Tag Archives: funeral consumers alliance

Ellen Bethea at her home in Jacksonville, Fla. After her husband died, she paid $7,000 for her husband's cremation and funeral. She was unaware that the same company offered the same cremation services for much less.

Photo: Laura Heald for NPR

A Funeral May Cost You Thousands Less Just By Crossing The Street

Ellen Bethea at her home in Jacksonville, Fla. After her husband died, she paid $7,000 for her husband’s cremation and funeral. She was unaware that the same company offered the same cremation services for much less.

Photo: Laura Heald for NPR

This story is part one of a two-part investigation. Read part two here.

Story By Riley Beggin of NPR

Ellen Bethea sat alongside her husband’s hospital bed after doctors told her that Archie, the man she had been married to for almost five decades, wouldn’t make it.

“As soon as everybody else was asleep and I was sitting there with him, he passed on,” she remembers. “So I think he kind of waited for me to be with him.”

Bethea says her husband had several health problems and died of liver disease.

Later that day in November 2015, the staff at the hospital near her Jacksonville, Fla., home asked Bethea something she hadn’t prepared for: Which funeral home did she want to use?

Bethea had never planned a funeral before, but knew of only one in town — Hardage-Giddens Funeral Home of Jacksonville. Some of her family and friends had used it and, she said, it had a good reputation. She and her family went there the next day.

After meeting with a staff member, they walked out with a bill of over $7,000.

Bethea provided a copy of the itemized funeral bill to NPR. One thing quickly stood out, but only if you know something about Jacksonville’s funeral market.

The cost of Archie’s cremation — $3,295 — was more than twice the amount charged elsewhere in Jacksonville by the company that owns Hardage-Giddens. The cremations are done in the same place and in the same way.

In a months-long investigation into pricing and marketing in the funeral business, also known as the death care industry, NPR spoke with funeral directors, consumers and regulators. We collected price information from around the country and visited providers. We found a confusing, unhelpful system that seems designed to be impenetrable by average consumers, who must make costly decisions at a time of grief and financial stress.

Funeral homes often aren’t forthcoming about how much things cost, or embed the information in elaborate package deals that can drive up the price of saying goodbye to loved ones.

Ellen Bethea holds a picture of herself and her late husband, Archie. Photo: Laura Heald for NPR

Ellen Bethea holds a picture of herself and her late husband, Archie.
Photo: Laura Heald for NPR

While most funeral businesses have websites, most omit prices from the sites, making it more difficult for families to compare prices or shop around. NPR reporters also found it difficult to get prices from many funeral homes, and federal regulators routinely find the homes violating a law that requires price disclosures.

In Jacksonville, Hardage-Giddens and several other businesses in and around Jacksonville are part of a large, corporate-owned portfolio of about 1,500 funeral homes and several hundred cemeteries.

The owner and operator is Service Corporation International (SCI), a multibillion-dollar company traded on the New York Stock Exchange.

The Houston-based firm claims 16 percent of the $19 billion North American death care market, which includes the U.S. and Canada. Company documents say it has 24,000 employees and is the largest owner of funeral homes and cemeteries in the world.

In Jacksonville, SCI sells cremations under the Hardage-Giddens/Dignity Memorial brand at large, luxurious funeral homes.

The company also sells them for lower prices at strip-mall storefront outlets under other brands such as Neptune Society and National Cremation Society.

In communities around the country, it’s common to find wide swings in prices for funeral services.

“That to me, starts to cross a line into consumer deception,” says Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance, a death care industry watchdog group based in Burlington, Vt.

Slocum was talking generally about markets such as Jacksonville, where a company’s centralized crematory handles remains from a variety of differently branded outlets — from posh funeral homes to humble storefront cremation societies.

The cremations are all the same, but some will cost much more than others, depending on where the consumer made the arrangements, and which of the company’s brand names appears on the invoice.

