Funeral Planning in Singapore: The Complete Guide For 2022

Planning a funeral in Singapore can be a daunting task, especially if you have never done it before. There are many things to consider and plan for, from the practicalities of obtaining the death certificate and registering the death, to organising the funeral wake and deciding on burial or cremation.

Here is a step-by-step guide to help you plan a funeral in Singapore.

 

The Steps of Planning a Funeral

Before we get into the details, we should first go over all of the steps of funeral planning – from the moment death occurs to the final sendoff. Once you have a clear picture of what to expect, it’ll look less daunting when we dive into the specifics.

The following steps are for people who want to know how to plan a funeral without the help of a professional.

Step 1: Check for Pre-Arrangements

Step 2: Obtain the CCOD (Certificate of Cause of Death)

Step 3:  Register the Death

Step 4: Organise the Funeral

Step 5: Lay the Deceased to Rest (Burial/Cremation)

 

Step 1: Check for Pre-Arrangements

• If pre-arrangements have been made

If the deceased has made pre-arrangements with a funeral service provider, then much of the planning will have been taken care of already. All you need to do is contact the funeral service provider or funeral director to activate the arrangements.

Having funeral pre-arrangements can remove uncertainties and doubts in the way that a funeral should be arranged. Close family members should already have prior knowledge on the wishes of the deceased.

Pre-planning a funeral also allows the person to express his/her funeral wishes, so that the funeral will be planned and executed the way he/she prefers.

 

If pre-arrangements have not been made

If pre-arrangements have not been made, there will be 4 aspects where the family members will have to make decisions on.

  1. Decide on the religion to hold the funeral
  2. Decide on cremation or burial
  3. Decide on a location to hold the funeral
  4. Decide on the final resting place

After the family has discussed and confirmed their choices, they can then contact their preferred funeral service provider or funeral director to begin the funeral process.

 

Step 2: Obtain the CCOD (Certificate of Cause of Death)

Before organising a funeral, you have to get a Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD).

Death can sometimes be unexpected. There’s no telling where and when it will occur which is why there are different procedures based on the location where a person has passed on.

 

If a person passes away in a hospital

While awaiting death in a hospital is probably the most emotionally taxing, as far as legalities go, it’s the most-clear cut. The doctor in charge of the deceased will certify the cause of death and fill in the necessary documentation. You can then pick up the CCOD from the ward nurse with the deceased’s ID card.

There are cases where the doctor won’t be able to identify the cause of death. If the doctor is unsure of the cause of death, the police will have the body sent to Mortuary@HSA.

When the body arrives at the mortuary, the State Coroner will review the case and decide whether further investigation is required. You will have to bring medical documents related to the deceased and current medication the deceased has taken, if any. You will also need to present some form of identification (yours and the deceased’s).

If everything goes accordingly, they will inform you of when you can pick up the body and the CCOD.

 

If a person passes away at home

The process is more or less the same as in a hospital. If you were expecting the death to occur, that is if the person was really sick or old, you can call your family doctor directly. He will determine the cause of death right then and there and issue the CCOD.

If you do not have a doctor, call your preferred funeral director who can arrange a doctor to go over for the issuance of the CCOD. Once the doctor issues the CCOD, the funeral director will then proceed with the funeral arrangement. If the doctor is unable to determine the cause of death, the police will have to be called in.

If the death is unexpected, you should call 995 immediately.

 

If a person passes away overseas

As soon as a person passes, the hospital or the police will contact the relatives. This is true both domestically and abroad.

When a death occurs overseas, after you have registered the death to the local authorities, you have the option of choosing whether to have the body brought back directly or have it cremated and carried back home by hand.

To bring back a body from overseas, a Coffin (Import) Permit is required to import a body into Singapore.

You may apply for a coffin permit from the following offices:

  • Port Health Office
  • Airport Health Office

The whole process can be incredibly complicated and stressful so the best solution would be to hire a funeral director who will walk you through the steps and even help you gather the necessary documents.

 

Step 3: Register the Death

You should register the death as soon as possible. In most cases, this is done immediately after acquiring the CCOD.

One thing to keep in mind is that you will be asked whether the body will be buried or cremated so it’s best to decide this early on. In Singapore, the most common place for cremation is the government-run Mandai Crematorium.

There are multiple locations where you can register a death: Neighbourhood Police Centre, Neighbourhood Police Post, Police Divisional Headquarters, or the Registry of Births and Deaths.

Regarding the documents, you are only required to bring the CCOD and some form of ID, like a passport, NRIC, or birth certificate (yours and the deceased’s).

If the body has been sent to the Mortuary@HSA, the death will already be registered there so you don’t have to worry about this part.

Once the death is registered, the hospital or police will issue the official death certificate.

 

Digital death certificates

From 29 May 2022 onwards, physical death certificates will no longer be issued, and there will be a move towards digital death certificates.

A doctor can certify the death online and it will be automatically registered in ICA’s system. After receiving the death certificate number from the doctor, the family can download the digital death certificate from the My Legacy website.

 

Preparing the obituary (this is optional)

Preparing an obituary isn’t actually necessary but it’s a good way of letting people know that someone has passed away along with the details of the wake and funeral.

Instead of contacting each of the deceased’s friends and acquaintances, you can submit an obituary in local newspapers. It can be a little pricey so you can opt to post an online obituary instead, or skip it altogether.

At Embrace Funeral Services, we do up e-notices with details of the funeral wake. This is to make it convenient for families to inform their relatives and friends.

