Unfortunately, there are many people who simply cannot afford to pay for a funeral. At an average cost of nearly $8,000, funerals are expensive. And on top of the hefty price tag, family finances may be depleted by the burdens of medical, hospice, or nursing home care. So what can an individual or family do when they are faced with paying for a funeral service that they simply cannot afford?
Plan the funeral in advance
If you are not in an immediate-need situation, take some time to make funeral arrangements now. Immediate-need funeral planning is extremely stressful, and it can be unnecessarily costly: Many funeral planners over-spend simply because they don’t have time to compare prices, think about their priorities and needs, and compare options. So if you have the opportunity to do some research now, take that opportunity! Just like any other major purchase, compare at least three funeral homes – taking into account their services, prices, and quality – before making a decision. Keep in mind, funeral directors are obligated by law to provide you with an itemized price list. You have the right to pick and choose which services you want, without purchasing a package.
Seek out funeral planning assistance
Don’t shy away from asking your friends, family members for assistance. Your loved ones can help you research funeral homes, caskets, and urns. And they can also provide you with a second opinion on the luxury casket you’re considering or the elegantly embellished urn you are thinking about purchasing – sometimes a second opinion is all you need to save some money.
Talk to a social worker or your county about funeral assistance benefits
Social workers can be a great resources for information about public funeral assistance benefits that may be available. In addition to talking to a social worker, give your local county a call to see if they offer any benefits – many localities have funds set aside for veterans, recipients of social security, low-income families, or individuals on Medicaid.
Research religious organizations that offer funeral assistance benefits
Many religious groups, like the Callistian Guild in Cleveland, Ohio, offer support to families and individuals who simply cannot afford a funeral service. It may take a little effort to dig up this information, so if you can, do some research in advance.
If your loved one is a veteran, find out about funeral benefits
The national Department of Veterans Affairs offers burial assistance to veterans, including a gravesite in any national cemetery with available space, opening and closing of the grave, perpetual care, a government headstone or marker, and a burial flag. Cremated remains may be buried or inured in the same manner as casketed remains – at no cost to the family. Some veterans may also be eligible for burial allowances.
Research funeral assistance benefits for children
Many funeral homes provide funeral services for infants and children at no cost, or at their cost. Additionally, there are a handful of organizations that offer funeral assistance for children, including the All For One-One For All Foundation, The Connor Kirby Infant Memorial Foundation, and The Unforgettables Foundation.
Look for a Memorial Society
Memorial societies across the nation negotiate contracts with local funeral directors in order to offer lower cost burial and cremation services. In order to take advantage of these lower prices, individuals must become members prior to death. To become a member of the Cleveland Memorial Society, for instance, costs $15.00 (this is a one-time fee). Members of The Cleveland Memorial Society, may choose to hold a burial or cremation service at any one of a handful of funeral homes, and they can expect to pay $775 for a direct cremation and $895 for a direct burial.
Donate the body to science
By donating your body to organizations like MedCure or Science Care, individuals are not only helping to find cures for diseases and conditions, they are also choosing an option that costs no money. In most cases, all costs related to the donation process are the responsibility of the organization, including transportation of the deceased, cremation, return of the cremated remains to the family, and a specified number of death certificates.
Rely on the County Coroner
Those who have no assets, cannot afford to pay for a funeral service, and have no family, may rely on the county to care for and dispose of their body. The services offered vary by county, so reach out to your local County Coroner to find out what the local regulations provide for.
UPDATE (11/19/2012): eFuneral recently partnered with Prosper.com to help families struggling with the cost of a funeral. Through our partnership, funeral planners have access to financing – so you can get a loan to pay for a funeral service and then make monthly payments for the funeral services, regardless of which funeral home is used. You can learn more about this partnership here.
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