Let’s be honest, funerals are very expensive and usually not planned for.
While some families can cope with these costs, it hits low-income families the most. Where can low-income families get real help to alleviate some costs?
There are a lot of different places to get real help with funeral costs for low-income families. The first place you should check is with governmental & charitable organizations & work your way down to the local level. This way you will get all the help that you need and not lose out on any funds.
When a loved one dies, family members are left with numerous decisions that should be quick. With these in mind, how does one go about finding these places and resources?
Reading on I can help you to find some organization to help and give some tips on how to ask and what to say.
Where should I start?
The first thing that you should do is to check if they have a will. (I can recommend US Legal Wills as a service if you personally don’t have a will yet). If they do this could guide you and inform you of what the deceased wanted to be done for the funeral.
If they have a will it will most likely explain where the funds for the funeral are coming from. If they do not have a will or any money set aside for the funeral arrangements, it can be tricky and even overwhelming while you and your loved ones are grieving.
Funerals are a big purchase and they take up a lot of your time and energy in an already trying time where you should just be grieving.
You will have a lot of questions and most are underprepared for this. That’s why there are organizations like the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society (FCGS). You can talk to your county coroner’s office about options and seek help from them.
Know your rights as a consumer
Every state also has different rules and regulations on what and how you can do a funeral. Knowing and understanding all of the different options you have available in the next step.
The “Funeral Rule” was brought about by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to stop some funeral homes from preying on vulnerable people at a trying time. You can go to the website here to read all about it, but below are the main tenets of it and by knowing your rights you get the best price.
- Buy only the goods and services you want.
- Receive pricing information by telephone.
- Receive an itemized statement of goods and services.
- See a casket price list.
- See a written price list for outer burial containers.
- Receive a written statement after you’ve decided what you want and before you pay.
- Use an alternative container for cremation.
- Provide your own casket or urn.
- Make funeral arrangements without embalming.
What are the government organizations I can or can’t use?
Surprisingly there are a few places that are ready and able to help people depending on your situation. The government options are a bit limited in terms of the amount of money that they give and the speed at which they pay.
Some don’t offer you help at the time of their death, they are there for you to put aside money in the event of the death of a loved one. While this may not help you now it may in the future.
- Federal Government/Social Security- The Federal government in America does not help out a lot for a funeral. If your parent or loved one was receiving Social Security benefits, he or she may be eligible for a one-time death benefit of $255. Though this payment amount has remained the same since 1954, it is something. Hopefully, in the future, the government will start to take price inflation into account. To see if they are eligible you can call at 800-772-1213 or visit an office by location them via this link to apply for benefits. You cannot apply online. They may even have other programs that you can apply for.
- Medicare & Medicaid– Medicare and Medicaid do not offer funeral assistance. You can put aside up to $1,500 tax-free per person (so $3,000 for a couple) in advance for the funeral expense.
- Military & Veteran– To help with funeral costs, ALL military veterans are entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker. The spouses and children of veterans are also entitled to space and marker in a cemetery as well. This may seem all-inclusive but the family is usually responsible for other funeral costs such as flowers, transportations, etc. You can call or visit the website here.
- State and Local- Each state has its own rules and money set aside for funeral assistance. It is commonly called the “General Assistance Program ” and while some states will give a certain amount to all no matter what others will need you to meet certain requirements. If you are in the “low-income” tax bracket you will most likely be approved but you have to fill out the paperwork and wait a certain amount of time. The process is slow and is prepared to wait for the money. Some States will help out but others like New York do not, you will have to call your local Department of Health or the county coroner to see what is available and the steps and how to apply.
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)- This assistance from FEMA is able to provide burial assistance when the death occurs during a national disaster. This coverage applies to those that were directly and indirectly affected by the incident.
What are the charitable organizations I can use?
While there are more options here than governmental help, you will have to do your research and find them. Many times these organizations do not just state that they will help with funeral services, you will have to ask. (Please read my full article on 11 non-profits which can help you with funeral costs.)
You have to figure out what works for you and probably combining some of these options is best. There is no shame in asking for help, everyone needs help sometimes. Below are a few places you can look at but clicking here are 11 nonprofits and more in-depth detail on how they work.
- Religious Organizations- Churches, Temples, Mosques, and houses of worship will commonly help members to cover burial costs. If the local chapter does not have the money, they can ask larger institutions for help to cover the costs. Even if you are not a member of that specific religious facility, but of the same faith asking if they have anything available cannot hurt.
- Consumer Advocate Organizations- A consumer advocacy is a group or individuals that are there to protect the interests of the buying public. They were originally started to expose unfair business practices, but have now branched out and some of them also give funding for things such as funerals.
- Memorial Societies– There are now at least thirty-eight different states that have memorial societies. A memorial society is an organization you can join that offers low-cost funeral options. The fee is low, but the saving is immense, though it is often for a no-frills funeral.
- Call 211– This may seem outdated, but in many states, 211 is a helpline for information about essential community services. When you call you will be connected with an operator who can help provide you information about local organizations that can help with funeral arrangements and costs.
What is the average cost of a funeral?
