Death is often a taboo subject. Yet, death (and taxes) are the only certainties in life. Amidst the emotional upheaval as we are confronted with mortality, knowledge of what to do can be helpful. Even if the person who passes on is a loved one’s friend, it can be useful to help our friend through this difficult period on what needs to be done.
Here is a comprehensive guide of what to do after the death of a loved one.
Starting off, all deaths (regardless of citizenship) that happen in Singapore have to be registered within 24 hours as mandated by law. The process of doing so and receiving the Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD) depends on where the death occurs.
Death At Home In Singapore
If your loved one passed away at home, you will need to have a doctor certify the death. This can be your family doctor or a neighbourhood GP who is willing to make a house call.
Where to find a doctor:
- Raffles Medical Group – Tel: 6311 1555
- Speedoc – Tel: 8180 8948
- MW Medical – Tel: 6250 0625
- Trinity Housecall – Tel: 8223 4999
- Rescu – Tel: 8779 9441
Charges for house calls are around $200 to $300. If the doctor is able to certify the death, he/she will issue the CCOD on the spot. Do note that without knowledge of the deceased’s medical history, the doctor may not undertake the house call if there is no clear cause of death.
Documents that may be useful to the doctor in assessing the cause of death:
- Medical history of the deceased
- Discharge summaries from hospitals
- Prescriptions and medications
If you are unable to contact a doctor, you can also call the police for the body to be sent to the mortuary.
Death In The Hospital In Singapore
If your loved one passed away in the hospital, things are more straightforward as the doctor would have already prepared the CCOD if the cause of death is known, and the cause is natural. The family can obtain the CCOD from the hospital or seek assistance from the ward nurses.
If The Doctor Cannot Certify The Cause Of Death
If the doctor cannot certify the cause of death, the body must be sent to the mortuary for future investigation. Call the police for the body to be sent to Mortuary @ HSA (located at Block 9, Singapore General Hospital) in a police hearse. The family will be notified by the police when to go to the Mortuary @ HSA (usually the next day). For more information, please refer here.
Important documents to prepare are:
- All medical documents relating to the deceased
- All medicine consumed by the deceased
- The deceased’s identification documents (NRIC and/or passport)
- Your identification documents (NRIC or passport)
What To Do If Death Occured Overseas
If your loved one passed away overseas, you must register the death with the relevant foreign authorities. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) or the nearest Singapore Overseas Mission is an invaluable resource and can help you in dealing with death registration in a foreign country and the repatriation of remains back to Singapore. Refer here for further details.
The body of a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident may be brought back to Singapore for cremation or burial. However, a Coffin (Import) Permit is required to bring the body into Singapore. A funeral director can assist with the procedures.
If your loved one is not a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident, there are restrictions to consider. The body of a Foreign National may be brought into Singapore for cremation. Do note that niches in government-operated columbaria cannot be purchased for the cremation of foreigners. Instead, you can purchase niches at private columbaria. The bodies of foreigners can be imported into Singapore for burial only if the immediate next-of-kin is a Singapore Citizen or Permanent Resident.
Costs to expect:
- Coffin (Import) Permit – $17.50
- Permit to Bury/ Cremate – issued along with Coffin (Import) Permit, no extra charge
- Coffin (Export) Permit – dependent on country
- Casket / Coffin – dependent on country
- Sealing Certificate – dependent on country
- Embalming Certificate – dependent on country
- Freight Cost – dependent on country
- Certified English translation of certificates issued in other languages – dependent on country
The repatriation of remains is costly and can range from $10,000 and $15,000 based on international estimates. Do note that there are coffin size restrictions for cremation and burial in Singapore. An alternative is to consider cremation before bringing the ashes to Singapore.
Overseas death must be reported to the Registry of Births & Deaths, located at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Building. This can be done by the next-of-kin of the deceased or by an authorised proxy. Please refer to ICA’s website for details. There are no fees to report a death in Singapore.
