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Funeral planning: Considering burial options

At some point during your life, you may start planning parts of your funeral, which can include burial options.

Last updated: May 5th 2022
The burial you choose and what you want to happen to your body after you die is your choice and should be honoured by family. [Source: Shutterstock]

The burial you choose and what you want to happen to your body after you die is your choice and should be honoured by family. [Source: Shutterstock]

Key points:

  • There are two main burial options to choose between when planning your funeral, ground burial and cremation
  • Your friends and family should be aware of your decisions around what you want to happen to your body once you die
  • More burial alternatives are becoming available in Australia that can put a unique spin on what happens to your body after you die

This may raise interesting questions and thoughts about what you want to happen to your body after you die.

Coming to terms with your death can be difficult, however, considering your burial options when planning aspects of your funeral is an important part. You can ‘Have a say in your own funeral‘, just as you can when it comes to burial options.

It gives you the ability to make decisions about your own body after death as well as take the difficult decisions out of the hands of family and friends. It is not uncommon for family to get into heated debate over whether your body should be buried or cremated.

Talking with your friends and family about your wishes now means that you can have a say in what happens after you die and have those wishes respected, and should also be included in your Will.

Keep in mind that everyone deals with death and grieves in their own way so it’s important to respect other people’s opinions and preferences and to approach this topic delicately.

Ground burial

A traditional ground burial includes a coffin or casket that your body is placed in which is then buried in a cemetery, or approved burial site, with a memorial headstone.

This option allows family and friends to visit your resting place long after you have died. Your resting place can be a place for mourning but also a celebration of your life.

Ground burials can be a very traditional process, and some burials have a strong religious nature to them.

While you can organise a full burial without the assistance of a funeral director, many people get assistance from funeral directors to help with navigating legal documents and finding and securing an appropriate cemetery spot.

If you choose, you can also have your body embalmed before being buried, however, that is not required in Australia unless the burial is above ground, such as in a family mausoleum or crypt or if the body needs to be moved between States/Territories or countries.

Traditional burials can be incredibly pricey depending on coffins or caskets, the actual burial service, the location, and the gravestone.

For example, the cost of burial will be more expensive in cities compared to country areas. Even finding a cemetery plot can be very expensive, especially if you wish to be buried in the family plot.

There are a lot of additional costs that can add up, for instance, having your coffin and body transferred to the cemetery, funeral cars, a burial memorial service, and coffin costs.

A report from Australian Seniors, Cost of Death Report, found a very basic burial, which would include the removal, storage and transport of a body, managing legal documents, service fees, a budget casket, and cemetery and grave fees, could run anywhere upwards of $7,000 and is very dependent on where you live.

Recent 2021 data found that the cost of a cemetery burial spot in Sydney can range from $8,000 up to $20,000. Whereas a burial plot could cost between $2,500 – $13,500 in Adelaide.

And the cost of ground burials is becoming more and more expensive every year.

It can also be difficult to find an vacant grave plot in cemeteries because the spaces are filling up.

The amount you pay can also increase depending on the size of the cemetery plot!

Many parts of the world are struggling with the bodies to burial plot availability ratio. Over the past five years, there have been reports on serious issues with limited burial spaces in many cities, and a number of Governments have had to make decisions around future burials, including “grave recycling”.

One positive about pre-planning funeral options is that most of these costs will not be included in your Age Pension assessment, including a prepaid grave space.


Another traditional form of burial is cremation, which has become very common in recent years with nearly 70 percent of Australians choosing cremation over ground burials.

Compared to ground burials, cremation can be most cost-effective and there is less stress over finding a grave plot in a cemetery. Although, you can pay for placement in a cemetery for your ashes or an urn if you wish to have a special place for loved ones to visit.

Cremation has also seen the rise of special family events when scattering their relative’s ashes, like at a special camping spot, in a favourite park, or at sea.

This burial method allows for family to have an intimate memorial to rejoice and reminiscence about their loved one who has passed away.

However, family don’t have to part with the ashes if they don’t want to. Some families may wish to hold on to their family ashes as a memento of their loved one.

This could include keeping the ashes sealed in a decorative urn with a plaque, keeping the urn in a memorial garden or place in the home so that family can pay their respects regularly, or having the ashes split among family so that each member can have that physical connection to their loved one who has passed away.

Holding on to the ashes of the departed can help with the grieving process for some people.

When it comes to cremation, you should let family know what you want to happen with your ashes after you pass so that they can respect your wishes.

A big reason people decide to go with cremation is due to the cost, as it is substantially cheaper than a ground burial.

For a basic cremation, it can cost just under $2,000. However, the average cost of cremation in Australia is around $3,000 to $8,000. This could include the cremation cost and fees, a basic coffin, transporting and preparing the body for a cremation, and organising the legal documents.

If you wish to add a funeral service to this, you would be paying upwards of $5,000, which is still less than a basic ground burial.

When choosing your options

While the traditional options are most common in Australia, there are a lot of new alternative methods available for you to choose from when deciding on your burial options.

Everything from having your ashes turned into fireworks to being pressed into your favourite vinyl album to donating your body to science.

But while there are more burials to choose from, it’s important that your chosen burial decision is true to your beliefs and wishes.

When talking with those close to you, be sensitive to the voices of your friends and family around what your decision is and listen to any of their concerns.

However, ultimately, the burial you choose and what you want to happen to your body after you die is your choice and should be honoured by family and friends, which is why you should make sure to include your wishes in your Will.

Your family and friends should be aware of your funeral and burial choices so they stick to your wishes and know how to achieve them after your death.

Have you made a decision on what burial option you are going with? Let us know in the comments below.

Related Content:

Having a say in your own funeral
Do I really need a Will and last testament?
Creating a strong estate plan


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