When grieving the loss of a loved one, the last thing most people want to think about is money. Unfortunately, the reality is that funerals are one of the most expensive life events a family goes through — and they've only gotten pricier. In a situation where money is needed upfront that a family doesn't have, one of the most challenging decisions they face is taking out funeral loans.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics places the average funeral cost between $6,000 and $10,000, a 227.1% increase in the past decade. Combined with end-of-life expenses, the death of a loved one can set you back by over $20,000. The average cost of a funeral varies by state. States that have a high cost of living, like New York and California, also tend to have a high end of life cost, and you can expect to pay more for the same services (in New York, the average cost of a funeral alone is $10,799; in California, it is $11,777).
This number catches many off guard. For families without a plan in place for end-of-life and funeral financing, paying for such expenses may seem overwhelming. It's estimated that 40% of Americans can't afford an unexpected fee of $400 — let alone how much it costs for basic funeral services.
There's no doubt a funeral can be a major economic setback for a family, but it doesn't have to be. You do have options for how you want to spend your money. Whether you don't know where to start or want to learn more about what goes into planning for funeral costs, we're here to answer your questions and help you explore your funding options so you can spend less time worrying about money and more time with your loved ones.
Funeral loans are one financing option available to families and loved ones who need money to cover a memorial. A funeral loan is a personal loan similar to those commonly taken out to pay for a mortgage, car payment, or other debt. They are not a secured loan, meaning you do not need to place your property as collateral.
A funeral home loan issued directly from a funeral director is rare, but luckily you don't need to rely on a funeral home for lending services. Like other forms of personal loans, you will need to apply for this personal loan at a bank, credit union, or other financial institution.
They are typically high-interest and paid back in a monthly payment over the loan term. The term generally is anywhere from a month to a year, but repayment terms will vary depending on which personal loan lender you choose to work with. Banks tend to be more selective when it comes to approving customers for personal loans, so those with a low credit score may have better luck finding funeral financing loans at a payday lender.
You can apply for cash advances or payday loans online. After the application is approved, the loan proceeds will be deposited directly into your bank account or onto a prepaid credit card.
Funeral personal loans can be used as funeral financing to cover the costs associated with a memorial, such as:
The single most expensive funeral cost tends to be caskets, which average $2,000 to $5,000 but can cost more depending on what material it is made of. This is followed by embalming (~$725), ceremony and staff and facilities (~$500), and transportation to and from the funeral home (~600). If you want a burial vault, it will cost an average of $1,500. Burial vaults are optional by law but are often required by cemeteries.
Burials are much more expensive than cremation, which on average costs $6,000 but can be as low as $1,000 to $3,000. Cremation is a much simpler process that does not require embalming, transportation, a casket, or burial fees (although some people choose to bury the urn). The most expensive cost associated with cremation is the urn itself, which costs anywhere from $70 to $3,000, depending on how elaborate the container is and what material it is made of.
Funeral homes charge non-declinable service fees to cover basic end-of-life costs like obtaining a death certificate, handling remains, and coordinating funeral proceedings. Non-declinable service fees average $2,000 to $2,500. Optional items such as a headstone, flowers, and casket are not included in this charge.
You can fund all the above and any other fees associated with your loved one's memorial with funeral cash advances.
When it comes to funding the financial costs of a loved one's passing, you have several options. Most funeral homes accept a credit card as a payment option, but many people aren't so keen on running their bills up. Credit card aside, some of the most common ways of funding funeral arrangements are:
The U.S. government offers several programs and resources for those who need assistance in funding a memorial for their loved one. Below is a list of grants and assistance programs available to U.S. citizens and how to apply for them.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (F.E.M.A.) is a government agency. In response to the tragedy of COVID-related deaths, Senate passed the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2021 and the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Under these two acts, F.E.M.A. provides financial assistance to families who have experienced a COVID-related loss after January 20, 2020. These funds are strictly meant to cover funeral expenses as a result of COVID-19.
F.E.M.A. Funeral Assistance will fund expenses related to funeral services, internment, or cremation that the applicant has incurred, including:
For a funeral expense to be eligible for compensation, the applicant must possess a receipt of the service performed.
To be eligible for F.E.M.A. funeral expense assistance, the following criteria must be met:
To qualify, you must also be able to provide the following documentation:
To apply, you can call F.E.M.A.'s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Line. Visit F.E.M.A.'s Funeral Assistance F.A.Q. page for more information about eligibility requirements and how to apply for financial assistance through F.E.M.A.