Documents required to report a death:
- Your identification documents (e.g. Identity Card (IC), passport or citizenship certificate)
- Death certificate issued by the foreign authorities or a certified true copy of the death certificate
- Deceased’s identification documents (e.g. Singapore IC, Singapore passport or citizenship certificate) for cancellation
- Coffin import/export permit (if available)
- Burial/cremation permit (if available)
Registering The Death
Anyone can register a death, even if you are not the next-of-kin. However, usually a relative of the deceased or the funeral director would help to register the death.
Registration of death may be done at
- Police Divisional Headquarters
- Neighbourhood Police Centres
- Neighbourhood Police Posts
- Registry of Births and Deaths
For deaths in hospitals, registration of death may also be done at the following restructured hospitals:
- Alexandra Hospital
- Changi General Hospital
- Khoo Teck Puat Hospital
- KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital
- National University Hospital
- Ng Teng Fong General Hospital
- Sengkang General Hospital
- Singapore General Hospital
- Tan Tock Seng Hospital
You will need to provide the following documents:
- A Certificate of Cause of Death issued by a doctor or authorised medical practitioner – this will be retained and not returned to you
- The deceased’s identification documents (for example, Identity Card (IC) and/or passport) – for cancellation
- Your identification documents (for example, IC or passport)
You will receive a death certificate which also includes a permit to bury/cremate. The death certificate is a required document for booking the cremation or burial slot later on.
Decide On Funeral Matters
Once the Certificate of Cause of Death has been obtained, you may engage a funeral director who will:
- collect the body from the home or hospital mortuary;
- send the body for embalming if required; and
- deliver the body to the location of the wake.
You can search for a suitable funeral director from The Association of Funeral Directors Singapore’s directory. Your place of worship and referral from friends and family are also good sources to find a suitable funeral director.
Other preparations you should make include:
- A set of clothing for the deceased (including undergarments)
- Photograph for enlargement into the funeral portrait
5 Considerations Before Engaging A Funeral Director or Funeral Service Provider
However, before engaging a funeral director or funeral service, you should sit down with the family to decide on funeral matters. At a time of grief, it is easy to be swayed by emotional appeals or feel the need to compensate by having a lavish funeral. You may also want to consider if your recently deceased loved one had left any instructions on how he/she wishes for her funeral to be conducted.
Having a clear idea of how the funeral service should be held will prevent unnecessary or unexpected expenses. While most funeral directors are genuinely helpful, they are running a business and some upselling may happen. Here are five considerations before engaging a funeral service: 1) burial or cremation, 2) religious rites to use, 3) venue of funeral, 4) duration of wake and 5) funeral package extras to watch out for.
#1 Burial Or Cremation
In Singapore, 82% of all deaths are cremated. 73% are cremated at government-owned Mandai Crematorium and 9% at privately owned crematoria (Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery and Tse Toh Aum Temple).
Cost for cremation:
- Mandai Crematorium: $100 (cremation only), $500 (standard niche), $900 (family niche)
- Kong Meng San Phor Kark See Monastery: $300 (cremation only), $400 (cremation + urn storage)
- Tse Toh Aum Temple: $400 (cremation only), $500 (cremation + urn storage)
Additional charges will apply for selection of niches and choice of urns.
Private columbarium niches typically charge around $2,000 to $3,000. A typical standard marble urn would cost $350 onwards. A marble plaque with inscription would start at $1,000, while there are cheaper alternatives such as quartz. These charges are usually not covered under funeral packages. The cost also varies from columbariums based on the preferred suppliers and niche sizes.
Burials in Singapore are limited to only 15 years, leading to the local preference for cremation. After 15 years, the remains are exhumed and cremated, unless there are compulsory religious reasons that prohibits this. In which case, the remains are exhumed and reburied in smaller plots. Choa Chu Kang Cemetery is the only cemetery that allows for burials.
Cost for burials:
- $315 for Muslim, Ahmadiyya Jama’at, Jewish, Parsi and Bahai cemetery plots
- $940 for all other cemetery plots (e.g. Christian, Chinese, Hindu)
Aside from storing the ashes in a columbarium or land burial, you may also choose to scatter the ashes in the sea. An area 2.8km south of Pulau Semakau between 7am and 7pm is set aside for sea burial. You or your funeral director can contact MPA’s Port Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2488 for more details.
