We don’t like to talk about death. It’s not a happy topic. Thinking about it is worse. It just reminds us how it’ll all end for ourselves and all we love. But, like taxes, death is one of the certainties of life. And, like taxes, we have to count the cost.
In this article we’ll take a look at the entire process, step by step, of saying one final goodbye in Singapore. Your options and cost estimates are provided for each step of the way.
- Deciding on a funeral home
- Obtaining Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD)
- Registering the death
- Preparing obituary (optional)
- Arranging for the wake and funeral
- Burial or cremation
- Getting your affairs in order
- How do I prepare financially for it?
Step 1: Decide on a funeral home
Unless you’ve been through it before, most Singaporeans wouldn’t know what to do when a death happens in the family. Even if we do know what to do, we may not want to be the one doing it in our time of grief.
That’s where the funeral home comes in. Once called, no matter the time of day or night, they’ll usually be with you within the hour to manage the rest of the process with you. So your first step to look for a funeral home from among the Association of Funeral Directors (Singapore).
For a rough comparison of package prices, see Step 5: Arranging for the wake and funeral.
Step 2: Obtain a Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD)
The next thing is to get a CCOD. How that is done depends on where the death took place – at the hospital, at home, or overseas.
At the hospital
A doctor at the hospital will certify the cause of death if it is known and it’s natural. You’ll need the ID of the deceased for this. The CCOD will then be issued on the spot. You can then contact a funeral home to prepare the body for the funeral.
If the doctor can’t certify the cause of death, you can either call the police to send the body to Mortuary@HSA (at Block 9 Singapore General Hospital) in a Police Hearse or the funeral home can do this for you.
The coroner at the mortuary will determine the cause of death and if an autopsy is needed. Then, you’ll be able to collect the body (usually the next day).
The cost of transporting the body is either free or included as part of the funeral home’s package. If an autopsy report is needed, it’ll cost $160.50.
For private autopsies, the administrative fee is $5,863.60 (with GST) and every day that the body is kept in storage, it will cost you $165.85.
Get your family doctor or neighbourhood GP to make a house call to certify the death. Some clinics have 24-hour house-call services you can tap on. If the doctor can’t certify the cause of death, the body needs to be sent to the mortuary.
Where to go for 24-hour house calls:
- MW Medical – Tel: 6250 0625
- Raffles Medical Group – Tel: 6311 1555
- Speedoc – Tel: 8180 8948
- The House Call GP – Tel: 6247 9247
- Trinity Housecall – Tel: 8223 4999
Total costs of this procedure typically fall in the $200 to $250 range.
A death abroad needs to be registered with the relevant authorities in that country. Then, you have 2 options: either bring the body home for burial or cremation, or cremate the body abroad and bring home the ashes.
If you want to bring the body home, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs can give you advice on finding undertakers in that country and the cost of repatriation. On our end, it’ll be the funeral director here who’ll make all the arrangements to receive the body in Singapore. You need to pay them at least an extra $500 on top of the funeral package.
It’s not cheap to bring a body home. Figures are hard to come by because it depends on where you’re repatriating the body from. According to IATA (a worldwide airline trade association), a body needs to be embalmed for it to travel outside of a country. That cost, the cost of preparing the body and coffin for travel, and flight fees will vary from country to country. Estimates put the cost at upward of $5,000. It’s more likely to be $10,000 and more.
This is why it’s important to get good travel insurance, which can cover the cost of repatriation in the event of death.
Finally, you’ll also need to apply for a Coffin (Import) Permit at the Port Health Office or the Airport Health Office. The coffin import permit fee is $17.50.
Funeral homes that repatriate:
- All Saints
- Casket Fairprice
- Direct Funeral Services
- Eternal Life
- FlyingHome (the repatriation arm of Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors)
- SG Funeral Service
- Singapore Casket
Step 3: Register the death
The CCOD is then used to register the death. You can do this at the Neighbourhood Police Centre/Posts (45 minutes) or the Citizen Services Centre, ICA Building (30 minutes). Remember to bring these documents:
- deceased’s ID such as IC, passport or birth certificate (which will be cancelled)
- informant’s ID (IC or passport)
Once you’ve registered the death, the centre will keep the CCOD, while you’ll be issued a Death Certificate. All this needs to done within 24 hours of the death. There are no fees involved at this stage.
You will need the death certificate to make arrangements for an obituary in the newspapers, the funeral, and the burial or cremation.
Step 4: Prepare obituary (optional)
You’ll have to decide if you want to announce the death in local newspapers. This is a good way of letting all your friends and relatives know about the details of the wake and funeral. It costs from $1,348.20 (the smallest size) to place an obituary in the papers.
Step 5: Arrange for the wake and funeral
Then comes the business of arranging the wake as well as the funeral itself. There’ll be some questions you need to answer in this regard, which affect the costs as well:
Number of days
Everything can be done in a single day, or it can stretch to 7 days. These days, 3-day wakes are the norm, but it varies depending on culture.
Some Chinese people have a superstition that the days of the wake have to be odd numbers to signify the incomplete cycle of life and the hope of reincarnation.
