Help Planning & Paying for Funerals


I need help planning a funeral. Where do I begin?

Knowledge is power when planning a funeral, especially if you want to spend your money wisely and make sure you’re getting exactly what your mother/grandfather/husband wanted for their funeral, even when your loved one’s last wish was ‘no funeral’. To understand more about the (sometimes) unscrupulous ways the funeral industry operates, watch this episode of Adam Ruins Everything.

The Funeral Consumers Alliance have an easy to use website. Their goal is to ensure that consumers are fully prepared and protected when planning a funeral for themselves or their loved ones.

So, how do you even go about making a death plan? No worries. We’ve got you covered in this video that gives practical steps on how to get started and inform your chosen family.

If you’re more of a checklist type, (and even if you aren’t), our favorite and most comprehensive source is Get Your Shit Together. Created by Founding Order Member, Chanel Reynolds after finding herself completely unprepared following the accidental death of her husband. We get it, facing your mortality through piles of bureaucracy is about the least inspiring task on your to-do list, but paradoxically, these are the exact tasks that once you tackle them head on, will put you on a one way train to chill town. Listen to this episode of our podcast as Chanel helps us get our death plans in order.

Finally, what if your family is a little, shall we say, tense? Estranged? Full on battle mode? Here’s some advice on what to do when families disagree over funeral arrangements, and how to avoid conflict when there’s no plan.

Photo of a group of people grieving around a fresh grave covered in flowers.

Ok, but what about funeral planning outside of the United States?

Good question, here are some planning resources for:

Canada

Australia

The UK

Many people will wish to have their bodies returned for burial or final disposition in their home country, this process is called repatriation. In these cases it is best to work with a funeral home to answer questions regarding legislation, customs declarations, consulate forms and the logistical requirements in each country. To give you an idea of the process behind land transportation of remains, such as the U.S. to Mexico, visit this webpage.

Can I get help paying for a funeral? How can I save money?

The average cost of a funeral in the U.S. is $8,500, and prices are only increasing. The Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers recorded a 227.1% increase for funerals from 1986 to 2017—that’s almost double the price increase for all other consumer items. It should come as no surprise then, that many families find themselves in funeral poverty trying to meet these costs.

Some states in the U.S. do offer social assistance. You can find a list of what is available in your area here. For families who experienced a death resulting from Covid-19, the U.S. has passed a bill directing FEMA to provide funeral expense reimbursements of up to $7,000. Here are details on who qualifies, and how to apply.

You can also call 211, which is manned by helpful folks that can connect you to resources and assistance in your area. You should also know that this useful service can also help you pay bills, find food, and provide other essential services in your community.

There are also many faith based organizations, particularly for people of Muslim and Jewish faiths, that provide funerals for those in need. Just use Google to find what’s available in your area. Many churches will also provide help for their active members.

Family members may be eligible to receive a one time payment of $225 from Social Security.


Now that you know where to look for help, what can you do to save money?

As we mentioned earlier the median cost of a traditional funeral in the U.S. is $8,500, so you may be wondering, “Where is all that money going?!” Here’s a breakdown for you.

Image with text listing the Average American Funeral Costs

You are your own best advocate when it comes to not overpaying after a death. One way you may be able to save thousands (yes, thousands of dollars) is by shopping around and comparing prices.

Many people aren’t aware of the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Funeral Rule, which is intended to protect you, the consumer. Although we wish all funeral homes clearly listed their prices on their websites, this isn’t usually the case. However, the Funeral Rule ensures your right to getting a price list when you ask about funeral arrangements. It also protects your right to select only the goods or services you want.

There are many ways to save money AND still have a beautiful, meaningful funeral. It doesn’t have to cost an arm and a leg! Let us show you how, in this video. But wait, we’re not done yet—here are three more tips that can help you save on funeral costs.

In the end, knowing what your death rights are, planning early, and shopping around can make a big difference!


Prepaid Funerals


Should I consider a prepaid funeral plan?

While prepaying for a funeral can bring peace of mind for some families, paying in advance (known in the funeral industry as preneed) is not always in your best interest.  Please do you research.

From Funeral Consumers Alliance:

No matter how attractive the business makes it sound, there are serious drawbacks to pre-paying that the seller will not tell you about. The children and survivors of those who have prepaid often misunderstand the contracts, are unaware of them, or find themselves surprised that there are additional fees to be paid. In addition, many states have inadequate laws protecting funds in pre-need plans, and money invested there could be at risk.

If you are very confident in your funeral provider and contract, we support your choice to prepay. As an alternative for those that are able to, we suggest putting money into a separate account.

Funeral procession, by T. Coleman


What happens to people with no family/next of kin and the homeless?

Photo by Allen J. Schaben

Annual service in Los Angeles County for those whose bodies were not claimed.

A Certain Kind of Death is a fascinating documentary on this topic. It lays bare the mysterious process that goes on all around us when people die with no next of kin.

What happens when someone dies suddenly or mysteriously? Here’s a behind the scenes episode of This is Life With Lisa Ling as she shadows employees at the LA County Coroner, America’s busiest coroner’s offie.

You can learn more on what happens to unclaimed bodies in various places around the U.S. in The Unclaimed Dead.

Here is a study about how to engage homeless individuals in end-of-life planning, including completing advance directives.

The Muslim Free Burial Association is dedicated to providing Muslim burials for those without family or friends.


What happens to unclaimed remains?

Each state has different laws and methods in place if no one steps up to bury or cremate a body. Here is some general information to start.

You’ll have to turn to Google for the procedures in your specific city, but take a look at a few examples of what occurs in: Washington, Los Angeles, and New York.

Aan arm with light skin touches the top of an urn on a shelf