On average, a sea burial costs about $100 without any ritual to over $1,000 for a more elaborate ceremony. Do note that there is no current option to conduct a sea burial from land; you have to rent a boat to conduct the sea burial. A sea burial facility in Tanah Merah is being built, with a boardwalk that extends into the sea to allow for the scattering of ashes.
#2 Religious Rites
Religious rites are the main determinant in how a funeral is held. In many cases, it may be obvious which religious rites will be used for the funeral. However, in some cases where the family has differing religious opinions, this can be a major point of contention.
Your place of worship will be able to advise you on funeral rites. Costs for funeral packages can differ slightly for different religious rites, with Christian, Catholic and Free-thinker funeral packages being slightly cheaper.
Do note that depending on religion, you may be expected to make a small contribution or pay a fee for the various prayers and rituals conducted. These are often not included in funeral packages and you should consult someone who is familiar with your religion’s funeral rites.
#3 Venue Of The Funeral
Given that most of the population live in HDB, most funerals are held in HDB void decks. Venue rentals are not typically included in funeral packages. You or your funeral director will need to obtain the required permits from the relevant authorities. For wakes held in open spaces where tentages need to be set up, the tentage charges are not included in typical funeral packages. Your funeral director can advise you further on the charges and service providers.
HDB Void Deck
You will need to get a permit from your Town Council and contact them to secure booking dates for the funeral.
To submit an application, you must be:
- over 21 years old
- a relative of the deceased
- a HDB resident of the Town Council that you’re applying to.
If it is a public holiday or after working hours, you can call your Town Council’s Essential Maintenance Service Unit (EMSU) 24-hour hotline for assistance.
The Town Council will advise you on the:
- available HDB common spaces nearest to your block of residence
- charges for utilities (i.e. water and electricity)
Go to your town council’s office the next working day to get the permit and make payment. Bring along your NRIC, the death certificate and cash/NETS/credit card to make payment.
HDB provides temporary parking for bereaved family members so that you can park your vehicle nearby. You can apply this at any HDB Branch/Service Centre.
Private Apartment Grounds:
You will need to get permission from the condo management. This is highly dependent on your condo management and facilities. An alternative is using state land near your apartment (see below).
You can also hold the funeral wake in your own house. If you need to use part of the road outside your landed property, or any public roads for a funeral procession, you may need to get a permit from the Singapore Police Force (SPF).
If you need to use the state land near your property for the funeral wake, you will have to apply for a Temporary Occupation Licence (TOL) from the Singapore Land Authority (SLA). Booking charges will apply, depending on the amount of land space you need.
While the packages for funeral parlours are more expensive upfront, the advantage is that the location is secure at night and you need not stay overnight. Not only do you minimise the physical and emotional toil of staying overnight at the wake, you also avoid the additional charges of having a night “watchman” to oversee the wake at night if the family is unable to do so.
#4 Duration Of The Funeral Wake
This is the most important determinant of the cost for a funeral: how many days should the wake be?
This is highly dependent on religious practice and the preferences of the deceased and the family. If you have family members who are overseas and who are flying back home to attend the funeral, this may mean extending the wake to 5 days or more to accommodate their return. A 3-day funeral package typically cost below $4,000 while a 5-day funeral package is almost double at close to $8,000. Same-day cremation packages cost about $1,300.
You and the family should come to a consensus as to how long the wake should before deciding on the rest of the funeral arrangements.
Do note that for funeral wakes that last longer than 7 days after death, you must get prior written permission from the NEA.
You can submit a written request at:
- the NEA office
National Environment Agency
Memorial Facilities and Planning Department
40 Scotts Road
Environment Building, #21-00
- the booking office of Mandai Crematorium or Choa Chu Kang cemetery
Prepare a copy of the death certificate and embalming certificate (if any) along with the letter. For more details, contact the NEA at 6225 5632.
