When those we are closest to die, the impact is felt immediately, both emotionally and financially. Often, since the death is unexpected, we aren’t prepared to pay funeral expenses associated with the burial and services, which can easily top $10,000. During this most difficult time in our lives, the pressure to come up with thousands of dollars can be overwhelming and, for many people, it’s simply impossible.
Fortunately, there are government services and private organizations that are equipped to help pay funeral expenses when we find ourselves in the unfortunate position of having to bury someone we love. The level and type of assistance will vary based on need, location and available resources, so keep that in mind when conducting your research. It’s also important to remember that the amount of money you pay to bury your loved one bears no reflection on how much he or she was loved.
Pay Funeral Expenses with a Little Help
Funeral Consumer Alliance
Most private organizations that assist with funeral expenses do so by offering guidance in helping cut the upfront costs. They provide educational materials, including information on your rights as related to dealing with funeral homes.
The organization that provides the most valuable assistance is the Funeral Consumers Alliance. This non-profit entity assists with helping to cut funeral expenses by offering a wealth of information on their website, including a long list of location-specific referrals and other resources. The organizations associated with the FCA assist in negotiating pricing with funeral homes, and they research area pricing to help find the best deals on funeral-related products and services. The FCA’s website contains genuinely valuable information related to covering and cutting funeral costs.
If the decedent was a United States veteran of the Armed Forces then, in most cases, there are benefits available to the survivors, including the following:
- No cost burial in a VA national cemetery (includes gravesite, liner, burial flags, grave opening and closing, engraved headstone, and ongoing maintenance).
- Option for no cost engraved headstone if burial will be in private cemetery (installation fees not included).
- Capped burial allowance and reimbursement for funeral expenses.
- Military funeral honors
For more information, please contact the Department of Veterans Affairs regarding death benefits at 1 (800) 827-1000.
Federal Government Assistance
For nonveterans, there is some federal government assistance available to help alleviate the burden of having to pay funeral expenses. Currently, the Social Security Administration pays a one-time death benefit of $255 if you meet the following criteria:
- You are the surviving spouse and shared the same home
- You are the surviving spouse but did not share the same home, however, you were already receiving benefits under the decedent’s name or you became eligible for benefits upon the decedent’s death.
- You are the child of the decedent who became eligible to receive benefits upon the decedent’s death.
For more information related to this benefit, or to discuss any possible exceptions, please call the Social Security Administration at 1 (800) 772-1213.
State Government Assistance
Many states, and even more counties, also offer assistance with funeral expenses, but the benefits and eligibility requirements vary greatly. For information about assistance in your area, please contact your state’s Department of Human Services.
When faced with the loss of someone you love, having to navigate through funeral arrangements is overwhelming enough without having to worry about how you’re going to pay for it all. The wealth of information and assistance available is intended to help relieve you of some of the financial burden, and make the load a little easier to bear.