When a loved one dies, planning the funeral is a big financial responsibility. If you’re in charge of coordinating final arrangements, the task can feel like a great burden.
According to Matt Schmidt, owner of Burial Insurance Pro, funeral expenses add up quickly. “The average cost of a funeral will vary, depending on the wishes of the individual,” he explains. “It’s common to see funerals range from $10,000 to $30,000.”
Who has to pay for a funeral?
What happens if you can’t afford to pay for a funeral? Who’s responsible for the expense? When there’s neither funeral nor life insurance, the deceased person’s estate pays the funeral costs. If you’re executor of your loved one’s estate, you’re responsible for releasing funds to pay the funeral home. However, this becomes a problem if there isn’t sufficient money in the estate.
Burial/Cremation Expense Assistance
Fortunately, there is burial assistance for the uninsured. You can receive help paying for a funeral if you know where to look. The following options can help you find some assistance for a funeral when no other funds are available.
Government funeral and burial assistance
In some circumstances, you may be able to qualify for federal, county, or state burial assistance.
If you’re wondering how much Medicaid pays for funerals, the answer is they don’t pay for anything. However, if you’re a surviving child or spouse of a person who qualified for Social Security benefits, the government does give a one-time death benefit of $255 that you can put toward funeral expenses.
Many counties and states also offer assistance in certain situations. Generally, you need to meet eligibility requirements. For example, residency is usually required, and showing monetary need is also necessary. Assistance varies from state to state and even county to county.
Regardless which government program you choose, keep in mind that you must apply and provide supporting documentation. The process can sometimes be a lengthy one.
Veteran burial benefits
For veterans and their families, the process is much simpler. All veterans and their children and spouses can be buried in one of the 131 national cemeteries. At no cost to the family, the deceased person is entitled to a gravesite, opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone and marker, a burial flag, and continual care of the grave. This applies to cremated as well as buried remains.
If the veteran is buried in a private cemetery, he or she receives a government headstone or marker, burial flag and presidential memorial certificate at no charge. Family members buried in private cemeteries get no benefits.
In some circumstances, survivors of a veteran may also receive a burial allowance. The Veterans Administration pays varying amounts based on whether the veteran was on duty at the time of death and the date the death occurred. For instance, if a veteran died during active service on or after Sept. 11, 2001, the person’s family can receive up to $2,000 burial assistance. If a veteran dies while off-duty, the amount the family can receive for burial costs is less.
Funeral compensation for an accident or crime
In some circumstances, if the deceased was involved in an accident or crime, you might be able to get funeral expense assistance from other government or private organizations. For instance, if a person dies as a result of being involved in a federally-declared major disaster or emergency, you can get money for certain expenses from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). There are, however, eligibility requirements and documents necessary for such compensation.
Many states also provide financial assistance if the deceased was a victim of a crime. In California, for instance, the Victim Compensation Board might pay up to $7,500 for the funeral, burial, and memorial service. This happens after other forms of payment have been applied.
Additional funeral expense assistance
In some cases, you might also be able to get additional help paying for the funeral depending on the deceased person’s affiliations, employment, or other community circumstances.
Says Josh Mullins, funeral director of Affinity Funeral Service, “There are some nonprofit organizations that help with funeral costs. Hospices may also assist families with paying for funerals. This generally happens on a case-by-case basis.”
In addition, the deceased person’s place of employment might offer some funding, while churches, synagogues, and local charities can often provide some assistance.
Organizations that serve the needs of certain segments of the population might be further places to look. For instance, Angel Names is a nonprofit that assists parents of infants who die. And the U.S. Department of the Interior, Indian Affairs offers monetary assistance for expenses associated with the burial of deceased indigent Native Americans.
Cover Funeral Costs with a Personal Loan
One additional option, if you are seeking to give your loved one a more elaborate send-off and you still require funds, is to consider an unsecured personal loan.
If you have good credit (with a credit score of 700+), it’s possible to get unsecured personal loans that can be used for funeral costs.
It’s quick and easy to apply for a personal loan. You usually get fast approval and often receive the money in as little as one business day. The higher your credit score and the better your repayment history, the lower the interest rate you’ll get.
Julie Bawden-Davis is a widely published journalist specializing in personal finance and small business. She has written 10 books and more than 2,500 articles for a wide variety of national and international publications, including Parade.com, where she has a weekly column. In addition to contributing to SuperMoney, her work has appeared in publications such as American Express OPEN Forum, The Hartford and Forbes.