“You only get that lower price for the cremation society if you happen to know that it exists and is owned by the same business,” Slocum says. “I’m not saying they’re doing something illegal, but I am questioning whether or not we can really say, ‘Oh, they give a much higher level of service.’ ”

The front of 517 Park St., a crematory that serves multiple funeral homes. The building is located between downtown Jacksonville and the Riverside neighborhood. Laura Heald for NPR

The front of 517 Park St., a crematory that serves multiple funeral homes. The building is located between downtown Jacksonville and the Riverside neighborhood.
Photo: Laura Heald for NPR

The cremations arranged through all those outlets are performed in a large crematory at 517 Park St. in Jacksonville. The crematory’s supervisor, Troy Brown, wrote on his LinkedIn profile that the Park Street facility serves 14 funeral homes.

“Direct cremation is the same no matter where you go,” says Slocum. “When we’re talking about situations where some consumers do not know or can’t find out that that same business offers the same service at a lower price, maybe at a similar location, that is when I would have a problem with it.”

But Scott Gilligan, a lawyer for the National Funeral Directors Association, says comparing the two cremations is “like saying all weddings are the same.”

“Just like if I want a hamburger at a gourmet place, it’s the same hamburger I’m going to get at McDonald’s. But it’s going to cost more because of the atmosphere, because of what is being done. It’s choices,” Gilligan says.

According to Gilligan, when consumers choose a funeral home, they’re generally not making that decision on price. They’re looking at other factors, such as reputation and location.

When it comes to identical services, such as Jacksonville’s cremations, which have different brand names and different prices, Gilligan says: “Well, that is simply someone offering a service, or offering a division, which is going to cater to people who are looking for the price.”

One thing the storefront and the larger funeral homes have in common is an upselling strategy. Both try to sell consumers packages that bundle together multiple goods and services. This makes all of the funerals more expensive.

Bethea says it happened to her.

“Well, actually, I think they only showed us one package that they had,” she says.

Ellen Bethea and her great-grandson, Lucas, look at a painting of her late husband, Archie. Photo: Laura Heald for NPR

Ellen Bethea and her great-grandson, Lucas, look at a painting of her late husband, Archie.
Photo: Laura Heald for NPR


That package, known as the Honor Cremation Service, included a number of extra charges, including $495 for stationery and $345 for an Internet memorial.

That price premium is a problem the federal government has tried to fix with “the Funeral Rule,” a regulation in place since 1984.

It requires itemized price lists. But funeral directors are still free to emphasize packages in the sales process, as they did with Bethea.

“You know, Archie didn’t have hardly very much life insurance — maybe 5,000 — and I had, you know, a little bit of money in the bank, and it took everything.”

SCI, whose officials declined to speak with NPR for this story, tells consumers in sales materials that buying a funeral package saves them money.

But company executives tell investors a different story. In a presentation to Wall Street investors last year, the company said consumers spend an extra $1,900, on average when they buy a package, versus an “a la carte” funeral.

For some context, the national median cost of a funeral with a burial, not including cemetery costs, is over $7,000.

SCI CEO Tom Ryan told investors: “Think about society today. We are in a hurry, right? Everybody is on the clock … What we find is when we deliver these packages, people tend to spend more money because they’re buying more products and services.”

He added that consumers, in fact, like the packages.

“And most importantly, we survey our customers, and the highest customer satisfaction scores come from people that select the packages. So we know we’re doing the right thing. The packages allow us to do that for all parties involved,” Ryan said.

Company executives told analysts in July they’re rolling out a new point-of-sale system that also increases per-funeral revenue.

Packaging goods and services under multiple brands and setting different prices for identical services are strategies the company uses in many of its markets, which span 45 states and the District of Columbia.

In Raleigh, N.C., for example, the company’s full service funeral home and storefront cremation office are across the street from each other. Crossing that street can save you — or cost you — $1,895.

By Riley Beggin of NPR, Brian Latimer and Emily Siner of Nashville Public Radio, Joe Wertz of StateImpact Oklahoma and Ed Williams of KUNM contributed to this story.

View the original story along with its extras at NPR.

