Thursday, 10 May 2007

Lessons from death

I have learnt many things during my mom’s passing besides the growing up part, i.e. I've gained some knowledge in the preparation of the funeral, and the errands that needs to be done after the funeral. If you think funeral is about getting a coffin, put the body 6 feet under and perhaps mourn for 49 days, then you’re wrong. There’re much more things to it.

It was certainly a very stressful time. First, there’s the emotional tsunami that swept us away. But we can't just leave the deceased and go to our crying-hibernation mode. There are many things that need to be done. Allow me to share some pointers with you with a hope that your stress will be reduced in such testing times.

Funeral planner

Be honest with yourself. You don’t have time to choose the coffin and get everything prepared yourself; you will need a funeral planner. And sad to say, these vultures will be hovering around hospitals and wherever there is death, it’s like they can smell it. They will promise you the sun and the moon and will always give you the “we-will-take-care-of-everything” assurance.

During such time, our minds will be occupied with a lot of sorrows and we tend to just take what is laid on the table. Don’t! You will most probably be slaughtered if you do that. The first quotation given to me when my mom passed away was RM8,000+ which covers coffin, the rental of chairs and apparatus during the wake, drinks, peanuts, transport to burial ground / crematorium, basically all the things that you can think of, or at least what you are capable to gather at that point. We almost took it, we thought it was cheap. Cover everything you know!

Finally, we managed to get one for only RM3,600+, and it covers the same thing. The lesson here is… no matter how occupied your mind is, you need to think straight and discern. If you’re freaking rich then this will not matter to you, but if you’re not, then you will need to have a little bit of shopping sense.

Death certificate

This may just be one document that certifies the death of a person, but it’s not something that can be easily obtained. If one passed away in the hospital, then there should be no further problems. If otherwise, things can be messy. Consider that there is a growing number in people dropping dead all of a sudden, this is a tricky issue.

If death happens without the present of a doctor, you will probably need to make a police report. Thereafter, the police will take the body for post-mortem i.e. cut it open. I am sure this is not something that you wish for your loved ones. The person is already dead, and it’s not a murder, why cut the deceased open just for the sake of it?

The trick is to get a doctor to certify the death of the deceased, and the cause of death. Subsequently, the doctor certification can be send to DBKL for the officer to issue a ‘Burial Cert’. Thereafter, one can use this Burial Cert to apply for a Death Cert without having the deceased cut open.

The beauty of living in Malaysia is that… most of the funeral planners will have “connections” to get this done. So… this is one important criterion in choosing the right planner.

Will


This is one helluva “tai kat lai si” thing with the Chinese, and perhaps with other races too. But you cannot possibly imagine the importance of having one. For parents, let’s be open-minded about this. If something happen to you (touch wood), and your children are all still young, who is going to pay for all the funerals and logistics? And trust me funeral is freaking expensive.

A simple letter assigning someone the power of attorney to your finances can avoid a lot of unnecessary stress. I am fortunate because my dad was around and he has the cash to pay for a lot of things. But like I said, if both parents suddenly went and the children are all young, things can be very messy, and I am not talking about fighting for money.

In the absence of a will, all the deceased’s bank accounts will be frozen, and there are a lot of red tape and paperwork to do before the money can be disseminated amongst the children. And you know what? The gomen will happily take a cut from the account, no kidding. And that is provided all the paper work is done properly. Any hiccups, the gomen will sweep everything. And I am darn sure you don’t want that to happen.

If the deceased is unmarried and have no children… well, I am not exactly sure what will happen but very likely the gomen will send you a “thank you” note for your contribution to the country’s development.

And oh… as always, the above process practise “Malaysian time” to its fullest.

One way to get around it is to have joint accounts. But this means someone will have access to your finances while you’re still alive, a “will” will only allow someone access after one is dead… so… to each its own.


There, 3 very important elements, lessons that I learnt from the passing of my mom. There are also other issues such as burial land or place to house the urn for those who are cremated. Such things will depend very much on one’s finances. One advice… don’t over-burden yourself. Discern and choose the best for the deceased… and yourself.
Additional info (11 May 2007):

Some fellow bloggers have highlighted that EPF beneficiary should always be updated. Indeed, the beneficiacy should be someone who is alive and there have been cased where EPF office has screwed up when the system was computerised. Something like that. Well, it's Malaysia after all. So make sure your EPF beneficiary is alive and kicking.... so is your insurance beneficiary, if you have insurance

53 comments:

Gallivanter said...

