Counting the cost of dying

Time waits for no man so do your planning now.

Malaysians generally don’t like talking about anything related to dying including final expenses. There just is an underlying stigma on talking about death, especially if there is someone around who is unwell or advanced in age.

Minimum funeral expense estimates

Funeral expenses depend on a number of factors including the deceased’s religion, burial or cremation, the duration the body is kept for viewing, and how elaborate the funeral arrangements are.

Here is a minimum estimate for the major religions in Malaysia.

Funeral service

Muslim: RM0 – RM1,000 (one day or less)
Hindu: RM1,000 per day (typically one day)
Christian: RM0 – RM1,000 per day (typically three days)
Buddhist/Taoist: RM1,000 – RM30,000 per day (typically three to five days)
Non-religious: n/a

Burial/cremation plot

Burial in own religious grounds: Free – RM5,000
Columbarium: RM1,500 – RM25,000
Burial plot: RM5,000 – RM100,000

Other costs

Coffin: RM1,000 – RM10,000

Obituary announcement in newspaper: RM300 – RM600 per newspaper per day
Gift/red packet (ang pau): RM500 – RM5,000
Tombstone: RM200 – RM10,000
Ancestral tablet: RM3,000 – RM15,000

Total funeral expenses

Muslim: RM1,000
Hindu: RM5,000 (including eight and sixteenth day prayers)
Christian: RM10,000 onwards
Buddhist/Taoist: RM20,000 onwards
Non-religious: RM5,000 onwards

Note: Buddhist/Taoist funeral expenses during Chinese New Year cost higher.

Average funeral expense estimates

Funeral expense costs depend on the deceased’s status. A person with a higher socioeconomic status may require a more elaborate funeral arrangement.

Note: Estimates are based on deceased’s last annual income as an estimate of deceased’s wealth.

Muslim: 5% of deceased’s annual income
Hindu: 20% of deceased’s annual income
Christian: 30% of deceased’s annual income
Buddhist/Taoist: 50% of deceased’s annual income
Non-religious: 20% of deceased’s annual income

Estate administration cost by land office

RM1 – RM1,000: RM10
RM1,001 – RM50,000: RM30
RM50,001 and above: 0.2% estate value

Estate administration cost by AmanahRaya (public trustee)

First RM25,000: 4.0% estate value
Next RM225,000: 3.0% estate value
Next RM250,000: 2.0% estate value
Next RM500,000: 1.0% estate value
Remaining balance: 0.5% estate value

Get your will sorted out early.

Small estates (distribution) act 1955

Entire estate: 2.0% estate value

Steps to take when a death occurs

If the person dies at home, do not move the body. Call the police and ambulance for an official to confirm the death and move the body to a hospital.

If the person dies in a hospital, a doctor will confirm the death. Collect the body from the hospital for funeral arrangements and a burial certificate.

The next-of-kin must register the death within one week of death at a police station bringing along the deceased’s NRIC/passport/visa and forms certifying the cause of death.

The death must be reported to the National Registration Department to obtain a death certificate, bringing along the above documents and the police report.

Handling final expenses and estate

Useful suggestions on handling final expenses and estate prior to and after death occurs.

Before death

• Prepare proper estate planning involving at the very least writing your valid legal will and an updated list detailing all your assets and liabilities.
• Prepare funding for final expenses.
• Prepare funding for at least six months family/dependents expenses while assets are frozen in probate.
• If you have any liabilities, have a debt cancellation plan in place.
• If you are a business owner/shareholder, have succession planning, and shareholding buy-sell agreement in place.

After death

• Submit life insurance, EPF, unit trust and other death related claims.
• Apply for EPF compassionate death benefit of RM2,500 within 6 months (for Malaysian citizens below the age 60 at time of death and contributing to EPF).

Proceed with estate administration process including the following steps:-

• Filing of cause papers.
• Hearing of Ex-Parte Originating Summons.
• Dispensation of two sureties (if deceased dies without a valid will).
• Collect assets and payment of debts.
• Distribute assets to beneficiaries.

Q: What happens if you pass away in a hospital and the body is not claimed?

A: The Ministry of Health has a process for handling unclaimed bodies. For unknown identity patients who die in the ward, the police are informed and arrangements are made for a press release.

A period of two weeks is given to non-Muslims and three days for Muslims from the date of press release for the claimant to claim the body.

Q: Can I have a funeral for my pet?

A: Yes, some places offer pet funerals which start from as low as RM500.

This article first appeared in MyPF. Follow MyPF to simplify and grow your personal finances on Facebook and Instagram.