How Much Does a Funeral Cost?
For many families, a funeral is not only part of the grieving process, it can also be a celebration of life and gathering of family. Yet funerals can make an already stressful time even more so if your family isn't prepared for the cost.
To help protect your family and your wishes, it's important to have a plan in place to help alleviate the potential emotional and financial stress of a funeral.
What does the average funeral cost?
According to the National Funeral Directors Association,1 the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial in the U.S. for 2019 was $9,135, while the median cost of a funeral with viewing and cremation was $6,645.
Are you wondering what goes into those prices? The figures above for burial include everything from a casket and embalming to the funeral home staff's services and the actual viewing, funeral ceremony, and burial. For cremation, the figure includes the same services, except that a casket fee is typically not included. If the family would like a casket for the viewing, a rental casket is available (usually at a separate cost).
It's important to talk to your family about your end-of-life wishes because costs on all of the above services can vary greatly.
How can you save on funeral costs?
If you haven't made funeral plans, your family could be stressed and choose the first funeral home they call, regardless of price. When time is of the essence and emotions run high from a recent loss, price comparing funeral options isn't a task that's likely high on the to-do list for your loved ones.
However, early planning can give you and your family time to compare costs, services and options so that you can make an informed decision and feel comfortable with the cost of your choices.
Here are some tips to help you keep funeral costs reasonable while ensuring that your end-of-life plans honor both your wishes and your family's need to grieve.
- Explore pre-paid (pre-need) funeral contracts: These are life insurance contracts that pay the benefits directly to a specific funeral home when you die to cover your funeral costs. Keep in mind that, while you may receive a discount off retail prices, these contracts are typically quite rigid. If you move or your wishes change, modifications in the future might be difficult without incurring additional expenses.
- Explore veterans benefits: If you've served in the armed forces, you are entitled to certain funeral benefits from the Veterans Administration. These benefits can include cash towards funeral expenses,2 no-cost burial3 at one of 148 national cemeteries, no-cost headstones or grave markers4 and more.
- Explore cremation options: While funeral homes offer cremation services, direct cremation is increasing in popularity. Direct cremation is typically offered by companies that specialize in lowcost cremation. There's usually no viewing or service, and your ashes will be delivered to your loved ones directly. Some direct cremation providers offer memorial services and decorations at an additional cost. Funeralocity cites the national average of direct cremation5 as $1,924, without a viewing or service.
- Compare prices: When pre-planning your funeral, you don't have to leave your home to do a little comparison shopping. Online funeral cost-comparison engines like Parting.com6 and Funeralocity.com7 can help you learn about your options and start conversations with your family.
- Revisit your plans: If you haven't chosen a pre-paid option, review your price comparisons and your cost estimates every few years to ensure that you're still making the most cost-effective plan — and that any accounts you've set up to cover funeral costs will meet current market prices.
Online funeral cost-comparison sites can help you research options and start the conversation with your family.
How to ease your family's financial burden
Beyond pre-need contracts, there are a few ways you can make the financial aspect of your funeral easier on your loved ones.
- Payable on Death (POD) accounts: Once you finalize your funeral wishes and the estimated costs, you can open a POD account at a bank or credit union. You name a beneficiary who will gain access to the account when you die, not before. The account doesn't have to go through probate, and your beneficiary will present a death certificate to access the funds.
- Savings accounts with rights of survivorship: You can use a regular savings account to save the funds to pay for your funeral if you open a joint account with survivorship rights. You can make the joint account holder the person who will be handling your funeral. Note, however, that the other person on this account is also an account owner and has access to funds while you're alive.
- Life insurance: Since life insurance passes outside of probate, a small life insurance policy can ensure a beneficiary has relatively quick access to funds after you die to cover funeral costs. Some funeral homes will even accept a life insurance policy as payment, with the beneficiary receiving what's left over. Check with the funeral home and the terms of your insurance policy for more information.
Your best bet to ensure that your wishes are carried out is to have a candid conversation with your loved ones, do your research, and then make arrangements to have the costs of your funeral covered in the manner that's most comfortable for you and your family.
Important disclosure information
This content is general in nature and does not constitute legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment advice. You are encouraged to consult with competent legal, tax, accounting, financial or investment professionals based on your specific circumstances. We do not make any warranties as to accuracy or completeness of this information, do not endorse any third-party companies, products, or services described here, and take no liability for your use of this information.
- "2019 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Funeral Costs Not Rising As Fast As Rate of Inflation," National Funeral Directors Association, published December 19, 2019, accessed September 14, 2020. Back
- "Burial Benefits," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed September 14, 2020. Back
- "National Cemetery Administration," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed September 14, 2020. Back
- "Veterans headstones, markers, and medallions," U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed September 14, 2020. Back
- "What is Direct Cremation and How Much Does it Cost?" Funeralocity.com, published April 9, 2019, accessed September 14, 2020. Back
- Parting.com, accessed September 21, 2020. Back
- Funeralocity.com, accessed September 21, 2020. Back
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