The average funeral costs around $10,000. This includes but is not limited to things such as a viewing, burial, service fees, transportation, a casket, and embalming. The average cost of a cremation is $6,000 which is cheaper, but not cheap.
The biggest costs are going to be the caskets/urns which cost thousands of dollars alone and the headstone. But even the most basic of funeral expenses can be difficult to afford. Having a strict budget can help guide you through this and the more basic the funeral the cheaper it will be. (see my article for more information about cheaper caskets).
After you have your budget and you know the costs, you will have to choose which items are must-haves, and which ones you can do without. Having a “green funeral” can be a cheaper option and you can read about them in my article.
A big reason that people overspend is that they are stressed and just want the easiest path of resistance. Your emotions will be running high and judgments may not be at their best.
Decisions are also made quickly and on the spot which tend to lead to overspending. Also, if this is your first funeral and you don’t know the process it may seem normal.
What are other low-cost/free alternatives?
If you want and/or need to keep funeral costs low, there are ways to go about this. Again, combing these will help to save costs.
- Direct Cremation- This can be one of the cheapest alternatives to traditional cremations or burials. The body of the deceased is cremated as soon as legally possible (some states require a 24hr refrigeration period). After the cremation, the remains are immediately returned to the family in whatever container is supplied and there is no service included but of course, you can have one on your own.
- DIY Funeral Service/Memorial-If money is the issue and not time a DIY funeral could be the answer. You can do almost everything on your own from making the headstone to having your own funeral service ( you can read more about how to do it on your own here. Also, in most states, you can even bury the body on your or a family’s property.
- Donate the body- In most states when you get a state ID or driver license, you can choose to be an organ donor. So if donor acceptance criteria are met, you can donate the body to orang transplant, universes or private organizations for medical research. s body to a university or private organization for medical research and educational purposes. This is a great way to have a free or very low cost and give back to society. If you choose this option check with aatb.org to make sure that they are accredited.
How can I prepare for a funeral?
The best way to do this is to plan ahead, it may sound simple as just setting up a bank account and having a will but there are some steps to follow and things to take into consideration.
- Discuss your plans with them- Talking about death at any age can be very hard but discussing the policy with your loved one or parents is first. You need to talk about the amounts of everything and who will be paying for all this. Putting this in writing and keeping it somewhere safe.
- Decide who is in charge– Who is in charge in the event of the death? What are the deceased wishes? Where is the money coming from? Who can access the money? If there is any leftover who gets it? These are just a few things to think about and discuss.
- Fit the situation– Once you’ve gone over the details, and you figured out what is best you have to set up the fund or insurance policy. The three main types of insurance you can get are
- Term Life Insurance – Term policies tend to cost less than the other types of insurance, but, these policies expire after a certain amount of time.
- Whole Life Insurance – This life insurance policy lasts from the time you sign up until you pass away, and this makes it more expensive.
- Funeral Insurance – “Final expenses” is a type of coverage is specifically to cover funeral and burial expenses but is smaller amounts of money but does last until the death.
I need help paying for the funeral of a child
- childrensburial.org -There are non-profit organizations like Children Burial Alliance that will help you to afford the burial of a deceased, child between the ages of one and seventeen. If you are a family with no life insurance and little savings you will be eligible to apply for help. The CBA can provide burial plots and money for the service. The organization also connects families with low- and at-cost funeral service providers.
- finalfarewell.org – This organization also helps parents pay to bury their children if assistance is needed. They provide financial assistance and counseling to families while they are grieving and in mourning.
- thetearsfoundation.org– The TEARS Foundation directly pays funeral homes up to $500 for funeral costs. They specifically cover fetuses after 20 weeks and babies up to one year old.
Are there funeral expense assistance available to victims of crime?
Yes. Every state has a page dedicated to this. The specific benefits will vary by state and you must apply in the state where the crime has occurred.
Can my loved one’s union help?
Yes, most unions pay death benefits to current and former members, their spouses, or other family members. You can check these two sites to find your unions and see if they cover this expense.
Yes, fundraising. This may be the last thing that one wants to do but it can be a great way to bring the community together to not only help pay for the funeral service that they deserve but to alleviate some if not all of the costs.
You can do anything from setting up a crowdfunding site, to bake sales and car washes.
The internet now is a great place to do crowdfunding. Many of the friends and family that your loved one knew may not even know that they have moved on. Sites like GoFundMe are easy to use and setup, you can explain the situation to everyone and show the break down of each of the expenses.
Tribal burial assistance programs
States with larger populations of indigenous people/Native Americas may have burial assistance to tribal members who are in need. All states in one form or another have funds set up to cover all the expenses. You can check with your local tribe or got to bia.gov to learn more.
Fallen Police Officers or Firefighters Programs
The world can be a dangerous place and losing a loved one in the line of duty is a tragic experience. You should first check with their union to see how one would go about collecting the benefits and progressing with the service. There should be a liaison to talk to about this.
Are there any circumstances that they can’t get help?
Rarely, there are very few situations where at least some of the funeral costs aren’t covered by some sort of charity or governmental organization.
If you need an affordable casket, is probably best not to buy one directly from a funeral home. My friends at Titancaskets.com have caskets for sale as low as $699. Please check out their site for more details.