Funeral planning



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 cremate 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 marriages, 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.

Know the Law

This is the second in a series of five articles on the laws governing death and dying. Besides the trauma of death for the deceased and those near and dear, there are numerous legal consequences which can have far-reaching practical and financial implications for those that remain behind.  By taking time to attend to these matters there is much that can be done address these matters pro-actively and to ease some of the stress and hardships associated with death.

It is for this reason that the Law Clinic seeks to empower people with a better understanding of these laws in order to enable them to better manage their affairs in relation to death and dying.

The Rhodes University Law Clinic strives to improve access to justice through the provision of free legal services to underprivileged people in most areas of law. In addition to its New Street offices, Law Clinic staff are available to clients at the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi), Nceme Street, Joza, every Thursday from 9am-12pm.

The Law Clinic also provides monthly workshops on a wide range of topics on Wednesdays at 2.15pm in order to raise awareness of people’s rights. The workshops are conducted by staff of the Rhodes University Law Clinic at the Assumption Development Centre, Nceme Street, Joza. The dates of these workshops for the remainder of 2017 are: 11 October, 8 November and 22 November 2017.

For more detail, please contact the Assumption Development Centre (Konongendi) or the Rhodes Law Clinic:

Rhodes University Law Clinic

41 New Street, Grahamstown

Telephone 046 603 7656


These topics will follow in the months to come:

  • Dying with or without a Will

Workshop at ADC: Wednesday 11 October at 2.15pm

On Radio Grahamstown: Friday 6 and 20 October at 10am

In Grocott’s Mail: Friday 20 October

  • Administration of deceased estates

Workshop at ADC: Wednesday 8 November at 2.15pm

On Radio Grahamstown: Friday 3 and 17 November at 10am

In Grocott’s Mail: Friday 17 November

 Domestic violence

Workshop at ADC: Wednesday 22 November at 2.15pm

On Radio Grahamstown: Friday 1 December at 10am

In Grocott’s Mail: Friday 1 December


Facebook Comments

About Author

I am the Production Manager of Grocott's Mail Print Edition. I am married and I have a daughter of 10 who is in Grade 4 at Victoria Primary School. The words that I live by is if you don't succeed try and try again.

Comments are closed.