Funeral planning in Singapore: What to do when a loved one dies

Whether sudden or expected, the passing of a loved one is almost always a difficult experience. Yet, there are many things surviving family members must attend to even as they grief. Amidst the overwhelming emotions, knowing what to do will help minimise the stress. That’s why we’ve come up with this guide to shed light on how to prepare for a funeral in Singapore. Let’s get started!

Step 1: Download digital death certificate

Death at home in Singapore

If your loved one has passed away at home, contact your family doctor or a neighbourhood doctor who’s willing to make a house call to certify the death.* After you (or the next-of-kin) have received the digital death certificate number from the doctor, do download the digital death certificate from the My Legacy portal as soon as you can. This is because the certificate will only be available for download for up to 30 days. You can store the downloaded certificate on your personal devices.

However, if the doctor is unable to certify the cause of death or if you’re unable to contact a doctor altogether, you’ll have to call the police for the body to be sent to the Mortuary@HSA in a police hearse. The coroner at the mortuary will determine the cause of death and if an autopsy is needed. You’ll be notified to collect the body, usually the next day.

Death in the hospital in Singapore

Your loved one’s doctor will certify the cause of death if it’s known and natural. Similar to when a death occurs at home, you’ll then receive the digital death certificate number, which you need to download the digital death certificate from the My Legacy portal. You may approach the hospital staff for help in the event that you’re unable to access the portal.

If the doctor is unable to certify the death, the hospital will call the police for the body to be sent to the Mortuary@HSA.

When death occurs overseas

If your loved one has passed away abroad, you must register the death with the relevant foreign authorities. You may want to contact a Singapore Overseas Mission to help you with this.

To bring the body back to Singapore, you’ll need to engage funeral directors from both here and the country your loved one is in. Here’s a summary of the process:

what to do when love one dies

Step 2: Decide on a funeral home

With the digital death certificate, you may now engage a funeral director. Among other things, the funeral director will assist with the collection of the body, send it for embalming if required, and ensure that it arrives safely at the location of the wake (which brings us to the next point).

Step 3: Arrange for the wake and funeral

How is a funeral arranged in Singapore? First up, you and your family need to come to an agreement on several things—but fret not, your funeral director will be at hand to guide you along the way:

  • Location: Wakes can be held at the void decks, within the compounds of private housing like condos and landed properties, as well as funeral parlours. Each comes with its own pros and cons. Take for example a wake at the void deck. It’s convenient as your family can easily wash up or take a rest, but since the place cannot be locked up, you’ll need someone to be there round the clock—unless you engage a night guard from the funeral home.
  • Duration: You can actually skip having a wake altogether and opt for direct cremation or burial. But if you’d like to have a wake service, it can stretch anywhere from three to seven days.
  • Open- or closed-casket: An open-casket funeral allows family and friends to see your loved one for the last time. Some believe that this helps them in accepting their loss and expressing their grief. However, embalming of the body is required for such funerals. On the other hand, you may want to go with a closed-casket funeral, where embalming is not required, to preserve the memory of your loved one as they are.
  • Extent: Often, religious beliefs determine the type of wake and funeral rites involved. Depending on your budget, the wake and funeral can also be lavish, simple, or somewhere in between. At Direct Funeral Services, we offer a variety of funeral packages, so families can choose the one that best suits their needs and preferences, while ensuring a dignified send-off for their loved ones regardless of their financial circumstances.
  • Burial or cremation: It’s no secret that cremation has become the most popular option in our land-scarce country. After cremation, the ashes and urn can be kept in a columbarium or even your home. The ashes can also be scattered at sea or on land at the Garden of Peace. These days, more and more people are opting for keepsake jewellery, too. A small portion of your loved one’s ashes will be stored in a handcrafted jewellery of your choice, which you can wear with you wherever you go.

what to do when love one dies

Keepsake jewellery: something to remember your loved one by.

Should you eventually decide to have your loved one buried, it’s important to note that the burial period is only a maximum of 15 years. After which, the body will be exhumed—and then cremated.

And there you have it! We hope you find this simple funeral guide in Singapore helpful. Next up, we’ll be sharing about why it’s important to plan your own final farewell. Stay tuned to Funeral Insider!

*Some funeral companies, like Direct Funeral Services, will assist to contact a house call doctor if the family is unable to do so.