payment for the soloist, organist, or other musician
- Equipment rental for audio-video presentations or slide shows
- Flowers at the viewing and funeral service
- A framed portrait of the deceased for display
- Hall rental and catering for a post-funeral reception
- Cost of purchasing and posting thank you cards
- A death certificate and certified copies of it for the deceased’s executor to use when settling the estate
The average cost in New Zealand for an adult funeral was recently calculated at $7,775, a figure that includes a casket and vault, as well as other commonly selected items. However, it does not include burial costs (cemetery plot, opening and closing the grave, and a modest grave marker), which can add another $1,500-$2,000, raising the total average cost to $9,000 or more.
The quality of the items selected can also affect the overall cost significantly. On the low end, a traditional funeral can cost as little as $5,000, but if “top of the line” items are selected, costs can easily double.
Fees and other costs
Funeral costs generally break down as follows in New Zealand:
- Basic service fee for funeral director, and staff: Under a New Zealand law, providers of funeral services are allowed to charge a basic fee that customers must pay. This basic services fee covers funeral planning, publishing notices, securing required permits (as well as copies of the death certificate), coordinating arrangements with third parties, and holding remains until burial or cremation. The basic fee covers all services common to a traditional funeral but does not apply to any merchandise or optional services requested.
- Charges for merchandise and other services: These are costs associated with optional goods and services. This includes things such as embalming, transporting remains, use of the funeral home (for the viewing, memorial service or ceremony), casket, use of a hearse or limousine, and burial or cremation of the remains within New Zealand.
- Cash advances: Funeral homes may charge fees for services or merchandise or goods purchased by the funeral home from other vendors. This may include flowers, musicians, officiating clergy or other similar goods and services. While some funeral homes charge customers for the actual price of these items, others add additional service fees to the final bill. By law, any extra fees that are charged must be disclosed in writing to the customer – although the amount of the markup does not need to be provided. NZ law further requires that customers be informed of any discounts, rebates, or refunds offered by vendors.
Covering the costs
So, how can the average Kiwi family handle the financial burden of a funeral?
Funeral insurance in NZ is a simple way to plan for this inevitable expense. Your only outlay is a regular policy premium, payable to the insurance company. In return, a benefit amount will be paid to a beneficiary of your choosing after you pass away, to help cover the cost of a funeral or anything else they might need at the time.
You gender, age and smoking status are considered when deciding your policy premiums. No physical exam or medical tests are required, making it quick and simple to get covered. These policies are generally guaranteed acceptance, so long as you are a New Zealand citizen or legal resident and meet any age requirements.
As you consider the costs associated with a funeral, you might want to also consider funeral insurance or other means to help those you’ll be leaving behind. Taking this step could relieve financial stress at a difficult time, help make certain that the deceased’s wishes are carried out and help minimize burdens placed on others.