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Funerals are Expensive – and their Cost Is Rising


Bereavement Relief

Posted On: Apr 03, 2015

Many insurance companies now offering a product called final expense insurance, which is a policy designed to pay only the costs of the funeral, viewing, and other expenses associated with saying a final farewell to loved ones. That such policies now exist speaks to the rising costs of funerals and how they are becoming too much of a financial burden on many families. Some estimates put the average cost of a funeral at $6,000; others say traditional funeral services are really closer to $8,000 to $10,000 today. But what really makes a funeral so expensive and how can some of these costs be avoided?

               One of the first costs you’ll need to make a decision on is whether to perform embalming. Embalming costs about $700 and preserves the body for viewing later. There are a couple of reasons that embalming might not be necessary. First, no state law actually requires embalming, even though some of the more unscrupulous funeral homes might lead people to believe so. Secondly, unless the funeral needs to be days away for some reason, there’s not really a reason to have embalming done. Many funeral homes offer refrigeration as a much less expensive way to preserve the body for viewing.

               Another potentially huge cost is the casket. It’s understandable that the surviving family members might want to spend a lot of money on the vessel in which their loved one will be interred, but this is largely a waste of money. Some of the deluxe caskets can cost as much as $10,000 or more. The cost of less expensive caskets can rise when the “sealed casket” option is chosen, which is said to protect the body from decomposition. However, this really isn’t true: decomposition is a natural process and a $10 gasket marked up to hundreds of dollars isn’t going to prevent it. There are much less costly options available such as an unfinished wood box or pressboard. If cremation is planned, you can opt for cardboard or canvas or even no casket at all.

               For cremation, buying an urn might be a reasonable expense for some people. You can save money by buying the urn from a third party instead of the funeral home. This will be especially useful if you decide to keep some of the ashes in a more ornate urn in the home. If the plan is to spread the ashes somewhere, you can save by buying a plainer urn or no urn at all—there’s no law specifying that the ashes of the deceased need to be placed in a special container before given to the family.

               Finally there is the cost of the memorial service and other necessary expenses. The typical memorial service will start at around $3,000 for everything involved. That includes about $1,500 for the funeral director’s basic services, $1,000 for the funeral ceremony and viewing, and then another $500 or so for various expenses, such as the hearse, death certificates, and obituary. Some of these expenses might be unavoidable, but costs could be reduced by holding the memorial service in a family member’s home.