According to the most recent survey by the National Funeral Director’s Association, today’s average funeral costs more than $8,500. As high as that number is, it doesn’t tell the full story since it doesn’t include the cost of the cemetery. When it’s all said and done, the price tag for a typical traditional funeral and burial is at least $10,000. If you choose cremation, the cost can be much lower. A direct cremation — no service, remains delivered directly to the family — can be as low as $1,000.
Regardless of how your loved one’s body is cared for or the type of ceremony you choose, you will need a significant amount of money to cover final expenses.
So, what can you do when there simply isn’t any money to take care of your loved one’s final arrangements?
10 Ways to Pay for a Funeral When There Isn’t Any Money
- Check for life insurance: It is not unusual for people to leave behind life insurance that no one is aware of. Even if you can’t find any reference to life insurance by looking at personal records or banking information, they may have been covered by their employer.
- Verify all benefits: The deceased may have been covered by the Veteran’s Administration, a professional affiliation such as a union, or some other organization. Be sure to claim all the benefits to which they were entitled.
- Investigate low-cost options: A funeral does not have to be expensive to be meaningful. There are many affordable options. For example, you can choose a direct cremation for as little as $1,000 and you can receive the ashes and hold a memorial service later. Many costs, such as embalming, are assumed to be required when they can be declined. For more information on how to keep funeral costs down, request a copy of our Guide to an Affordable Funeral.
- Ask for help: Turn to family and friends who were close to the deceased for help. The discussions may not be easy, but the result may be surprising. The loved ones may be unaware that you are having difficulty coming up with the money.
- Talk to the funeral home: Many funeral homes have programs to help those with limited resources. They may also have payment programs or be affiliated with groups who offer financial assistance.
- Claim the Social Security benefit: If the deceased worked, he or she is likely entitled to a one-time Social Security death benefit of $255. Your funeral director can help you apply, or you can contact the Social Security Administration directly. You cannot apply online. (See our Federal Assistance page).
- Check for state and local assistance: How much assistance is available through your state or local government will depend on where you live. In most states, funeral and burial assistance is handled at the county level. A good place to start is with your county administrator or coroner. If you are working with a funeral director, they can refer you to the proper person. (See our State Assistance page.) Many faith-based groups have programs to help with funeral or burial costs. If the deceased was a member of a church be sure to check with the pastor to see if the church has some way to help.
- Start a Fund Raising campaign: Crowdfunding (also called crowdsourcing) to raise money for funeral and burial costs has become popular in recent years. This method works best when you have a wide network to reach out to. You should choose your platform carefully as fees for launching campaigns can vary widely. In addition to crowdfunding, there are many creative ways to fundraise. Some popular ideas are selling merchandise, yard/garage sales, memorial dinners, and walk-a-thons. (See our crowdfunding page.)
- Borrow Money: Most banks offer a financial tool called a funeral loan. These loans are really ordinary unsecured personal loans. They work best for those with established credit. (See Funeral Loans.)
- Donate the Body to Science: When you donate your body to science it is normally cremated with the remains returned to the family. Typically, whole body donation must be arranged for in advance. Not all bodies are accepted so you should keep other options in mind as well. (See Donating Your Body to Science.)
Finding money to pay for a funeral or burial when money is tight is not easy. If you start to feel overwhelmed do not wait to reach out for help. Whether you team up with other family members to do the important work of honoring your loved one or call on your church community for assistance, you don’t have to go through it alone. The work may be hard and time-consuming, but in the end, it is possible to honor your loved one without putting yourself in financial peril.