Cremation or burial: How to tell your family what you want

The cost of the average funeral is estimated to be between $8,000 and $10,000¹, but cost is often an afterthought during the sensitive time following somebody’s death. Establishing what you want in terms of burial or cremation is essential, and starting the conversation with your family sooner rather than later is a great idea.

The Funeral Directors Association of New Zealand (FDANZ) urges us to “take the time to talk”. The campaign is about ensuring the family has agreed on a cremation or burial plan so insurance is set up well in advance. This allows grief to be managed more meaningfully, and everybody in the family is given time to talk to the person facing their farewell long before the funeral. 

Cremation vs. burial options: What New Zealanders tend to choose

Over 70% of New Zealanders are cremated² after death – but that doesn’t mean 70% made such an arrangement sufficiently in advance. 

A funeral director should be called to meet with the family within 24 hours of a death to execute the funeral plan– if one has been written. Among the first priorities at the initial meeting are working out:

  • who the main decision-maker in the family is,
  • what the funeral service will involve,
  • after-care options.

Most important of all is determining whether burial or cremation is preferred. 

Considering Funeral Insurance?

How to budget for cremation and/or burial

Regardless of whether cremation or a burial is chosen, many of the funeral costs that commonly arise include:

  • reception and catering
  • the fee for a celebrant or minister
  • transport of the deceased, such as a hearse
  • newspaper notices, including obituaries
  • memorial notices
  • death certificate
  • flowers
  • printing
  • music

Costs associated with a burial include:

  • embalming
  • buying a burial plot at a cemetery (this can cost thousands at cemeteries in larger cities)
  • headstone
  • the cost of opening a double plot, so the deceased can be buried with someone they love

Costs associated with cremation include:

  • the fee for cremation to be carried out
  • the cost of any decorative special receptacle for a loved one’s remains
  • burial costs, if a person’s ashes are being officially interred at a cemetery

Read more with this guide to cremation in New Zealand

Write it down and put a positive spin on a sensitive topic

Up to 1,500 people a year don’t leave a will when they die³. Luckily, any of us can write down what we’d like for our funeral, and this is different to a will. Simply put together a list addressing religious needs, the location of the service, and whether burial or cremation is preferred. 

Having the conversation with your family

Writing down one’s funeral wishes is an opportunity for family to reflect on fond times, and for the person facing death to feel empowered and respected. 

As the FDANZ puts it: “Funerals shouldn’t be the only time we hear wonderful stories about someone we love. Rather than it being a sad conversation, sharing stories can be an enjoyable, comforting event for you and your family.⁴

Your loved one will be happy to provide their opinion on the following:

  • What they might like on their headstone, should a headstone be chosen.
  • Who they would like to attend the ceremony.
  • Who they would prefer as celebrant, and any cultural preferences.
  • Who should be the nominated beneficiary of a funeral plan (a nominated beneficiary is the name of the person nominated to receive the funeral cover insurance benefit, paid upon death, to be distributed).

Today is a good day to begin the conversation with your family about a plan and to get funeral insurance to cover it. Start the conversation today.