National Funeral Price Survey Results from the FCA and CFA

October 15, 2015


The Cost of Dying is Variable and Non-Transparent

FCA LogoPress Teleconference Reveals New Data on Costs, Price Disclosures and Laws Which Fail to Protect Bereaved Consumers. The Full Press Release can be found here and is excerpted below. 

Washington, D.C. – “Today, the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and Consumer Federation of America (CFA) released a report based on a national survey of the prices and price disclosures of a representative sample of 150 funeral homes from ten different regions of the country. The survey revealed significant price differences – for example, from $2,580 to $13,800 for a full-service funeral — and the failure of most funeral homes to disclose their prices adequately:  Only 38 of the 150 homes (25%) fully disclosed prices on their websites, while 24 (16%) failed to fully disclose prices both on their website and in response to an email and a phone call.”

The ten areas studied were Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia, Mercer County (NJ), Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Orange County (CA) and Seattle.

Funeral Prices Vary Significantly, Even Within Individual Areas

Three types of service were priced – direct cremation without ceremony, immediate burial without ceremony or the cost of a casket, and full-service funeral including the following items:  basic services of the funeral director and staff, transport of the body from place of death to funeral home, embalming, other preparation of the body, viewing or calling hours, funeral ceremony with casket present, hearse to cemetery, sedan or limousine for family, and graveside ceremony.

As the table below shows, prices for the same funeral services within individual areas almost always varied by at least 100 percent and often varied by more than 200 percent.


Low-High Prices of Funeral Services_Table

Table 1:  Low and High Prices ($s) for Funeral Services

Funeral Price Disclosures Often Incomplete and Difficult to Obtain

Researchers examined whether a complete general price list was included on the website of funeral homes. If the funeral homes did not do so, the researchers sent them an email requesting the price information. If the funeral homes failed to respond or responded inadequately, the researchers called them. Despite these efforts by researchers, some funeral homes did not provide any price information or provided this information only in a personal visit.

The table below reveals the extent to which funeral homes in the sample disclosed prices fully and how these prices were obtained.

Table 2:  How Price Information Was Obtained

In sum, the survey found that Funeral Home Prices vary significantly and that funeral homes rarely disclose full pricing information. The FCA and CFA are urging the Federal Trade Commission to change their Funeral Rule which was issued in 1984 and amended in 1994. In its current state, it only requires funeral homes to provide price information over the phone or a price list to those visiting the home. It however does not require transparent disclosure on funeral home websites.

Click here to read the full article or here to see the results in the 10 cities surveyed.

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.

Funeral Consumers Alliance is a nonprofit federation of consumer education organizations. Founded in 1963, FCA works to educate the public on funeral options and costs in order to protect the consumer’s right to choose a meaningful and affordable funeral.

Release of 10-City Funeral Price Survey!

October 15, 2015


FCA LogoPress Teleconference to Reveal New Data on Costs, Price Disclosures and Laws Which Fail to Protect Bereaved Consumers

Washington, D.C. – At a 12 noon, EDT, press teleconference on Monday, October 19th, the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) and the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) will release the results of a comprehensive report on the cost of dying in America. CFA and FCA will present data on a variety of funeral service costs from 10 major metropolitan areas. In addition, Stephen Brobeck, CFA’s Executive Director and Joshua Slocum, FCA’s Executive Director will address the inadequate disclosure rules issued by the FTC in 1984 and updated in 1994.

The ten areas studied are Atlanta, DC, Philadelphia, Mercer County (NJ), Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Denver, Tucson, Orange County (CA) and Seattle.  The services studied include direct cremation, immediate burial, and full service funerals.

To be released at the press teleconference:

  • Price differences for the same services in the same markets
  • Difficulties in obtaining funeral pricing information
  • How different markets impact the price of services
  • The effect of state disclosure requirements on price posting
  • How funeral companies typically disclose pricing
  • How the different types of funeral services compare in price
  • Steps needed by the Federal Trade Commission to protect bereaved consumers

EVENT: Press Tele-conference: Release of New Report on Funeral Services and the Cost of Dying

DATE: Monday, October 19, 2015 12 p.m. EDT

Call In #: 800-593-9038 and use Passcode: CFACALL

SPEAKERS: Stephen Brobeck, Executive Director, CFA

Joshua Slocum, Executive Director, Funeral Consumers Alliance


Release available after 11:30 am EDT October 19th at www.consumerfed.org 

The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.

