|The first thing
to remember is that a befitting and dignified funeral does not have to
cost you a fortune. How much you pay out for funeral services is
not a reflection of how much you cared about someone. The most important
aspect of conducting a funeral service is to enable family and friends
to be able to come together, share in the grieving process and say a final
goodbye to the one they loved. The bottom line is that this
can be achieved just as effectively for a minimal amount.
What help is available for funeral
It should come as no great surprise
that there is actually very little help available to support families with
caring for their dead. What limited financial help that was provided
by the state is being cut, as budget deficits grow.
It is your responsibility
to ensure you arrange a funeral within your budget limitations. As
the years of recession and the poor economy have impacted on more and more
families, so the amount of charitable help from funeral businesses has
A funeral home traditionally
requested ‘cash advancements’ to be paid upfront with the remainder of
the funeral contract payable once the funeral had been conducted.
These days more funeral homes are requesting full payment at the time of
organizing the funeral, especially if budget services are being requested.
A funeral home is under no obligation to offer you the option to pay in
installments, and it is legal for them to insist on payment in full at
the time of signing a funeral contract.
There are a number of differing
options to help finance a funeral, ranging from social security benefits
to conducting car washes, and we have outlined these in detail in our article
‘Funeral Financing - A breakdown of your options’. Read through this
article and explore the options that best fit your personal circumstances.
Due to the nature of this type
of financing companies generally require some initial payment towards the
overall cost of the funeral and will finance the remaining amount over
a six to thirty-six month term. Funeral financing can be problematic
due to the nature of credit for a purchase, which once undertaken, the
purchaser can see no realistic long-term value and the creditor cannot
‘re-possess’ the purchase! Hence, you will find that obtaining credit
for a funeral is only really available to those who can already afford
Getting into debt is not an
The above statement is a reality,
both because financing for funerals is not very easy to access, and because
no one should have to acquire debt to bury their deceased loved ones.
Although there are companies offering ‘funeral loans’ today, these loans
generally require you to have some credit rating. Financing may be
an option to you if you have credit standing, and if you would prefer to
split the cost for a funeral into payments over a short term.
What about state burial assistance
programs for low-income or no-income families?
State burial assistance is in
decline. What state burial assistance is available varies significantly
by state and even county. To find out what is available in your area,
contact your county Social Services or Human Services or check out the
chart listing Indigent Burial Assistance by state from the Funeral Ethics
Organization in the resource section at the bottom of this page.
Do be aware that this is changing as budgets change.
Most states and counties
do have in place some kind of indigent burial program for the indigent,
homeless and mentally ill that die within the care of state institutions
and with no next of kin. However, these programs have funding only
in so far as to cover the most basic disposition costs. The local
county will cover a direct cremation or immediate burial with no service.
Funding for indigent burial
assistance is being axed, if not reduced, in many counties across the U.S.
now, as local budgets simply cannot stretch to covering these expenses.
Especially as the number of indigent dispositions have increased for a
county, as next of kin walk away because they cannot afford funeral expenses.
MediCare and MedicAid may
offer some provision for those individuals who qualify to assist with burial
or cremation costs. Some churches and charitable organizations also
set aside limited funds to assist those within their congregation or community
with arranging a funeral when they are on very low income and/or have no
Consider direct cremation as
an affordable option
Arranging your own funeral means
that you are still in control of the disposition process, and you can arrange
a basic direct cremation for a minimal amount. In many cities across
the United States a basic direct cremation can be obtained for around $700
- $900 complete. This means the family can arrange a simple disposition
for an affordable amount and then conduct their own dignified memorial
service with the ashes present. Conducting your own memorial service
means that you are not paying out for expensive services from a funeral
Consider a natural green burial
as a funeral alternative
A natural burial can potentially
work out much less expensive than a traditional burial. Plus the
added advantage is that in most states you can conduct your own natural
death care. In many states you can legally bury your dead on your
own property, and legally you do NOT need an elaborate casket, you can
make or purchase a simple wooden coffin. Home death care conducted
by the family can also be so much more personal than a funeral conducted
by a funeral home. A home funeral can be arranged for less than $1,000.
Read our related article at the bottom of this page about DIY Funeral Care
to learn more.
Consider whole body donation
as a no-cost option
Donating your body to science
has gained popularity of late. Not just because it can seem an ethical
and progressive act, but also because it offers a “no-cost” disposition
alternative. Many of the baby boomer generation are opting to donate
their bodies to science as they feel it befits their belief system and
alleviates their family from the financial and emotional burden of a funeral.
Bequeathing a body to science
can certainly be a disposition option, however, there are pitfalls to planning
on this as an option. Once upon a time medical schools struggled
to obtain sufficient cadavers, now they can be inundated with bequeathal
requests, so they have become more selective on donor acceptance.
At US Funerals Online we are hearing of more families who had subscribed
to the anatomical gift registry but are being rejected at the time of donation.
US Funerals Online is partnered
with Biogift.org, a nationwide anatomical donation company, who offer a
donation process (anywhere in the U.S. except Minnesota and New Jersey),
with free transportation and the return of the deceased’s cremated remains
(if required) within 3 – 4 weeks. Visit our Body Donation page, or
call (866) 670-1799 for more information.
The modern funeral industry
in the U.S. is the fourth largest industry. It accounts for around
$17 billion a year, and 10% of this industry is corporately held.
This has meant that the business of ‘death’ has become a moneymaking domain,
often driven by corporate greed. We are easy prey when we are at
our most vulnerable, and a funeral purchase is known in the trade as a
“distressed purchase”. Those ‘grief counselors’ who guide you through
the process of arranging the funeral are also professional sales people,
taught to “up-sell”.
If you cannot afford funeral
services, then you need to explore what options are available to you in
your personal circumstances, but above all you need to manage whatever
you can within a budget. You can still arrange a dignified and respectful
disposition for several hundred dollars.
||Expert Author: Sara
Sara is the Editor in Chief
for US Funerals Online and has been researching and writing about the death
care industry in the US for the last 5 years.
Burial Assistance by state chart
Last Revised: 06/08/2013