Muslims bury their loved ones within 24 hours of death for sanitary reasons since they don’t embalm the bodies.
Location of the wake
You can hold the wake at in your home (whether HDB, private apartment or landed property) or at a funeral parlour. Cost-wise, doing it at home is definitely cheaper, while the funeral parlour is more expensive as it would count as venue rental. However, you should also consider the convenience factor of each one. Here’s a brief run down of the pros and cons of your options.
HDB void deck: Usually held in the void deck of your home or other family members’. You need to get a permit from the Town Council. It’s convenient (you can easily get a shower or some rest, or to settle matters). But you can’t lock up the place after hours, so someone must always be around to keep vigil.
Private apartment grounds: Need to get permission from the condo management. Otherwise it’s similar to the HDB void deck – convenient but need to arrange for someone to be there.
Landed property: You need to get a permit from the Land Transport Authority (LTA) if you need to use part of the road outside your house, otherwise no permit is needed. You can also lock up the place after hours. However, parking for your guests may be a hassle and pose inconvenience to your neighbours.
Funeral parlour: It’s definitely more expensive to hold a wake here, but the place is locked up at night, so you can go home to rest. However, some funeral parlours like Mt. Vernon Sanctuary are not exactly accessible.
Type of casket
Most packages include the casket but you still have to pick one or opt for an upgrade.
Metal casket: Bronze and copper ones are the most expensive because they are high quality and don’t rust. They can’t be used for cremation, though.
Wooden casket: Hardwoods like mahogany, cherry, walnut and oak are among your more expensive choices. Pine, poplar and veneer are cheaper and start from about $700.
Paper casket: Paper caskets are available for the environmentally conscious. They aren’t necessarily cheaper (they start at $1,000) but they certainly don’t cost the earth as much. It takes 22kg of recycled paper to make one paper casket but 70kg of wood to make a wooden one. You can get a green casket from providers like Leaving Light and Funeral Solutions.
Extent of wake & funeral
Like any major event in life, the wake and funeral can be as extravagant as you desire or as simple as you please. In Asian societies, lavish send-offs are often seen as a measure of a family’s love for the deceased. Religious beliefs also dictate the type of wake and funeral rites chosen.
In recent years, changing norms have given the occasion a different spin. You can now get memorial videos to celebrate the life of the deceased, memorial boards where you can pen messages, and even themed funerals based on the deceased’s interests.
Funeral package price list 2019
A simple one-day funeral starts from about $1,300, but most bereaved Singaporeans will opt for a longer affair.
Here’s a snapshot of typical package prices for void deck funerals ranging from 2 to 7 days. Budget more if you want to use their funeral parlour as the venue.
|Funeral home||Christian, Catholic, non-religious funeral||Buddhist funeral||Other religions|
|NTUC Income||$3,780 to $4,680||–||$970 to $1,020 (Muslim burial) / from $3,300 (Hindu cremation)|
|Hosanna Bereavement Services||$4,000 to $9,500 (Christian only)||–||–|
|Simplicity Casket||$4,581 to $5,471||$6,400 to $7,280||–|
|Singapore Funeral Group||$4,588 to $5,088||$5,588 to $6,088||$7,588 to $8,088 (Taoist)|
|Casket Fairprice||$4,680 to $5,280||$5,680 to $6,280||–|
|Direct Funeral Services||From $4,999||From $5,888||From $8,288 (Taoist)|
|The Life Celebrant||$13,777, $18,777 or $23,777 (inclusive of catering, memorial board and mourning outfits for family)|
|Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors||Package tailored to individual circumstances|
|Singapore Casket||Prices only available upon request|
Other costs to consider are food catering (usually not included in package) and add-ons like funeral photography/videography, memorial videos (available at The Life Celebrant) and karaoke system rental (available at The Life Celebrant and Lee Teoh Heng Undertaker).
Step 6: Burial or cremation
After the good-byes, you have to decide what to do with the remains of your loved one – land burial, sea burial or cremation.
With Singapore running out of land, there’s only one cemetery available now in Choa Chu Kang. The burial period is limited to 15 years. After that, the remains have to be cremated or re-interred. Because of this, most people don’t choose burial unless it’s for religious reasons.
It would cost you about $315 for Muslim, Parsi or Bahai burial. The price goes up steeply to $940 for a Christian, Chinese or Hindu burial.
You can opt to scatter the remains in the sea. This can be done 2.8km south of Pualu Semakau between 7am and 7pm. The MPA’s Port Marine Safety Control Centre can help you with this.
Now, you can even buy scattering tubes (from $200) to contain the remains for scattering instead of wrapping them up in a red or white cloth. There are even bio-degradable urns (from $175) made from recycled paper and paper clay that can be tossed into the sea without harming the environment. These are designed to float for about 20 minutes before sinking, giving families time to bid their final farewell.
A sea burial is potentially less environmentally damaging than a cremation. It is also much cheaper than a burial or cremation (since you have to pay to store the urn at a columbarium). And generations after don’t have to maintain the niche. The con is that there is nowhere you can go to to visit your loved one.