Funeral Consumers Alliance is a nonprofit federation of consumer education organizations. Founded in 1963, FCA works to educate the public on funeral options and costs in order to protect the consumer’s right to choose a meaningful and affordable funeral.

Invitation to: Living Well Until The Very End of Life

Join us for a talk on “Living Well Until the Very End of Life”, sponsored by the Plexus Institute with guest speakers, Rachel Zeldin or I’m Sorry to Hear and Doug Germann, Elder Law Attorney at South Bend Elder Caring Law.

When: Wednesday June 17 1pm EST

Where: Conference Call




As we (or family members) grow older, life often becomes more complex, with new health issues, perhaps the need to leave longtime homes, get acquainted with end of life paperwork, maybe plan for a funeral or celebration of life. Sometimes death arrives suddenly and unexpected, plunging survivors into overwhelming grief and confusion, as Sheryl Sandberg reflects on the death of her husband, Dave Goldberg. This call will feature two guests whose work assists those who hope to live well to the very end of life, and offers help with the tasks that face family members after a loved one’s death.

Rachel Zeldin is the Founder and CEO of I’m Sorry to Hear, an online funeral planning website that connects consumers with funeral professionals, vendor reviews, and other educational tools to effectively plan a funeral.

A Philadelphia native, Rachel earned a bachelor’s degree in International Business & Economics from Drexel University’s LeBow College of Business. After more than five years working globally in international financial services, she pursued the start of a funeral planning platform that she wished her family had when her great uncle died.

She works passionately on I’m Sorry to Hear with the goals of providing equal access to information on funeral planning and encouraging the sharing of one’s personal funeral planning experiences. Through her extensive research of the funeral industry, funeral law and consumer advocacy issues in funeral planning, she has become a thought leader in funeral planning and consumer advocacy. She wrote more than 100 articles on funeral planning and has been featured in more than 12 major media publications. Rachel speaks frequently on funeral planning. She is co-founder and hostess of Death Café Philadelphia, and is a founding member of the newly established Funeral Consumers Alliance of Greater Philadelphia (http://www.fcaphilly.org)

 Douglas Germann is an Elder Caring Attorney in South Bend, IN. He has Juris Doctor and Bachelor in Business Administration degrees and has practiced law in Indiana and Michigan for more than four decades. Over the years, Doug found that his clients got older his interests evolved more and more to caring for elders (Doug sees “elder” as a term of respect), with a special interest in conversation and particularly the end of life conversation. He often facilitates such conversations.

His legal practice involves helping people with Health Care and Financial Powers of Attorney, Advance Directives, Guardianships, Medicaid, and getting people into–or keeping them out–of nursing homes. He is also Education Co-Chair of the Indiana Patient Preferences Coalition, the group that brought POST (also called POLST) to Indiana. Seewww.IndianaPOST.org.

Add your voice to this conversation!  

Good Job Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts


Staff Writer
(Published in print: Thursday, October 16, 2014)

NORTHAMPTON — A visit to a funeral home early Wednesday to pay respects to a friend got Claudia E. Hodges thinking hard about what kind of funeral she wants after she dies — and how she might pay for it.

It’s not a pleasant topic, but it is an essential one that the 80-year-old Northampton resident no longer wants to put off.

“I’ve been thinking about it for quite a few years,” Hodges said shortly after a 90-minute funeral planning forum at the Rockridge Retirement Community. “When you get to the age I am, you have to be realistic. It makes you realize you have to do something about it now.”

Though age certainly played a factor in her decision to attend the forum sponsored by the Funeral Consumers Alliance of Western Massachusetts, Hodges said recent headlines about the demise of the Ryder Funeral Home in South Hadley also prompted her to do some research.