If your loved one passed due to being the target of a violent crime, your state's (or the state in which the crime occurred) Victim Compensation Board may be able to assist you with funeral costs. Eligible violent crimes include:
N.A.C.V.C.B. states on their website that they can pay for "most expenses related to a funeral, burial, or memorial of a deceased victim." However, they cannot compensate for:
In addition, N.A.C.V.C.B. cannot reimburse applicants who are:
The person appointed to pay for funeral expenses should apply; N.A.C.V.C.B. will not accept applications filed by funeral service providers (mortuary, funeral home, cemetery).
Note that the above eligibility requirements and terms and conditions may vary based on the state or U.S. territory in which you live. For a complete list of Victim Compensation Boards by state, visit the N.A.C.V.C.B. directory.
If your loved one was a Veteran, they might be entitled to benefits through the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Rather than pay for actual costs incurred, the V.A. will now pay most eligible surviving spouses of Veterans a blanket sum. Benefits and amount of financial assistance
received will vary depending on whether the death was service-related.
For service-related deaths, the V.A. will:
For non-service-related deaths, the V.A. will:
Survivors will also be granted a $796 burial plot allowance if the deceased is not buried at a V.A. national cemetery.
To be eligible for burial benefits from the V.A., the following criteria must be met:
The V.A. will not pay burial benefits if:
To apply for V.A. burial benefits, you can apply online or file a paper application. You may also work with an accredited V.A. representative or submit your application at a regional V.A. benefit office. For more information on compensation offered to deceased Veterans., visit the V.A. website.
If you or your loved one does not qualify for financial assistance under the above programs, it may be worth looking into nonprofits dedicated to assisting families. There are plenty of organizations that provide general financial assistance to low-income families and organizations that assist families experiencing specific difficulties, such as the death of a child or a member of a religious church. You can find a helpful list of 12 nonprofits that help fund funeral expenses here.
Your state or municipality may have additional resources available. To find a complete list of local, statewide, and federal programs available, visit this page.
It's very common that a family or group of loved ones cannot afford a funeral for their loved ones, especially if a death is unexpected. Between obtaining death certificates, non-declinable services such as body removal and containment, the financial cost of death mounts quickly. For many families, this leaves little money to properly celebrate and honor the deceased's life. No matter how small a memorial, everyone deserves to be remembered. That doesn't need to be accomplished through a lavish funeral, though. Here are some tips on how to bury someone with no money while still properly honoring them.
The first decision that needs to be made after death is whether to cremate or bury the body. Cremation is generally much cheaper than a burial, which requires more labor and resources like embalming, body preparation, a coffin, and a burial plot. The average cost of burial is $6,000, while the average cost of cremation is between $500 and $1,500. Keep in mind that burials are much more expensive in some states than others, while cremations are generally the same cost no matter the location.
In their grief, it's very common for a family to pick the first pricing options they see for funeral services. Many people wish to wash their hands and be done with it so they can grieve in peace. While that works for some people, families on a tight budget should do their best to research as much as they can to find the best pricing available to them.
Some of the biggest expenses come from the funeral home you choose. Therefore, it pays to look at all your options before deciding on a funeral home. Pricing varies wildly between funeral homes, so to avoid unnecessary shock and stress, be sure you are aware of their non-declinable fees.
Funeral homes commonly offer their own packages that include caskets, urns, or flowers in addition to viewing or burial services. However, it's often much cheaper to procure these items on your own (albeit more time-consuming).
Holding a ceremony at home is a form of a traditional funeral. In most U.S. states, it is legal to handle funeral services yourself--everything from body removal to transportation and the memorial service itself. You can even hire a medical examiner to produce a death certificate on the spot.
Depending on your and the deceased's wishes, you may consider donating the body to a medical school or laboratory. Typically, no costs are incurred if the body is donated. Taking advantage of this option allows you to evade the cost of body removal, transportation, and containment. However, before going this route, there are some things to take into careful consideration. For instance, some religions and cultures have death ceremonies that require a body to be prepared in a particular manner. If your loved one was a member of a faith or cultural community that honors their dead in a way that donating the body would disrupt, donation might be considered disrespectful.
Often, funeral homes require payment for their services upfront. If your memorial plans require more upfront capital than you currently have or you cannot receive funding in time, consider taking out a funeral loan. Funeral loan proceeds can be used for almost anything.
If you have bad credit, obtaining a loan through traditional channels like banks or credit unions is often unrealistic. Burial loans obtained through payday lenders are a quick source of emergency cash; usually, funds are deposited in as little as one business day after approval. Payday lenders will conduct a credit check, but those with bad credit may still be approved for a loan. Eligible loan amounts will vary by applicant and state regulations. Keep in mind payday loans often come with high-interest rates. Personal loans often come with an origination fee, so that must be budgeted into your monthly payment plan as well. If need be, you should look for a lender that offers a flexible payment schedule.
Before taking out a loan, you should ask yourself whether you can afford to repay it on time. Otherwise, you may find yourself caught in a cycle of debt