Planning a funeral
Funeral planning in most cultures is very important, usually involving the burial of the deceased. The manner in which a person is buried often differs from culture to culture.
It is however important to acknowledge any burial wishes the deceased may have provided for in his/her will. It is also recognised in most cultures that the deceased be given a respectable and dignified burial.
A funeral requires many important decisions, some of which are: • Whether to bury or cre- mate the deceased; • Whether to hold a traditional funeral or a memorial service; • Whether to follow any religious traditions; • Where the interment or service should take place.
In cases of polygamous mar- riages, religious difference, geographic distance, or family division because of divorce or disagreement there can sadly be many different views and disputes within the family.
WHO HAS THE RIGHT TO MAKE FUNERAL ARRANGEMENTS?
Where a deceased has left a Will, it is easy to find out where and how the deceased is to be buried. In cases where the deceased died intestate, then the deceased’s beneficiaries may decide on the funeral arrangements.
It is the responsibility of the deceased’s closest relative or next of kin to arrange the burial, unless otherwise directed in the deceased’s valid will (in which case it is important that the family members respect the deceased’s wishes)
In different cultures different customary rules apply as to who should be tasked with this duty.
For example, many years ago in African customary law, the eldest male relative would have inherited the deceased’s estate and this meant that the wife and children would have no say in where or how the deceased would be buried.
This is now not the case as African customary marriages are recognised as valid, and therefore the wife has a legal duty to plan her husband’s burial should she so wish.
Another issue of concern is that of polygamous marriages, where the wives cannot agree as to the funeral arrangements of the deceased husband.
Where such disputes arise as to who should arrange the deceased’s funeral, the dispute may be referred to Court for adjudication.
This means that an aggrieved party can now approach the Court by way of urgent application, requesting that the Court decide who is awarded the burial rights in respect of the deceased person.
Such an application can delay the entire burial process and should therefore be exercised with caution, because it involves costly legal fees.
THE PURPOSE OF A FUNERAL PARLOUR OR UNDERTAKER
A funeral parlour can take care of many of your needs, assist you in making decisions, as well as sort out all the documentation necessary to report the death and organise the funeral.
In essence, a funeral parlour or undertaker can take away a lot of the stress and burdens associated with the administration and organisation involved after a death.
It is important to again take note that unless otherwise provided for in a valid Will, the person appointed to arrange the funeral can choose a funeral parlour or undertaker that best suits the needs, cultural requirements and financial means of the deceased’s family and/or person tasked with planning the funeral.
AFTER THE FUNERAL
What happens if the deceased was receiving a social grant?
If the deceased was receiving a social grant from SASSA (South African Security Agency), SASSA needs to be informed of the death. You will do so by:
Taking a copy of the death certificate to the official at the pay-point where the deceased was receiving his/her social grant, OR If the money was being paid directly into the deceased’s bank account by SASSA, you can take a copy of the death certificate directly to the SASSA offices in the area in which the deceased was residing.
It is illegal to continue receiving the social grant of a deceased person.
Moreover, if found guilty by the court, you can be sentenced to imprisonment or given a fine.