“I told the funeral director that I would be back in two or three weeks after I attended this forum,” Hodges said.

Hodges is exactly the type of person the Funeral Consumers Alliance hoped to attract to the forum, which sought to help people become “savvy consumers” when it comes to funeral planning, just as they are when making other big life purchases, said Sandy Ward, president of the alliance.

She said the sudden closure of Ryder Funeral Home and news that more than 60 families who signed prepaid funeral contracts may have lost their money prompted Wednesday’s forum.

Ward served on a panel of experts along with Morgan Mitchell, funeral director of Mitchell Funeral Home in Easthampton, and Seunghee Cha, an elder law attorney in Amherst. The panelists sought to dispel myths about funeral prepayment plans and outlined legal and financial aspects of funeral planning.

Mitchell, who is past president and a current member of the state Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers, told roughly 25 people in attendance that consumers considering whether to sign a prepaid contract should remember that it’s their money, not the funeral directors.

“Every dollar you prepay to a funeral home has to be guaranteed,” the fourth-generation funeral director said.

By state law, funeral homes are required to invest the money consumers give them for prepaid contracts into a trust fund or insurance policy. They are not allowed to keep it, though many consumers might not know that or simply end up trusting a funeral home director to treat them fairly, Mitchell said.

In light of recent alleged mishandling of $342,000 for prepaid funeral services by former funeral director William Ryder, the Board of Funeral Directors and Embalmers is considering regulatory changes that would stop consumers paying funeral directors or funeral homes in advance for funeral service arrangements, and direct the money instead to the insurance or trust companies where it is supposed to be invested.

“I have not done anything for you when I sit down and talk to you,” Mitchell said. “You should not be writing me a check.”

Consumers, he noted, are equally responsible for doing their research, for figuring out what arrangements they’d like for their funeral, and for knowing what they can afford. This is part of what it takes to become a savvy consumer, he said.

“Talking about funerals and arrangements is one of the most difficult things to do,” Mitchell said. “Funeral directors should help plan arrangements, but you are the only ones that can understand what your finances are.”
Once a consumer knows what arrangements they want and what they can afford, Cha advises that they price shop just as they would for other big purchases. State law requires a funeral home to provide a general price list to anyone who asks for one. The Funeral Consumers Alliance produces a funeral home price survey every two years that some consumers might find helpful, Ward said. That survey was released this week on the group’s website.

After people know roughly what they want to pay for funeral services, Cha detailed two main ways they can go about doing this: by setting aside money or by prepaying.

In terms of setting aside money, she said the simplest thing consumers can do is ask their bank to designate a new or existing checking or savings account as a “burial account” so that it’s clear what the money is to be used for when they die. People who want to be even more clear about what the money is for can fill out a pay-on-death designation form that names a beneficiary, or they can make it a joint burial account by adding someone else, Cha said.

“It’s really meant to be a set-aside fund for your funeral expenses,” Cha said. “It’s that easy. If your budget is $3,000, then you put that in it.”

There is one caveat, however. Cha said people should be aware that if they ever need nursing or long-term care and are going to apply for Medicaid or Mass Health to pay for it, they will only be allowed to set aside $1,500 in a burial account. Using her $3,000 example, Cha said people faced with this scenario would simply pull out half of the money in that account in order to apply for Medicaid.

Another way to pay for a funeral is to establish a CD, or certificate of deposit, account that will accrue interest at a better rate than a checking account. Cha advised people who establish a CD for funeral expenses to write a letter or memo stating the purpose of the account, naming a beneficiary or adding a joint owner.

Consumers who want to do more planning and ensure that the money they set aside for funeral expenses is used for exactly that might want to consider a prepaid contract. Under these contracts, funeral homes must invest the money through a trust or insurance policy to pay for future funeral expenses. The idea is that these investments gain enough annual interest to cover cost-of-living increases.