Funeral planners are nothing but thieves taking advantage. I've seen it happened a number of times. When people grief, they lose all logical reasoning.

alliedmartster said...

Thanks for sharing, Zewt.
Your experience will no doubt help others, though most would just shrugged it as 'Tai Kat Lai sie'.
Funny, how we would avoid the topic of death, when through death, we will come to all our senses...

CRIZ LAI said...

A very detailed write-up you have here zewt. At least more people will be aware of what to do during the demise of a beloved one. Thanks for the sharing.

Another thing which caught my attention was the issue of beneficiary for your EPF account. I have received many emails regarding this matter for the past few months. It seems certain people's beneficiary name(s) got lost when they computerised the whole system.

We won't want our next-of-kins to spend more time or money in legal fees to claim back the money right? So, I would advised you guys to pop in the nearest branch to check on your account.

Prevention is better than cure...

Sasha said...

u;re right. all three is important.

Jemima said...

As Vladimir Nabokov said "Life is a great surprise. I do not see why death should not be an even greater one."

Thanks for sharing. I've learnt a lot from this post.

King's wife said...

After having just been through my grandma's funeral, I must say that the funeral planner helped alot. It also helped that she had previously purchased a burial plot.
Altho' it's a tai kat lai si thing and old folks don't like to talk about death, it's really important to plan ahead.

Jewel Rays said...

Zewt that was a very thoughful and good post. Thank you for sharing. Really good i must say. I am glad i read it.

~Jewel Rays:)

may said...

thank you for all the tips you've given. I know I should get around to writing a will, which is a good to have no matter how young or old we are. helps out the family a lot...

Seok Thong said...

It's really true. Some of those funeral planners are like devil. I remember the cheapest funeral for my grandma was around RM40k for everything. We were shocked! But what has passed already passed. Nothing can be done anymore.

I remember, when my grandma passed away, we can't shower during the ceremony for 3 days. This is what i can't tahan the most :)

neno said...

hehehe..the three points are true..very..when u goin to show me the tickets of the world championship??kekeke

rinnah said...

Having experienced two departures within the extended family (in one week!) six months ago these things are still quite fresh in my memory. Luckily my uncle was around to do everything for the family, so we didn't kena 'slaughtered' by the funeral planners.

bubbly soda said...

most of the time, we don't think much during this process cause like you said, our minds just go astray. the funeral is not the biggest problem. the biggest problem is the will. yeah, the gomen do take a big slice from it. the lawyer fees are killers. the waiting is the worst. by the time you get all done... congrats, half of the will is gone.

Cirnelle said...

You have just provided professional advice on two of the surest things in life in a span of one month... death and taxes. I knew blogging had its good points, you're proof of it.

april said...

hmm.. last year my grandpa pass away the police came but nv cut open my grandpa also. They came, check and left wor. Then obtaining of the death certificate your funeral package should cover also. As I know it's like that one. :P

I get very excited during funerals. Don't know why.. siao.. Mayb can see many interesting things excluding the boring prayers.. boring and hot until can die dot com.

The only thing i regretted nv do during a funeral is to take alot of photos for memories. but luckily the funeral package got include taking photos on the last day for us. hehe..

zewt said...

Gallivanter - yeah, have to admit most of them are. but i am sure there are some good ones. i am blessed to got one.

alliedmaster - indeed, only in testing times that we will see the light. foresight is everything...

Criz Lai - oh... good point, i think i need to update the post. very good point indeed. preparation is everything... foresight.

Sasha - one more thing... EPF...

Jemima - you're welcome. always happy to share what i learnt.

king's wife - yeah, couldnt agree more. we are living in the 21st century, should be more open minded for such a thing.

Jewel Rays - You're welcome, the pleasure is all mine.

zewt said...

may - yeah... it helps eradicate a lot of unncessary stress. besides, without a will... all your finances and property may be gone.

seok thong - oh, i think those cannot shower rules are no longer in practice... thank God... 40k!!??! that's really expensive!

neno - when i buy la, i will show you! u just wait!

rinnah - good for you. your uncle must have had a lot of connections and contacts. glad you didnt have any problem with the authorities. they are always a pain.

bubbly soda - precisely, those funeral planners know our minds are all messed up, they capitalise on it. which is why we need to keep a clear mind. the gomen... they will want a slice in everything.

