Going all out to give your loved one an elaborate send-off will cost you tens of thousands of dollars, but you can also opt for simpler, less costly funerals that are no less memorable or dignified.
We all know that living in Singapore can be costly – that’s just a result of living in a world-class city. However, most of us can make adjustments to our lifestyles, making more frugal choices and living within our means.
But what about after we die? Can our last rites in this expensive city mirror how we lived – frugally and with dignity?
Thankfully, the answer is yes.
Here’s a complete guide to holding a funeral service in Singapore, as well as how to give your loved one the send-off they deserve without incurring too much financial burden in the process.
1. Register the death
The first thing you should do is to register the death, in order to obtain a Certificate of Cause of Death. This is an important document that will be required not only during the funeral, but also for actions such as closing bank accounts, claiming insurance, transferring utilities accounts, etc.
|Certificate of Cause of Death||At hospitals: no charge
At home: S$200 to S$300 (doctor’s house call)
|Autopsy||Ordered by Coroner: No charge
Private autopsy: S$5,860.60, plus S$165.85 from 3rd day of storage onwards
Certificate of Cause of Death
If your loved one passed away in the hospital, the Certificate of Cause of Death will be issued at no charge.
However, if, say, the deceased elected to receive palliative care at home and passed away there, you’ll need to engage a doctor to certify the death. This could cost around S$200 to S$300.
However, if unnatural death is suspected, an autopsy may be ordered under the Coroner’s Act, in order to help determine the cause of the death. Autopsies conducted for this reason will have their costs absorbed. You may request a copy of the report, which will cost S$160.50.
You may also order a private autopsy for your own reasons. In that case, you’ll need to fork over almost S$6,000 for the procedure, along with a daily storage charge of S$165.85, which is applied from the third day onwards.
2. Hold a funeral service
Next, it’s time to hold a funeral wake or memorial service for relatives, friends and acquaintances to pay their last respects.
There are primarily two main factors here that will determine your total cost: the type and duration of the service, as well as the choice of casket used.
|Memorial service (3-day duration)||Buddhist: S$3,800 to S$10,000
Taoist: S$3,800 to S$10,000
Christian: S$3,800 to S$8,500
Catholic: S$3,800 to S$8,500
Others: S$1,300 to S$7,500
|Casket||Light woods (pine, poplar, wood veneer etc): S$700 to S$1,000
Hardwoods (mahogany, cherry, oak etc): S$2,000 to S$10,000
Eco-caskets (recycled paper): S$1,000
Memorial service (three-day duration)
Typically, a memorial service lasts three days, although you can opt to hold a wake for any number of days you wish. Do note that you’ll need to seek permission from the National Environment Agency (NEA) if the wake will exceed seven days.
Besides the duration, the type of funeral will also determine the cost of the service. Buddhist and Taoist funerals can be more elaborate and hence, more expensive, while Catholic and Christian services tend to be simpler affairs (and correspondingly less costly).
Besides traditional religious funerals, there are also non-traditional funerals that take a more secular approach. These alternative funerals may also offer a lower cost, and can be a worthwhile alternative if your family isn’t religious.
Memorial service packages can cost up to S$10,000 or more, and typically include the following:
- A casket
- Rental and set-up of tentage, tables and chairs
- Refreshments and/or meals
- Religious items for worship and decoration
- Hearse service
- Framed photo of the deceased
- Mobile toilet
- Religious leaders to lead funeral rites
While caskets are usually included in the memorial packages, you can make alternative selections and adjust the overall cost of the funeral.
Caskets made of lightwoods (such as pine, or wood veneer) are the more affordable option, costing several hundreds to a thousand dollars. They are sturdy and functional, but may not be the most elaborate or ornate.
Hardwood caskets, on the other hand, are more stately. Their rich colours and lacquered finish can lend a distinguished air to the deceased. Made of mahogany, cherry oak or other hardwoods, these caskets can be expensive, each costing up to S$10,000 or more.
Increasingly, people are choosing to be buried or cremated in an eco-friendly casket, made out of recycled paper.
Created without using wood and other natural resources, and priced similarly to lightwood caskets, this option is kinder on both the environment and the wallet.
3. Send off the deceased
The memorial service concludes with the sending off of the deceased – whether to be buried, cremated, or “replanted” as a tree.
|Burial||Muslim, Bahai, Parsi or Jewish: S$315
All others: S$940
Private: S$300 to S$400
Sea scattering of ashes: S$100 to S$800, depending on ceremony
Replanting as a tree (eco-urn): S$175
Under Singapore’s laws, crypt burials conducted under the Muslim, Bahai, Parsi or Jewish faiths will cost S$315. All others cost significantly more, at nearly a thousand dollars each.
Only crypt or land burials allow the preservation of the complete body. All other types of burials will require prior cremation.
Cremations at government-run crematoria are less costly (S$100), while private crematoria charge three or four times more.
If the deceased wished to have remains scattered at sea, a separate sea burial will have to be booked. This will add several hundred dollars to the funeral budget, depending on how elaborate the ceremony is.