A sea burial can cost anywhere from $80 to over $1,000, depending on how extravagant an affair it is.
There are three crematoriums in Singapore: Mandai Crematorium (government), Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery (private) and Tse Toh Aum Temple (private).
Cremation will require an urn for the storage of the remains, a niche in a columbarium to store the urn as well as a marble plaque engraved with your details to cover the niche. There’s nothing to stop you from keeping the urn at home but that’ll mean that generations thereafter have to care for the urn or, at least, store it.
Most people choose to have the urns placed at either a government columbarium (there are 3) or a private one (there are nearly 60). Choosing a government columbarium costs less but you can’t pick your niche.
Here’s a rough guide to the costs:
|Cremation||$100 (government) / $321 to $535 (private)|
|Urn||From $70 (average $250)|
|Niche||$500 single niche to $900 family niche (government) / from $1,100 to $5,800 and up for a single niche (private)|
|Marble plaque||From $1,000|
These aren’t the only options, however.
One new alternative for those who have their own gardens is a tree burial. The remains are combined with the seed of a tree and placed in a biodegradable pot which can be planted. It’s eco-friendly and economical, and it can be quite meaningful to know that the one you love is now part of a new circle of life.
But, it also means that if you want to sell your house, you have to re-pot the plant or tell the new owners your loved one’s in their yard.
Another idea is to turn your remains into a keepsake. Ang Chin Moh Funeral Directors offers the possibility of turning remains into diamonds (from $4,588) or storing some of it in a locket. A similar service is offered by the Singapore Casket Co. Remains can be turned into eternity gem stones (from $1,700) which can then be set into the keepsake of your choice.
Getting your affairs in order
Knowing what and how much a funeral entail makes it even more important to settle as much as you can while you’re still around. There are several ways to get your affairs in order.
Make a will
If you go without a will, you’ll be leaving your family to second guess you on many issues including what to do with your money and all that you own. It’s a perfect storm for family quarrels.
So, while you’re still here, it’s good to make your will to appoint:
- A trustee to manage your assets
- A legal guardian for your children (in case you pass away before they’re adults)
- Two executors to distribute your assets and manage your affairs after your death
Making a will costs about $300 to $1,200.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
The LPA is a legal document that allows those 21 and above to appoint one or more people to take action on their behalf if they lose the ability to make their own decisions.
It’s quite easy to get an LPA. Just fill up a form and get a witness to certify it. Then, make an appointment to submit it to the Office of Public Guardian. The LPA Form 1 costs $50 to $75 on top of the fees of the professionals (medical practitioners and lawyers) you engage to witness and certify the application.
There is a second form – Form 2 – if you have special requirements or want to customise power. This one costs $200.
Advance Medical Directive (AMD)
This is also known as a living will and it legally prevents your medical team from giving you any life-sustaining treatments to prolong your life if you become unconscious or terminally ill. Again, you need to fill up a form and get a doctor to certify it, which costs from about $40.
Once done, post the form to the Registry of Advance Medical Directives.
How do I financially prepare for death?
Apart from doing all the paperwork above, it can also be helpful to pre-plan your funeral (you can enlist the help of a funeral home). It puts you in control of how you want to finally depart. It’s also a good way to assess how much your own funeral will cost and save up for it.
As you can see, the cost of the entire funeral process in Singapore is nothing to be sniffed at. The simplest of three-day wakes, cremation and storage in a columbarium can easily set you back by nearly $7,000.
And that’s just for one funeral. Factor both parents and parents-in-law, you might be forking out tens of thousands of dollars. Here are some options you can consider to help you set aside adequate funds.
Savings accounts: Putting aside money is always a good practice because it gives you a pool of cash for emergencies or big-budget items, which exactly describes a funeral. That said, savings accounts in Singapore don’t yield much interest. Your best bet is to find a high interest savings account.
Singapore Savings Bonds: The ever-popular Singapore Savings Bond is a very safe way to set aside a bunch of money for up to 10 years. It has higher yields than regular savings – interest rates increase the longer you invest and doesn’t require much to start (just $500).
Endowment plans: Insurance companies help you grow your wealth in two ways – insurance saving plans (also known as endowment plans), and investment-linked plans. Endowment plans are the lower risk of the two and are good for setting aside a funeral fund. You get the protection insurance affords as well as higher percentage of returns compared to pure savings.
Insurance: If you have a life insurance policy, the payout in the event of death will help to cover the cost of the funeral as well as the welfare of those who are left behind.
Pre-payment: Some funeral homes allow you to pre-pay in instalments. For example, SFS Care lets you pay in advance for your own funeral so that your loved ones will not be financially burdened. Called Legacy, the package involves monthly payments of $138 for 10 years for a 3-day funeral package at a void deck. If you die before half of the $6,500 package is paid for, your family can top up the rest. If you have already paid more than half before passing on, the balanced is waived.
It’s sobering to think about death and all that comes with it. But to not think about it and plan for it, especially financially, would make the death even more tragic. It’s when we’ve given death due consideration that we can truly be free to embrace life.
Do you have anything you think should be added to this list? Let us know.