Cirnelle - thank you for your compliment. i am sure you can provide better tax advice than me.

april - your grandpa must be very old eh? well, maybe your parents 'settle' with the police? you'll never know. exciting during funerals? you crazy ah?

freethinker said...

Will writing is important. Heck, even my dad forced me to do one already..

Yeah, I did mine few months back...

J.T. said...

Good for you Zewt. That was a good list. By the time, I flew home for my mum's funeral, my brothers and sister took care of everything. When I was there, they gave me a run down of how everything came together.
My sister kept a file of expenses and receipts, just as she did for father's funeral 13 years ago. I agree - a Will is very important. Even if you think you have nothing much, you still have something. The car that is in your name, your bank accounts. Look around and you will know you have more than you know that is worth safeguarding.

Bena said...

Walau I feel so small here.
Well you should write a book dude, like seriously. Sorry bout your mum btw.
very good writing, wish I can write like you lor!

kat said...

Thanks for the eye-opening story. I've never organised a funeral before. Yes, will definitely take your advice, and shop around a bit before deciding!

Speaking of wills, not only do we have to worry about this, have to think about a suitable guardian for our kids too.

And you're right about joint accounts too, as I have just found out. They always require both parties to be around for any major decisions!

5xmom.com said...

I did write a book on handling deaths, including giving a decent funerals, all for parents dealing with their children's death. But I had dropped the project midway cos it is too draining emotionally. Indeed it is good for you to share all these cos it is better to be aware than be caught not knowing what to do in our times of grief.

TTL! said...

u shud be thankful for the malaysians way of handling the corpse haha.. in china they put a tag to the corpse and throw it into a pool of chemical then all the corpse will froze and float and wait for everything to be done before it can be retrieved.

and as for the organizing thing.. i dont think i can organize it because i dont know that many bloggers and im already organizing a go-kart grand prix event haha.. wanna join the go kart grand prix?

FireHorse said...

A compassionate funeral planner is also helps. I remember the guy who was with us when we picked up the bones, seeing us cry he said simply, "Look at how white the skull and bones are, it shows your dad was a truly good person." Dunno if what he said is true or not but when grieving it helped.

angel said...

I volunteer to be your beneficiary, can? OK OK... bad joke.. :P

But thank you for such an important lesson/reminder :)

ps: Swedish babes damn cun, ok!

Bernard said...

Zewt, thanks for sharing this. It's useful to know. And practical too.

vegemaster said...

wow..Rm8K and RM3.6K is alot of difference..

Blardy people wanna con your money..luckily you were rational enuf not to be conned

LOl..*thumbs up*

confessing7girl said...

must be a really painful process!!not to say completly nonsense for someone who lost someone!!

april said...

hmm i think he was about 86 yrs old. That's why lor. Ur mother not old meh?

oh.. I am doing about Chinese Funeral Customs for my Final Year Project ma. So now I feel that Funerals are very interesting. Haha..

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

although touch wood and fingers crossed that i wouldnt need to use ur advice..its again a very public community service announcment.. educational and yet emo as well..

well done on gettin so far..so where have u "hoi zai" or want to feast?

Charmayne said...

okies kinda inappropriate but i'll try to get u the porky pies! :P

me said...

if economy goes bad, n your company retrenches....it's nice to know you have another set of skills to fall back on :-p we can talk about bringing nirvana's corporatisation to another level. hehe, just trying to lighten your mood sikit *cabut*

Yongs said...

I'd like to share something that I've learned during the recent passing of my father. If the deceased's estate is worth less than RM600,000 (which must include at least one property), the deceased's heir(s) can make a small estate claim through the Land office. It'll take about 2 to 3 months...much shorther time than if you go through the normal process of getting a letter of authority.

Doreen said...

useful pointers! i've thought about the fact that my parents won't be around forever as well.. and it freaks me out like hell, cos i'm the eldest and i worry about not knowing what to do. but oh well, them vultures will know what to do I suppose. just gotta come with a price.

-ritchie- said...

hmm..quite useful information there.. thanks a lot zewt..

Huei said...

i'm glad my mum's around when my dad passed..i cant imagine going through it all by myself.

it's really hard to think beyond the sorrows..and you did great..and thanks for sharing!

Hor ny Ang Moh said...