There’s also what’s known as a “green burial”, where the ashes of the deceased are mixed into a biodegradable urn along with the seeds of a tree. This urn can then be buried in an approved location, where the tree will take root and grow as a tribute to your loved one.
4. Remembering the departed
If turning your grandpa into a tree is a little too “progressive” for your family to accept, there are several more acceptable ways you can remember the departed, from traditional columbariums to obituaries, and even turning them into personal jewellery.
|Columbarium||Marble plaque: S$1,000 and up
Urn: S$200 to S$300
Niche: Govt: S$500 (Single), S$900 (Family)Private: S$1,100 and up (Single)
|Obituary||Print: S$20 to S$63 per col cm
Colour surcharges apply
Online: S$250 per year
|Keepsakes||Ash lockets: From S$250
Eternity gemstones: From S$1,700
Memorial diamonds: From S$4,588 (uncut) to S$6,399 (cut and polished)
If nobody is keen on keeping the ashes of their dead relatives at home (and scattering them into the sea or planting them into a tree is not an option), the next best thing would be to purchase a niche at a columbarium to store the urn containing the ashes.
Along with the niche, you will also want to purchase a marble plaque bearing the name and picture of the deceased – kind of like a tombstone in miniature. It is also common for families to reserve adjacent niches, for use by other family members in future.
Installing the urn may be performed anytime after the ashes have been collected. Once again, government-managed facilities are the cheaper option here.
It is customary to publish an obituary for the deceased. This is seen as a final act of respect, and also helps to inform estranged relatives or parties not invited to the memorial service, helping to close the loop.
Print obituaries in newspapers by Singapore Press Holdings will cost S$20 to S$63 per column centimeter for each day of publication.
You can also opt for a digital obiturary that can be looked up online, for S$250 per year.
If you really can’t bear to let the departed, well, depart, you can opt to keep a piece of them with you – literally.
You can take a portion of their ashes and put them in a sealed locket, which you can wear or safekeep.
5. Other associated costs
|Will||S$300 to S$1,000|
|Lasting Power of Attorney||S$75 to S$200 (excludes legal and medical fees)|
|Advanced Medical Directive||S$40|
Drawing up a will is no simple task (no, you can’t scribble a hasty “screw you” to your least favourite child on a napkin and call it a day), and it is recommended that you engage a lawyer to help you create one that is unambiguous and would stand up to legal challenges.
Drawing up a will and having it read and executed after the death of the testator (the person who made the will) can cost a few hundred to a thousand dollars.
Lasting Power of Attorney
A Lasting Power of Attorney is a legal arrangement that allows a trusted individual to act on behalf of the appointor, especially when the latter has lost the capacity to make rational decisions. This is important to prevent outside forces from abusing assets or taking unjust actions.
The legal fees for Lasting Power of Attorney will cost anywhere from S$75 to S$200.
Advanced Medical Directive
This is essentially a living will that preserves your right not to undergo life-prolonging treatments or procedures in the case of terminal illness or unconsciousness.
Advanced Medical Directives are used to save your family from the financial hardships of prolonged hospitalisation costs.
How much does a funeral cost in Singapore?
|Certificate of Cause of Death||S$200 to S$300|
|Autopsy||S$5,860.60 for procedure
S$165.85 per day of storage from 3rd day onwards
S$160.50 for report
|Memorial service (3-day)||Religious: S$3,800 to S$10,000
Non-religious: S$1,700 to $7,500
|Casket||Light woods: S$700 to S$1,000
Hardwoods: S$2,000 to S$10,000
|Burial||Muslim, Bahai, Parsi or Jewish: S$315
|Cremation||S$100 to S$800, depending on ceremony|
|Columbarium storage of ashes||S$1,700 to S$2,400|
|Obituary||Up to S$250|
|Keepsakes||S$250 to S$6,400|
|Legal matters (Will, Lasting Power or Attorney, etc)||S$400 to S$1,300|
|Total:||$5,100 to S$39,000|
Holding a funeral in Singapore can cost you anywhere from S$5,100 for a basic, non-denominational memorial service, to nearly S$40,000 for an elaborate event, complete with high-end keepsakes.
To prevent funeral expenses from getting out of hand, start by looking through funeral service packages available online. Pick one that fits your needs, then make tweaks to cater to personal preferences and tastes as your budget allows.
Also consider that government-run facilities will offer the necessary services such as cremation and storage of ashes for cheaper, compared to private institutions.
And if the idea isn’t too radical, consider using green options to further save money – such as an eco-casket made of recycled paper, and a “green burial” where your loved one’s ashes are planted as part of a new tree.
Funerals are unfortunate – but inevitable – events to organise. Safeguard yourself and your loved ones against accidents and illnesses that may drain you financially with critical illness and accident insurance plans that offer comprehensive coverage.
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By Alevin Chan
An ex-Financial Planner with a curiosity about what makes people tick, Alevin’s mission is to help readers understand the psychology of money. He’s also on an ongoing quest to optimise happiness and enjoyment in his life.