How to Pay for Funeral Expenses
A funeral is a time for family, friends, and loved ones to remember and celebrate the life of a loved one that has passed on. For many, it is the only chance they will have to say goodbye to a relative or close friend. With this in mind, funeral services are typically planned with great care, sometimes sparing no expense. Mourning the passing of a loved one is difficult enough, but the financial burden of a funeral can put added stress on a family during this trying time. It is something that can easily be avoided by a little pre-planning and possibly buying a burial insurance plan to cover the expected costs.
Average Costs of a Funeral
In 2012, the National Funeral Directors Association reported that the average funeral costs $7,045, and if a vault is required the average cost comes in at $8,343. This average cost did not take into account flowers, transportation, and many other optional charges. If you are thinking about planning out and budgeting your own funeral, make sure that you create a list of the services and products you wish to have at your service, as well as any optional items that are important to you.
Required Services and Optional Charges
Irregardless of the type of burial and service that you decide upon, there are certain fees that you will have to pay. By law, funeral homes are allowed to charge their clients for administrative services. These services cover things such as obtaining permits and death certificates, preparing death notices, as well as coordinating any necessary arrangements for the funeral and burial between the cemetery, the crematory, the morgue, and any other service providers that will be involved in the funeral.
This same law, known commonly as the Funeral Rule, also states that all funeral directors maintain a general price list (GPL) which itemizes all of the services that they offer and how much each of those services costs. Be aware that funeral directors are not required to supply the GPL unless it is asked for. The advantage of the GPL is that if you would like to avoid the haggling and pressure of a salesperson, you can obtain GPLs from several funeral homes in your area and compare prices that way.
Cost of Typical Products and Services
Because many individuals do not realize the common costs of funeral services, many people end up wanting more than they really can afford. If you want to avoid dealing with a funeral home directly, we have created a list of some of the common fees and prices you will find. Pick and choose the services and products you would like, and then add together the total cost. This will not give you an exact cost for your funeral, but it will give you a solid estimate for determining how much burial insurance coverage you will want to obtain.
Most funeral homes will offer quite a few optional upgrades that people may select. These upgrades include:
- Casket costs: Caskets typically will run $2,500-$5,000 when looking ones crafted from metal, wood, or fiberboard. Until recently, they were only available for purchase at funeral homes. That was until the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) ruled that all funeral homes must accept caskets purchased elsewhere. Now consumers are free to shop online or even at places like Sams Club which now offers caskets. With the market opening up, caskets can be bought for as little as $1000. For someone looking to go high end, they can select from caskets made from mahogany and include decorations of bronze and copper complete with a plush velvet interior. Such a casket will run as much as $10,000.
- Embalming: Not required, but it is an option available to those who wish to have a public viewing. Embalming will range from $500 on the low end to just over $2,000. The cost will be dependent on the chemicals used and amount of cosmetic work required. This can have unintended additional costs. An extended viewing usually goes along with the need for embalming and a higher quality, and thus more expensive, casket lining will be required to accommodate the embalming chemicals.
- Flowers: The cost of flowers can range from $200 to several thousand dollars based on the arrangement chosen for the service. There are some florists that may offer rental of silk flowers, which can keep the cost down.
- Transportation: The families of the deceased often elect to rent a limousine for the funeral service so that they do not have to worry about driving themselves. It also allows them to easily travel together during what is sure to be a challenging day. For a limousine rental, the cost is likely to range from $300 to as much as $800 depending on the size of the limo and length of the rental. Some rental services will charge by the day, while others charge an hourly rate. It is customary to tip the driver as well.
- Headstone: Prices are going to vary pretty greatly here. A small marker is going to cost a few hundred dollars. You can buy single lot or double lot headstones. More exotic headstones shipped from outside of the country could cost $10,000 or more. In addition to the cost of the actual headstone, there will be an added cost for the engraving on the headstone. The more exotic the stone used, the higher the engraving cost is going to be.
- Clothing: If you are looking to cut costs somewhere, this might be a great place to do it. Instead of investing in expensive clothes for the burial, use a favorite outfit instead. If you are going to go with special garments just for the burial, you are probably looking at another few hundred dollars here.
- Funeral home: This is going to depend on the services rendered by the funeral home. Is there going to be a viewing? If there is a viewing, will there just be a one day viewing or will their be a second viewing? Will relatives take care of fulfilling the role of pallbearers, or will the funeral home need to provide them? Will there be a service at the funeral home?
- Cremation: If cremation is chosen over burial, that will alter the final expenses. You can find more information about cremation here.
Unless you are planning ahead and rendering payment ahead of time for your final expenses, it is advisable to budget a little more money than what your research tells you will be needed. Like anything else in life, the prices are going to change over the years. Also, like most other goods and services, they are not likely to go down. Having a little more money budgeted for your final expenses will help take care of any unexpected price increases or expenses.
While planning for your funeral, or the future funeral of a loved one, you want to balance your needs and expenses with your means. Leveraging burial insurance may be a great way to pay for your desired service.