#5 Package Extras To Watch Out For
Bidding farewell to a loved one is a hard enough process, you do not need to add sticker shock at the cost of the funeral arrangements to this painful process.
Typical funeral packages are geared towards HDB void deck as the venue and include:
- Casket – is only for the basic casket and there are many upgrade options
- Transport of the deceased – collection and sending of the body, hearse and pall-bearers
- Transport of the mourners – to and from the crematorium
- Tent and setup for the casket – may or may not be included depending on the provider
- Lighting and fans – limited number and may not be adequate for your location
- Tables and chairs – limited number and may not be adequate for your location
- Portable toilet – limited number and may not be adequate for your location
Venue rental is not typically included and you should be aware that tentage for open spaces (e.g. the road outside your house or the open field) is charged separately. You may also need to add on additional lighting, fans and seating to the number provided based on your venue.
Other extras are not included in the package or charged separately include:
- Catering of food and drinks
- Religious rites (Hokkien, Teochew, Khek, etc.)
- Urns for ashes (cremation)
- Niche (cremation) or burial plot
- Marble plaque for niche (cremation)
- Temporary headstone and tripod (for burial service)
- Tombstone (for burial service)
While most funeral service providers / funeral directors will provide you with a list of preferred suppliers, you may also choose to source for your own suppliers. Refreshments and catering tend to make up a significant portion of additional charges. Funeral service providers may include a fixed amount under the package costs or charge on consignment basis where you pay for the amount used.
|Sample cost of a non-religious 3-day funeral*|
|Cremation of body||$100|
|Government Niche (no selection)||$500 (standard niche), $900 (family niche)|
|Urn and Marble Plaque||$350 (simple urn), $1,000 (marble plaque)|
|Use of HDB void deck||Free or nominal charge depending on town council|
|3-day funeral package including:
– Basic Casket
– Transport of the deceased – collection and sending of the body, hearse and pall-bearers
– Tent and setup for the casket
– Lighting and fans
– Tables and chairs
– Portable toilet
– Transport for mourners – return trip to the crematorium
|$3,900 without upgrades or additions|
|Refreshments and catering for guests||– $2,000 for buffet catering ($20/pax for 50 pax for 2 dinner buffets)
– $500 for refreshments
|Total||$8,350 or $6,350 without buffet catering|
* Cost can vary significantly depending on what is covered or not covered under the funeral package.
What To Do If The Family Cannot Afford The Funeral?
In general, it is possible to negotiate with the funeral director for a lower bill or a deferred payment plan. Some funeral service providers do offer repayment plans if you are unable to pay the full amount.
If the deceased has CPF monies but did not make a nomination, it is possible to claim up to $6,000 for reimbursement of funeral costs from their non-nominated CPF monies.
To do so, you would have to make an application with the Public Trustee’s Office and prepare the following documents:
- NRIC or passport of the person claiming, and the applicant
- Death certificate of the deceased
- If the person claiming the reimbursement is:
- the husband or wife of the deceased – the marriage certificate
- the child of the deceased – the birth certificate of the child and marriage certificate of parents
- the parent of the deceased – the birth certificate of the deceased and marriage certificate of parents
- the brother or sister of the deceased – the birth certificate of the deceased, marriage certificate of parents and the birth certificate of the brother or sister
- Funeral reimbursement declaration form (available on PTO’s website)
- Copy of the front page of the bank passbook or bank statement. (Note: For a payment request to a joint bank account or third party bank account, both the beneficiary and the account holder(s) must execute the indemnity form.)
- Receipts for funeral expenses. (These must be submitted if you are not a beneficiary.)
The typical processing of the claim takes approximately one month, once all required documents are submitted.
Have A Plan In Place
In the end, a funeral should be a time and place to grieve and to pay respects to the deceased. Cost should not be your main concern. However, you shouldn’t neglect it entirely as well. Many people are unexpectedly shocked when they receive the final bill. Understanding the estimated cost of a funeral can help you and your loved ones better prepare financially for this important final farewell.