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Practical Ways to Cover Funeral or Burial Costs

Posted by Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. | Mar 15, 2024

Let's face it: Planning for the final chapter doesn't top most to-do lists. Yet being proactive about your legacy can be an empowering experience. Having these conversations and making decisions ahead of time may spare your loved one's distress.

Planning also prepares you or those you love for the expenses involved. As with the prices of everything from rent to groceries, funeral and burial costs are rising

In 2023, the National Funeral Directors Association reported that the median cost of an adult funeral (with viewing and burial) was $8,300, up $452 from 2021. A cremation with viewing and burial costs an average of $6,280. According to Funeralocity, the average price of a traditional full-service burial in Maine is $8,624. 

How to Pay for a Funeral or a Burial Without Breaking the Bank

Like with any purchase, shop around to control costs. Consider simpler options. Without a viewing, memorial, and basic services, the national average costs for a traditional burial drop to $5,119 and $2,190 for direct cremation. Alternatives like a "green" burial or whole body donation can cut costs further.

Factors to consider in budgeting: 

  • Request the funeral home's itemized general price list. Compare costs. Per the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule, when asked, funeral homes must give prices over the phone.
  • Do-it-yourself arrangements:
    • Buy a casket or urn yourself or make your own.
    • Use your flower arrangements or decor.
    • Host the service at a residence or graveside.
    • Skip embalming and opt for refrigeration. Embalming isn't mandatory; some states, however, require it for traditional burials.
  • Pre-planning: A mortuary trust agreement or account, a payable-on-death bank account, or a funeral pre-payment plan can cushion the costs. Current MaineCare rules allow up to $18,000 in such an account. 
  • Life or burial insurance
  • Creating a savings account
  • Tax deductibility: Funeral costs aren't usually tax deductible, but some expenses could qualify for estate tax deductions. See a tax professional for advice. 

How to Cover Final Expenses Without a Plan

Based on your needs, you might have access to loans, charitable donations, or government assistance. Public benefits could be available on a state, county, city/town, or federal level.

Government assistance options:

Medicaid funeral assistance: It's not available in all states. In Maine, the General Assistance Program offers up to $785 for cremation and $1,125 for burials and is administered through the local city or town.
Department of Veterans Affairs: If the deceased was a veteran, relatives or estate administrators could be eligible for a VA burial allowance of up to $2,000.
Social Security: Eligible surviving spouses or children may receive a one-time death payment of $255. Depending on the situation, survivor benefits could also be available. 
National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards - Some states offer financial aid for funeral expenses to families of a loved one who died from a violent crime.
Release to the state or county: Some county coroner's offices will let the bereaved sign a release form stating they can't afford burial costs. The local government will then cover the expenses.

Private aid:

  • Charities that help with funeral costs
  • Clubs or organizations: some have special funds to support families of deceased members with final expenses.
  • Funeral loans or other personal loans, such as a home equity loan
  • Donations: Contributions could come from friends and family or via the public through crowdfunding sites like GoFundMe or other fundraisers.

Planning for your final curtain call eases the burden on your loved ones. By considering them and open discussions, you may ensure a respectful and dignified farewell. Professional guidance can also help you explore your options, bringing peace to you and those you love. 

Ready to start talking about your estate planning options? We're here to guide you with compassion and understanding. Contact us online or call (207) 377-6966 today.

About the Author

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq.

Daniel J. Eccher, Esq. is the Managing Shareholder at Levey, Wagley, Putman & Eccher, P.A., in Winthrop, Maine. Dan's favorite problem to solve is helping clients figure out how to afford long-term care while having something left for their family.

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