Don't forget to fill up ur insurrance benefictury detail, if not the inssurance co will happy wallop all & don't pay u a single cents.Over here the buried ground for my parent have being bought a few year back at a cheap price. Now very expensive. Beside this u have to let as lest someone u trust know all ur bank account. If ur died the bank don't know wan & after some years it becum dormant then b'cum gov money. Aiyah beside this a lot of other things. Good post. ( Maybe I blog on this also as my friend suddenly died ). Have a nice day.

PurpLe~MuShRooM said...

Thanks for the info.
Thank god i already have my will written. One more important matter... beneficiaries for your insurance and EPF!!! You don't want your money to be floating when u're not around.

mumsgather said...

Thank you for sharing all this in your moment of grief. It is an eye opener indeed.

erinalaw said...

Wah!RM3600 mah cheap lor. The last time we arrange for my grandma funeral. The coffin is already RM3800. The land is RM4k+. The rest like food, chair and bla bla bla is almost RM5k liau. You know lagi 'ta cai' leh which the chinese will do one. Another RM4k+. Phew!!! My grandma pass away at the age of 104 and she die in her sleep so no need to send for bedah siasat leh. Just make a police report where they come over to certifite she is death. Itu macam saja leh. Hmmm....

zewt said...

freethinker - wah, so young already write... but it's good, i reckon you're not married, it will make things easier should anything happen to you... touch wood.

JT - indeed. and living in malaysia, if you dont have a will, a lot of things can just be swept away. anyway, i guess everyone will have to go through funerals in their lives, so it's better to be prepared.

Bena - Hey there, welcome to As Zewt As It Gets. I am sure you can too... just have to practise more. thanks for dropping by and hope to see ya around.

kat - you're welcome. as for joint accounts, you can specify at the point of opening the account that only 1 person needs to be present. doing this will make things easy in the future. of cos, i dont deny trust is an issue.

5xmom - yeah, that was also the reason why i stopped writing my 2nd chance with mom, it's too emotional draining. i am sure u know what i mean.

TTL - if i go, i will be the only old fart there la... haha... u sure i will be welcomed?

Firehorse - oh..!! my funeral planner said the same thing too. he told me some ppl, their bones will be black, very yucky. maybe they all say the same thing. from what i know... bones are mostly white :)

zewt said...

angel - ok, i will think about it hahahaha. you're welcome. my pleasure to share.

bernard - you're welcome, it's my pleasure to share. and hope all of you will not be caught off guard.

vegemaster - yeah... my bro almost agreed to the earlier one. he wasnt thinking straight. i guess there're some benefits in being an accountang. haha!

confessing7girl - unfortunately, that's the way it is here. we all wish it can be much easier, less complicated, but there are a lot of procedures to follow, and it's good that we all know how to go about doing it.

april - my mom was only 55, she died very young. perhaps that's why a post mortem needs to be performed if there's no doctor certification. ohhh.... some project, then it's understandable la.

constant craver joe - yeah, i really hope all of you will not be caught off guard. u know, those vultures will really feast on your emotions. cant hoi zai ler... i am very sick. flu and cough... sigh

charmayne - was only joking, but thanks :)

zewt said...

me - and the job will be... funeral consultant? :P ... i dont think i wanna be part of nirvana... they are another bunch of vultures. rather not talk about them else they might sue me.

Yongs - hey there, welcome to As Zewt As It Gets. thanks for the tips mate. very good info indeed. everyone... read yong's comment ok! thanks for dropping by and hope to see ya around.

Doreen - that's very matured of you. being the eldest, we (yeah, i am the eldest too) will need to take charge. if you're not prepared, a lot of things can go wrong. so... think straight, though it's difficult at such hour.

ritchie - you're welcome ritchie.

Huei - you're welcome. glad you weren't alone. else it might be devastating. yeah, as love can blinds us... so does sorrow.

Hor Ny - oh thanks, insurance too! i have included that in the additional information. yeah, you should blog about it. not about horny stuff all the time la. you have a good weekend ahead ya!

purple mushroom - floating around.... no way... the gomen will just sapu it. good that you've gotten everything sorted out. it takes an open mind to do such.

mumsgather - you're welcome, it's my pleasure to share. hope it has been useful.

erinalaw - wahhhhh.... i think you got slaughtered! your neck all bleeding eh? yeah, if the deceased is too old, they wont bedah siasat. my mom was only 55.

