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.


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.


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.


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.

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