In the event of death
The short answer to your question is, don't bank on your KiwiSaver money to cover your funeral costs. While I understand the process of withdrawing your funds can happen fairly quickly if you have all your ducks in row, it's unrealistic to expect that to happen in time for your funeral, which is usually a few days after death.
I consulted with one provider to get a rough idea of time but they couldn't give a definitive answer as it depends on your circumstances.
If you have more than NZ$15,000 in your KiwiSaver account, the money will be subject to probate as it will form part of your estate. If you don't have a will, you'll need a letter of administration. Dying intestate presents all manner of issues which can be time consuming and costly to resolve so hopefully you've got that one sorted.
If you have less than NZ$15,000 in your KiwiSaver account, then probate is one less obstacle to getting at the money. If you want to be organised about this (and it sounds as if you do), pay your provider a visit and review what's expected of you. It sounds like you can do a bit of prep work here and have everything ready to go in advance, to minimise the amount of work involved for your grieving spouse. In addition to the standard application form (which has to be notorised), your wife or another party acting on your behalf, will have to supply a copy of your death certificate.
If your wife is already losing sleep over this one, it is probably a good idea to review with your provider your circumstances and discuss what will be required of you, so there's no surprises and unnecessary hold ups in the event of your death. Pricing out a funeral that you can afford is also a good idea, if you haven't already looked into that one.
Not exactly uplifting phone calls to make I know but it may bring some peace of mind just knowing what's involved. I remember having to make a few of these calls on behalf of my late grandmother and it wasn't easy.
For what it's worth, here's what the withdrawal form (in the event of death) looks like for Fisher Funds, just so you can get a sense of what kind of information you'll be asked to supply.
Just as an aside, maybe it would be worth looking into withdrawing your funds (while you're still alive) so you have that money ready to go in advance. Serious illness is one of the conditions for early withdrawal of your funds. Not sure what your health status is, but it's possible you could qualify for this one. See Inland Revenue's KiwiSaver website for their content on "serious illness.''
It says on the website you can "withdraw the total funds in your account, including the current value of:
- your contributions
- your employer's contributions
- the $1,000 kick-start
- any member tax credits.
Maybe this option would suit you better? Check with your provider to see what's involved.
Live fully while you can.