 

Step 4: Organise the Funeral

There is no one correct way to organise a funeral. Every religion has its own traditions and going even beyond that, every family has its own set of beliefs. The deceased may also have his/her own preferences for the funeral.

Singapore is a melting pot of various religions. It is important that the chosen funeral home knows what to advise and do for each religion, so that the family can respectfully send off their loved one into their afterlife.

Every family also deserves to be treated with compassion and respect. The same goes for the deceased.

Funeral companies offer packages based on the type of funeral rites you want to conduct. The most common funeral services would be: Buddhist Funeral, Taoist Funeral, Christian Funeral, Catholic Funeral, and also a funeral for the non-religious/freethinkers.

 

Choosing a casket

If a decision was made to have a burial rather than cremation, you will need to choose a casket for the deceased.

Caskets in Singapore are made of wood. Cremation caskets are mainly made of plywood, while burial caskets are mainly made of solid wood. The caskets are differentiated by the material used, the density of the wood and the design.

wood caskets

A less popular choice of caskets would be metal caskets. Metal caskets are generally more expensive, but they have the advantage of being the most sturdy.

However, metal caskets are not readily available in Singapore as most, especially because the Chinese prefer to have their casket made of wood. They are also rarely used because they can’t be used for cremation here. (Side note: Embrace Funeral Services does not sell metal caskets.)

A third option would be cardboard (paper) caskets. They are usually bought by the more environmentally conscious families, though they are not as aesthetically pleasing. Cardboard caskets are also not readily available in Singapore due to extremely low demand.

Paper caskets can be a cheaper alternative, but not as cheap as one might think. Some wooden caskets would still be more affordable.

Hence, wooden caskets are the most common in Singapore. Depending on the type of wood used, the price can vary.

 

Decide on the location of the wake/funeral

The location for the wake/funeral usually boils down to the budget and the number of people that will be attending the ceremony. When the wake lasts for multiple days, another big factor to consider when picking a location is if you want a place where you can lock up without having to pay extra for night staff or stay awake yourself.

HDB void decks are one of the most common options. You need to get a special permit from the Town Council to hold a funeral at void decks. Void deck funerals are generally one of the more affordable options.

hdb void deck

Another affordable option would be to hold the funeral at home if there is enough space. If you need to use part of the road for the ceremony, you will need a permit from the Traffic Police or URA (Urban Redevelopment Authority).

You can also hold a funeral at a funeral parlour. This is generally a more expensive option. The benefit is that you are paying for better facilities and you may not have to stay at the wake all night. This is because for some funeral parlours, the place can be locked up at night, allowing you to get some well-deserved rest during this stressful time.

 

Other considerations for the funeral

When it comes to the actual ceremony, there are a couple of things to consider.

Based on the religion, you can choose who will be conducting the funeral rites. This mainly means hiring an officiant (monk or priest) who will lead the service.

The rituals and program for the funeral can involve a lot of details and coordination, and it can be specially curated according to the family’s preference. A funeral director will be able to help you with the coordination.

You can also decide on the floral arrangements and other decorations for the wake.

If you want to offer food and drinks to guests, you can arrange for food catering as well.

These are optional and based on personal preference, or the wishes of the deceased.

 

Step 5: Lay the Deceased to Rest (Burial/Cremation)

Another important decision you will have to make is where your loved one’s final resting place should be.

 

Cremation

Most Singaporeans choose cremation as a way to handle the remains of their dearly departed.

The most common choice for a final resting place is one of the columbariums in Singapore. Families of the deceased have to decide on a niche, an urn, and a marble plaque for their loved one.

Optionally, some families also choose to have the body cremated; with the ashes and urn brought home. There has also been an increasing trend of people using the ashes and turning them into ornaments and jewellery.

 

Standard burial

According to the NEA, the Choa Chu Kang Cemetery Complex is the only cemetery in Singapore still open for burials.

Bookings can be done over the phone or in person at the booking office. The NRIC of the applicant and next-of-kin, as well as the original Death Certificate, which contains the Permit to Bury is required to book a slot for burial. Your funeral director will be able to guide you with this.

 

Sea burial

Apart from it being eco-friendly, scattering your loved one’s remains into the sea can be a peaceful and spiritual process. There are two ways to go about this: you can wrap the cremated remains in a religious cloth or put them in a biodegradable urn and cast it into the sea.

scattering ashes at sea

 

Inland ash scattering

There are special government-owned facilities that offer an open garden for the scattering of cremated remains, most popular of which is the Garden of Peace, located at Choa Chu Kang Cemetery.

This is an ideal option for people who do not wish to be interred into a columbarium, but is also afraid of the sea and prefers the land. The Garden of Peace is very peaceful and serene, making it an ideal choice for inland ash scattering.

garden of peace

 

Organising a Funeral during COVID-19 Times

Since April of 2022, there has been an easing of COVID-19 measures in Singapore, including funerals. There are now no group size limits or restrictions when it comes to holding funerals in Singapore.

To read more about COVID-19 funeral rules and regulations from 2020-2022, you can visit this link.

 

Hiring a Funeral Director

Planning a funeral for yourself or a loved one can be very challenging.

Having a reliable funeral director by your side makes all the difference when planning a funeral. A funeral director will assist you every step of the way, from choosing the casket, curating the funeral service to arranging the final sendoff.

If you’re not sure how you should go about organising the funeral, don’t be afraid of seeking help from professional funeral directors at Embrace Funeral Services for funeral planning. Our philosophy is “Embracing Families As If Our Own”. You can count on us for our experience and compassion in making the funeral planning process a smooth one.

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