TTL! said...

of course... i have a 2 20+ friends coming also. 9th of july 11 in the morning. its a saturday =) if your boss asks u to work on saturday, tell him "NOT WORTH IT!"

Daphne Ling said...

Hi...

These is a combined comment. A belated belated condolence to you and family on the passing of your mom, and a Happy Mother's Day to her, wherever she may be now, looking down here...I think posthumous Mother's Day's greetings are excepted, no? Anyway, I can't help but agree on what you say about death in general (esp bout funeral directors, although the man who saw to my granpda's funeral was a wonderful man)...

Take care. Cheerio...

Daphne Ling said...

Oh, and no, am not from CGMC...Dont even know what that means!

Jacss said...

that's what i meant when i said i'd chanced upon this beautiful blog....what a useful piece of information! but some elderly folk can be darn 'pantang' when we mention about "will"...my FIL in particular.....sigh !!!
so, i'm sure to come back for more.....thanx "zeut"...got to hear it someday to get rid of d curiosity........???!!!

Winn said...

thanks for sharing.

my parents and uncles and aunties also kena tipu big time when my grandmother passed away...

the funeral planner that came to our hse very professional! they came with a plan.. my parents and relatives invested in a very expensive coffins and others..like 'jou tai hei' like that.

then there was this guy( part of the gang), who was particularly frenly to all of us. he prayed when we prayed...and 'sik jai' with us also...and eventually became our family fren.

after long long time only we found our he actually charged us a bomb !!
feel cheated in a way.

it's all in the heart..i'd prefer a simply funeral next time. no 'tai hei'..

zeezee said...

thats a lot of work n things to learn indeed. i might be lucky not hving any close experience of losing someone close to me yet but i do find it handy as noone will be able to avoid this natural path.

cyen said...

Further to Yong's comments, would like to share my experience dealing with the Land Office on my father's estate. The claim thru the Land Office can be quite a pain, many procedurals and lotsa paperwork. If you do not have the time and patience to deal with their 'Malaysian style' procedures, you may sought assistance from Amanah Raya Berhad. They will help u with a chg for small fee based on percentage, starting 2% of the total value of assets of the deceased.

zewt said...

TTL - i saw the post in your blog. will keep a look out. hahahaha.... of cos i will tell that to my boss!

Daphne Ling - thank you for your kind words of comfort. oh, you managed to get a good planner? me too, i think a good planner is one who dont mention money first. and one who is there at the funeral to oversee things. CGMC = canning garden methodist church. most ppl from canning garden go there, just a guess.

Jacss - yeah, i know what you mean. even after my mom's death and having been through all the hassle. my dad still refuses to write a will. the moment i mention, he thinks i am aftering his money. well, let it be, at least i have state my mind.

Win - hey! so free to read my blog, no need to play with your dog meh? :P... ok, joking. yeah, dont be victim to them, most of them have a lot of +++ cost, those that are hidden, must be very careful. 'tai hei' is really 'to yu' la...

zeezee - i am glad those info is of help. hopefully all of you will be able to make wise decisions at those testing times.

cyen - yeah, you are right, amanah raya berhad does provide assistance, but they can be quite troublesome. becos my dad wasnt able to converse in BM, the personel there make remarks like "you bukan orang malaysia ka"... wanted to sapu all my mom's money. they have increased their commission from 4% if i am not wrong. thanks for your info though.

Happysurfer said...

Thank you, Zewt. This is indeed insightful.

couchwerk said...

zewt, i have been following your blog for sometime now, and this would be my virgin post..hee hee... i really thot your writing about your mums passing was like reading my own life, i went thro exactly all that you felt when my mum passed away 3 years ago. But reading this funeral arrangement article on what to expect kinda reminded me of the day my car was cocked from the back some months back! The tor cheh accident planner, the police report, the will (who should pay for the accident) etc... You get this really nice tow cheh guys coming to u to give you the "we will take care of everything" assurance and then the nightmare or rather tsunami starts!
Cheers and keep up the good work!

zewt said...

happysurfer - my pleasure. i am glad it was insightful.

couchwerk - hey there! well, what took u so long to speak up? :) oh yeah, i had a bad accident before and me too had a bad experience with these 'tow cheh' fellas. i guess you gave me another topic to blog about eh? thanks for reading and hope to hear from you more!