Paying For Your Funeral – Insurance, State Aid & More

Death is a topic that most don’t like to discuss or think about. However, at some point it needs to be discussed and planned for. Did you know that the funeral industry is actually the fourth largest in the country, and makes around 17 billion dollars per annum. As you can imagine, the infiltration of corporate greed and salesmanship has turned the funeral industry into a profit seeking entity. Funeral insurance, coffins, transport, every element of a funeral has a cost these days.

It might also surprise many people to learn that those who work in the funeral industry have a name for someone purchasing a funeral package: a distressed purchase. Vulnerable people are upsold on funeral packages, and the pleasant people who work with those families who have lost loved ones receive specific training in sales and how to sell more expensive options. So, what does this mean for you?

Funeral Costs To Consider
Funeral costs can vary greatly, from a couple of thousand to well into the tens of thousands depending on the size and location. Regardless of funeral size, the general costs to consider include:

  • Coffin or cremation vase
  • Transport
  • Funeral location/service fees
  • Death certificate
  • Plot
  • Potential permits
  • Flowers and decorations
  • Wake
  • Funeral Insurance (The cost of the policy and what it covers)

A Funeral That You Can Afford
It is important to know that, despite the greed of much of the funeral industry, a beautiful memorial service and funeral can be held for very little money. It’s important not to fall into the trap of thinking that the more one spends, and the more lavish the funeral, the greater the respect shown to the deceased and the more meaningful the memories. Funerals are about family and friends coming together to celebrate the life of a deceased loved one, and this can be done with little expense and little outlay on luxury packages.

The good news is that there are some choices when it comes to funeral costs. It is worth doing some research and checking with your state and county agencies and departments on what help is available. It is also highly recommended to check with the Funeral Consumers Alliance group on what help is available in your state. They maintain a list of affordable funeral options and can provide useful advice on how to organize a funeral on a specific budget, including but not limited to:

  • Free advice on funeral planning societies, and memorial and funeral homes in your area. They can even set up meetings between families and planning societies.
  • Information on abuses in the funeral industry and how to avoid it.
  • Specific written information on affordable funeral options and how to deal with a deceased loved one without having to utilize the services of a funeral home.

The very fact that a non-profit organization like the Funeral Consumers Alliance is required speaks volumes about the state of the funeral industry in the country. Tapping into them as a resource is a great way to remain informed about funeral choices and funeral options that are affordable and meaningful.

Despite the help that is available in the form of non-profit organizations, it is wise to remember one important detail when it comes to planning a funeral: If you go into debt when paying for a funeral, there is no organization, government or otherwise, that can help you to pay off that debt.

Make Sure You Don’t Go Into Debt
Given the sales driven nature of the funeral industry, how can you make sure that you don’t go into debt when planning and paying for a funeral? Even though it was stated earlier, it is worth reiterating that a respectful and beautiful funeral need not cost a fortune. So, what are your options if you are looking for help?

Even though decades of budget cuts have seen a decline in state-based funeral assistance, there are still some viable options to consider, including the following:

  • Funeral Insurance: When doing general estate planning, a funeral should be a component of this. If you have an idea on where your final resting place will be, you can plan ahead of time. Understand the costs and take out a plan that will cover all the expenses.
  • State assistance: Even though budget cuts have hit this area hard over preceding decades, there are still a number of US states that offer burial assistance for the deceased. Arizona, for example, offers limited financial assistance, whereas California offers no state-wide assistance at all. There is, in fact, so much variation across the country that it is worth calling your local county office, coroner’s office or state department for specific advice for your local area. If you don’t know who to call, remember that you can always seek advice from the Funeral Consumers Alliance.
  • Medicare and Medicaid: In some cases, these organization will provide financial assistance to those who qualify, and it is worth calling them to find out.
  • Churches and Charities: You might find that some Churches and charity organizations in your area provide limited financial support to those who have no or very low incomes and need funeral planning assistance. Once again, the best way to find out is to get in touch with the Funeral Consumers Alliance, as they will have a list of relevant groups in your area.
  • Cremation: Even though the funeral industry is largely sales driven, it is important for you to remember that you still retain control of how the disposition of the deceased. For most people, this means a choice between two options: burial or cremation. In some counties, such as Douglas County in Nebraska, state financial assistance for a cremation service is available. Many states are willing to help pay for cremation services as it is cheaper and saves valuable real estate space. If you do decide to cremate, you can also organize a memorial service without having to pay exorbitant costs.
  • Natural or Green burial: This is to be researched on a state by state basis, but in many jurisdictions a home based or natural care of the deceased may take place with the necessary arrangements. A natural burial can then be done on the property, thus saving a lot of money. In terms of a coffin, simple wooden ones are available for burial. Even though a natural burial like this may not be a consideration for many people, it is perfectly legal in many states, will save a lot of unnecessary expense, and may even be the most memorable and beautiful tribute you can perform.
  • Donation to science: This has gained some popularity amongst baby boomers because it appeals to their sense of ethics. Even though many institutions accept cadavers for scientific purposes, there is a backlog of bequeathals in some states and it is worth checking into if this is the case in your state. The last thing you’d want is to be rejected by the scientific institution based on a backlog of cadavers!

What to know about Funeral Insurance
As mentioned, the funeral industry is big business in America…as such there are numerous insurance schemes advertised throughout the country. While the may all pitch quick and easy insurance policies, it is important to know, not all insurers are created equally and there are some predatory companies out there. Below are tips on what to watch look for when considering a funeral insurance company.

- Always check online reviews and complaints
- Read the fine print and understand circumstances when they may not pay
- Don’t lie on your application form
- Have a professional 3rd party company review the contract
- Understand potential rises in premiums
- Be clear on the speed of when providers pay out the insurance policy
- Depending on when you take out the policy, you may end up paying more than what the policy is worth.

A Stylish Funeral That Is Affordable
When a loved one has passed away, grieving families are often too vulnerable and upset to make the tough decisions when it comes to low cost funeral planning, but with some foresight and planning, there are many viable alternatives. If you are struggling to plan a funeral, or a loved one has passed away suddenly and an expensive funeral is not an option, your first call should be to the Funeral Consumers Alliance. They are a non-profit organization that can offer advice in a time of grief and need.

Financial assistance varies on a state by state and county by county basis, so it’s important to find out what your options are. Whether you opt for burial, cremation or a natural burial, the important thing is to honor the deceased with love and a touching memorial with family and friends. Expensive and lavish funerals may be tempting, but lasting memories of loved ones don’t cost a thing.