The death of a loved one is obviously a difficult time emotionally. Ideally, a will is written and funeral expenses are pre-paid before someone passes away. However, it is also very common for there to be no will or plan for the estate.
Because of the sensitive nature of the topic, discussions of funeral plans with family members before their death are oftentimes avoided. It is actually very common that these conversations are not had at all.
This lack of communication can leave surprises and unexpected expenses upon the death of a family member. If you find yourself suddenly in charge of arranging funeral plans and aren’t sure how you will pay for it, you will benefit from reading this article.
How to pay for a funeral with little to no money
The average cost of a funeral can range anywhere from $7000-$12000. It is not uncommon for this already challenging time to become financially stressful for the grieving family.
Luckily there are many lower-cost options available. There also seems to be more acceptance for doing things in a non-traditional way, which can save money as well. Combine that acceptance with the variety of funeral alternatives, and you can now rest assured you will figure out how to make the best out of this not so great situation.
First, let us examine what the potential costs are. Costs may fluctuate depending on if it is a burial or cremation or traditional vs non-traditional ceremony.
You could be looking at paying for the funeral service itself, a viewing, the casket, embalming and preparation, cremation, a headstone, flowers, the burial service, plot, and additional costs such as catering and the reception following a ceremony.
Who is legally responsible for the funeral?
Generally, the executor of the estate is responsible for the preparation and planning of the funeral service. If the deceased does not have a will, the duty will fall on the next of kin or closest living family member. If there is money left in the estate or selling a home or other assets, you can use that money to pay for a final farewell.
So, what happens if you cannot afford a funeral? Who is responsible for the costs? How do you make sure you can give the deceased a proper funeral without financial strain?
There are many cases that family members are left to cover these unexpected costs on their own. Below I will cover lower-cost options and what to do if you cannot afford it.
Here are a few ideas for a lower cost funeral service:
- Do your diligence.
Check and double-check if the deceased had an insurance policy that will cover some, if not all, of the associated costs. Many life insurance companies will include funeral costs. They may have had insurance through their job or had something set up on their own with a broker. Find out what is covered before proceeding any further.
- Consider cremation.
Cremation is gaining popularity for many reasons. One of the main reasons for this is that you can save quite a bit of money on the size of the burial plot you need and not need to purchase a casket for burial. Many funeral homes have the option of renting caskets for the viewing/visitation before the funeral.
Another option could be to completely omit the viewing if that isn’t important to you and your family.
- Shop around for caskets.
As mentioned above, caskets can be rented by the funeral home. If this is not an option and you need a casket for burial, keep in mind that you are usually not obligated to buy what they have in stock at the funeral home. Check online for other retailers that may carry caskets at a lower price point. Believe it or not, Costco is known to sell caskets and urns as well.
- Forget the flowers.
At the funeral home, they will show you many different options for floral arrangements. Flowers are nice looking, but they are very costly. Don’t forget that other family members and friends will send their condolences directly to the funeral home in the form of floral arrangements. There will likely be more than enough flowers to decorate the space. This can save you thousands of dollars.
- Direct burial
It is an option to omit the service altogether and opt for direct burial. This means you would pay for the basic fee of cremation or burial and graveside service if needed. If your loved one did not have wishes for a service or was the type of person who didn’t like to make a “fuss” about things, this might be the perfect option.
- Keep your urn at home.
There is also no book saying that you need to bury the ashes if you choose to cremate. You can choose to buy a nice looking urn to keep in your home.
- Consider a different location
Not all funerals need to take place in a funeral home and cemetery. You can choose to have the funeral in someone’s home. Nowadays, many folks are choosing a “celebration of life” rather than a funeral. This can take place in a family member’s home or perhaps a restaurant. Both of the prior options have many benefits that are worth thinking outside of the box.
The above options are great for keeping the funeral costs lower. But what if you really don’t have any money at all?
Here are some ways to navigate this tough situation:
- Ask family and friends for help.
Family and friends will likely understand the situation you have been put in. You likely did not choose or expect to be the person who is responsible for this scenario. You may want to sit down with family members and close friends and ask for help. If someone wants the service to be a particular way, they may be more likely to put more money in to help. This may be a tough or awkward conversation to have, but talking this out and seeing who is willing to help will give you some clarity on how to move forward with your planning.
- Donate the body to science.
Imagine that your loved one’s physical body could be part of a massive scientific discovery in the future. The majority of bodies that are donated are used by students to advance their studies involving human biology. In my opinion, this is a fantastic option. By donating the body, this does not mean you cannot have a celebration or funeral. If you choose, you may host an informal low-cost get-together.
- Check with your local government or coroners office
Depending on the area where you live, you might be able to access assistance from your local government. They may have programs that will cover some of the costs. Also, check with the local coroner’s office. You may be able to release the body to the coroner to be buried or cremated. If you wish to keep the ashes, there may be a fee involved. These details will depend on where you live and what the laws are in that state or county.
Grieving and mourning are hard on their own. If you are in this situation, please be kind to yourself. Try not to get caught up in the details of making the day perfect. Nobody will notice that there were less flowers or that the casket was pine, not solid oak. There are always ways to cut costs while making sure the your loved one gets a proper farewell. Make the best with what resources you have and make sure you get the proper support you need in this time.