Funeral Options When Money is an issue

Dear Funeral Director:

I am somewhat embarrassed to write in and ask you this, but I need to start to understand what my options are…. What can people do when they can’t afford funeral expenses? What are some options available to people without a lot of money? I need to start planning for me and my husband.


Mary T., Stamford, CT

Dear Mary,

Thanks for sending in your question; and there’s certainly no need to feel any sense of embarrassment. The costs associated with a loved one’s final care can be a financial burden to many people. In fact, it was reported by National Funeral Director’s Association that the national average for the cost of a traditional funeral was somewhere in the neighborhood of $6,600. And that figure doesn’t even include costs associated with cemetery property, church fees, newspaper charges, etc.

The most important thing to remember is that a meaningful and heartfelt memorial doesn’t need to cost more than your family can afford. Whether you can spend $100 or $10,000, you’ll love and miss the deceased just as much. It’s the coming together of family and friends to laugh, cry, and love each other that make a funeral meaningful, not the amount of money it costs. And this is crucial: there is no charity or government organization that will pay off any debt you’ve accrued if you arrange a funeral that is beyond your means. It’s your family’s responsibility to spend within its budget. Funeral homes are not required to let you pay in installments; in fact many are asking for payment upfront. While this policy may seem cold hearted on the part of the funeral home and frustrating for the family, it tends to be a more responsible business practice because it prevents many grieving families from falling into a financial trap when they’re not thinking clearly. Trust me, sweating high monthly payments six months after a loved one’s passing does not help to lift the burden of grief.

It’s very important for you to remember that you have the right to pick and choose only the funeral goods and services that you want and can afford. You should never feel pressured into spending money you don’t have. So what are your options? First I’d check with the State of CT Department of Social Services to determine if you qualify for the state’s $1,200 burial allowance. Although that amount will not cover a full-service funeral with embalming, a public viewing, and associated ceremonies, it may help with a direct cremation or an immediate burial. Other options would include calling on an anatomical donation organization or donating the remains to a medical school. In both cases costs can be kept to a minimum, and once these worthy organizations are completed with their assigned uses they return your loved ones cremated remains to you for a final disposition. Remember that you can organize a memorial service at home, at church, or in another social venue, at your discretion and on your own timetable.

Thanks again for your question Mary. You can always call me to talk about this in more detail.

Gerald R. Bosak, Jr.

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