Deciding how to pay for a funeral can be a challenge. This is especially true if the death was unexpected or the deceased made no arrangements in advance. The best way by far to make sure that the resources you need when the time comes are there is to plan in advance. Of course, this is not always possible. What then?
The good news is that there are federal and state programs that can help you defray at least some of the costs for funeral and burial. The bad news is that it can be difficult to find information on the programs and most provide only a portion of the amount needed to pay for a funeral or burial. Most programs are need-based so you should be prepared to provide documentation of your financial resources.
Below are some of the most frequently asked questions about how to pay for a funeral. For more detailed information we suggest that you visit our Paying for a Funeral page.
If you find yourself in a situation where you are responsible for making funeral arrangements for a loved one and there are no resources set aside for this purpose, you should investigate what Federal, state, and county resources are available. There may also be non-profit or faith-based groups that have programs for which you may be eligible. Other options are fund-raising and funeral loans. Our Paying for a Funeral page offers information on how to start your search for resources.
While some states offer assistance with funeral or burial expenses, in most cases, these programs are administered through the county or local municipality. To find out how your state handles financial assistance for funerals or burials, visit our State Assistance page.
Social Security offers a one-time death benefit of $255 which can be used for funeral or burial expenses. To receive the payment you must apply. You can do this on your own at your local Social Security office or your funeral director can help you.
As a general rule, funeral and burial expenses are not considered to be medical expenses and so Medicare and Medicaid can not be used to pay for them. There are some exceptions in certain states. Under certain Medicare Advantage plans, funds can be set aside for funeral expenses.
Funeral and burial expenses are not considered to be qualified health expenses under flexible spending accounts (FSA), health savings accounts (HSA), health reimbursement arrangements (HRA), limited care flexible spending accounts (LCFSA), or dependent care flexible spending accounts (DCFSA). Because they are not considered qualified they can not be used to pay for funeral expenses.
The best way to find help for paying for a funeral is to talk with your funeral director or contact your county health and services department. We have provided information on how each state handles funeral and burial expense assistance on our Federal Assistance and State Assistance pages.
In most cases, the county where the deceased resided will handle the funeral or burial if indigent. This generally means a direct cremation is done.
Whether or not borrowing money either through a funeral loan or credit card is a financial decision that you should weigh carefully. These types of arrangements can carry high-interest rates do you should be sure that you are aware of all of the terms of the loan agreement. For more information, funeral loans click here.
Most funeral homes require payment before the funeral service. Depending on the provider and your financial circumstances you may be able to arrange for payment at a later date. For example, many funeral homes will accept a life insurance policy in lieu of advance payment. The precise payment details will depend on your particular situation and the policies of the funeral home you choose.
If the primary purpose is taking care of the deceased’s body, the cheapest alternative is a low-cost cremation or donation to science.