Death is an uncomfortable subject for most societies, and especially even so in conservative Singapore. Unfortunately, tragedy strikes when we least expect it and we need to be prepared. Because of this, we have prepared a 5-step process to look through when preparing for a funeral in Singapore.
Step 1: Obtain Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD)
Upon news of a passing, the first step would be to get a doctor to certify the death and issue a Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD).
Death at Home
If a death occurs at home, you will need to contact a family doctor or a doctor who makes house calls to certify the death. After performing the necessary examinations, the doctor will immediately issue a CCOD.
In the event that the doctor is unable to issue a CCOD due to unknown or unnatural causes of death, you will need to contact the police, who will arrange to have the body sent to Mortuary @ HSA (Block 9, Singapore General Hospital) in a police hearse.
Before the doctor arrives, please prepare the following:
- Medical history of the deceased
- Prescriptions and medication taken by the deceased
- Identification of the deceased (eg NRIC/Passport/Birth Certificate/FIN card)
Charges for house calls to certify death range from $200-$350.
In the event that no doctors are available, you should contact the police.
Death in a Hospital
If the death occurs in a hospital, the doctor on duty will certify the cause of death before issuing a CCOD to the ward nurse. You can obtain the CCOD from the ward nurse. Similarly, if the doctor is unable to certify the death due to unknown or unnatural causes, the police will be contacted and the body will be sent to Mortuary @ HSA.
Autopsy on the Deceased (In Case of Unnatural Death)
Upon the deceased’s arrival at Mortuary @ HSA, the coroner will determine if there is a need for an autopsy or if the death was due to natural causes. If the cause of death is undetermined*, the coroner will authorise an autopsy to determine the cause of death.
*If the CCOD was issued by a qualified doctor, it is unlikely that there will be an autopsy, but the coroner will make the final call.
In the event that you want an autopsy to be performed, you may apply for a private autopsy to be conducted (the cost of a private autopsy, GST inclusive, is $5,863.60). Do note that this is subject to approval from the Health Sciences Authority.
Mortuary @ HSA operating hours
- Monday to Friday: 8:00am – 4:30pm
- Saturday, Sunday and Public Holidays: 8:00am – 12:30pm
Step 2: Engage a Funeral Director
After you have received the CCOD, you can look for a funeral director to help with the following:
- Collection of the body from the home or hospital mortuary
- Sending of the body for embalming (if required)
- Delivering of the body to the location of the wake
You can choose a funeral director from this list, as provided by the Association of Funeral Directors Singapore. There are Christian, Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, and non-denominational funeral directors on the list.
Step 3: Registration of Death
Once you have received the CCOD, you will be able to officially register the death at any Police Divisional Headquarters, Neighbourhood Police Centre, Neighbourhood Police Post, or the Registry of Birth and Deaths at the ICA building. Anyone can register the death, including the funeral director — it is not necessary for the next-of-kin to do so themselves.
It may be recommended to register the death at the nearest Neighbourhood Police Post as they are more accessible around the island. However, the estimated processing time for a death registration is 45 minutes at Neighbourhood Police Centres/Posts and 30 minutes at Registry of Birth and Deaths at ICA.
According to the Singapore Police Force, Neighbourhood Police Centres (NPC) are open 24 hours while Neighbourhood Police Posts (NPP) are open from 12pm to 10pm daily.
There is no charge for registering a death, but you will need to bring the following documents:
- Certificate of Cause of Death (CCOD)
- Identification of the deceased (eg NRIC/Passport/Birth Certificate/FIN card)
- Informant’s identification documents (eg NRIC/Passport/FIN card)
Please also note that you will have to decide if the body will be cremated or buried prior to registering the death.
Step 4: Arrangement of the Funeral Wake (Optional)
Depending on the family, you may choose not to hold a funeral wake. Some families decide to cremate or bury the body upon death (Step 5), with simple prayer services held at home or at the crematorium service hall.
In the event that you decide to hold a wake, a funeral director will be well-placed to advise you on the right steps, depending on religious and/or cultural sensitivities.
Just to be sure, here are some points to take note of.
Embalming of the Body
In order to delay the decomposition of the body, embalming is typically done for an open-casket funeral. The procedure will help to ensure that the deceased will look presentable as their loved ones pay respect.
Embalming involves the removal of bodily fluids and replacing them with chemical solutions. If you choose not to embalm the body, a funeral wake can still be held, as long as the body is in a hermetically-sealed (airtight) coffin without a viewing window.
You can find a list of licensed funeral parlours with embalming facilities here. All funeral parlours with embalming facilities are licensed by the National Environment Agency to ensure high environmental hygiene standards.
Do note that embalming may not be allowed if the deceased passed on from certain infectious diseases, such as Covid-19.
Where to Hold the Funeral Service
You may choose to hold the wake at a funeral service parlour, a house, or a void deck.
- If you’re holding the wake at a landed property and the wake will take up part of the road outside the house, please get a permit from the Traffic Police in advance.
- In order to hold the wake at a void deck, you will need to obtain a permit from the respective Town Council.
Optional: Preparation of Obituary
To notify friends and extended family of the passing and details of the wake, you may prepare an obituary in the local newspapers. You will need to prepare the original death certificate, as well as identification documents of the person placing the obituary.
According to SG Obituaries, the typical cost of an obituary with The Straits Times will cost $2.500, and the minimum cost is $202.23 for a 3cm x 1 column space. Both costs are inclusive of GST.
You can find more details here.
Step 5: Burial, Cremation or Sea Burial
You will be able to book a slot for cremation, burial, or scattering of ashes into the sea (sea burial). This must be indicated during Step 3, when the death is registered. The funeral director usually helps with the booking of the slots, but you can also do it yourself online.
The application of cremation will take around 25 minutes in total, and the application of a permit to erect a tombstone or monument for burial will take around 10 minutes.
The service fee for application for cremation is $50 if the deceased is under 10 years old and $100 if the deceased is 10 years old and above.
Before you start on the applications, please ensure you have the following documents:
Application for cremation:
- Deceased details
- eg Death Certificate number, date of death
- Next-of-kin details
- eg Name, NRIC, citizenship, gender, relationship to the deceased
- Supporting documents
- eg Letter of Authorisation, Death Certificate in English and deceased’s passport, and hospital memo (each of which where applicable)
Application for permit to erect a tombstone/monument:
- Death Certificate
- Detailed design of tombstone or monument
- Letter of Authorisation where applicable
No service fee is required for the application for permit to erect a tombstone/monument.
If you plan to scatter the deceased’s ashes at sea, there is a site south of Pulau Semakau designated for sea burials. This can be done daily from 7am to 7pm. You can contact the Maritime and Port Authority of Singapore (MPA)’s Port Marine Safety Control Centre at 6325 2488 for more information.
Speak to Someone If You Need Mental Health Support
It is always tough losing a loved one, and we recognise that it can be hard to reach out to friends in this time of need. If your mental health is affected and you feel the need to speak with someone, you can call a helpline and speak to a volunteer.
- Samaritans of Singapore (SOS): 1800 221-4444
- IMH Mental Health Helpline: 6389-2222