There are several details consumers should be aware of. Prepaid contracts that are “cost protected” ensure against rising future costs for a variety of arrangements, while contracts without this feature may mean that a person’s estate will get a bill for expenditures beyond the prepaid amount.

The first 15 days after signing a pre-need contract are critical. Consumers have a so-called “cooling off” period of 10 days to change their mind and cancel a contract for any reason. Once that time period ends, funeral homes have five more days to invest the money.

In the end, Cha advises consumers to read contracts carefully and understand what they say before they sign.

That’s exactly what Hodges, the 80-year-old Northampton resident who attended Wednesday’s forum, and her daughter, Kathy Rarus, took away from the meeting.

“Use your common sense and read the fine print,” Rarus said.

Chad Cain can be reached at ccain@gazettenet.com.


For more information on funeral planning and resources to guide you through planning a funeral, visit the I’m Sorry to Hear article library and Resources to download a Funeral Planning Checklist, review the Casket Guide, find Funeral Planning Tips, and access Funeral Consumer Advocacy links.

Paying For a Funeral: What Do I Do If I Can’t Afford a Funeral?

Money ManPlanning a funeral can get pricey.  The fees for hiring a funeral director, having a service, buying a casket, and anything else you want for your loved ones can add up.  The average funeral in America in 2012 topped $12,000 including cemetery plots and fees.

However, funerals don’t have to to cost that much!  You can have meaningful funerals and memorials at any price point.  Below are some tips to keep funeral costs low as well as alternatives to a “traditional” funerals that will you save money on your own or your loved one’s send off.

Compare Funeral Home Costs

Costs of funerals vary greatly from funeral home to funeral home, even within the same neighborhood or city.  That’s because the cost for funeral home services is not regulated by the government – only the professional license is (in most states). This means that all funeral homes have the ability to set their own prices.

By calling a few (3-5) funeral homes that you are considering and requesting information on their services and pricing, you can cut your funeral costs dramatically.  Be sure to ask for the prices of services à la carte so you can compare apples-to-apples. Keep in mind that the least costly funeral options are direct cremation and immediate burial.

Some local Funeral Consumers Alliances conduct and publish a regional price survey of area funerals home. These prove to be great resources in additional to your own research.

Green/Natural Burials

In past articles we have talked about green burials and how they are able to help the environment.  Green burials are also helpful for your wallet.  By going green you can save yourself from many of the expensive funeral costs.  Two ways to go green and save money when paying for a funeral are:

1. skip embalming

2.  seek a cemetery that doesn’t require use of a burial liner or a burial vault (natural burial grounds are great for this!)

On average if you cut these two expenses you can save around $1,900.  Here is a link to our past blog about green burials.

Body Donation

Body donation is another great way to save money on a funeral.  When you donate your body, the organization you donate your body to absorbs most, if not all, of the costs of donating your body and the subsequent cremation.  There is a a feel good factor as well – by donating your body you are also helping advance medical technology and teach aspiring doctors.  Click the following link if you have more questions about saving costs and saving lives via body donation in lieu of a traditional funeral.

Infant Funerals

In most states, you have the option of caring for your child at home and without the care of a funeral director, which can help reduce funeral costs. If you choose to use the services of a funeral director, know that some locally-owned funeral homes and cemeteries offer burial and cremation services for babies at a discounted price or free of charge. Do not hesitate to inquire with several local funeral homes to see what accommodations they will make. In addition, financial aid assistance is available to those in need and are offered by the following organizations:

The Tears Foundation a nonprofit organization, aims to lift any financial or emotional burdens following the death of a child. They offer free support groups and provides funding for current infant funeral and burial expenses for families in need.

Angel Names Association offers programs designed to ease the financial burden burden following a stillbirth and provides support. The Securing End-of-Life Expenses (SEOLE) program provides needy families assistance with autopsy, funeral, burial and cremation expenses and the Grief Recovery Assistance Program (GRASP) provides funding and assistance to uninsured families seeking counseling services following a stillbirth.
SIDS Foundation, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation, provides short-term assistance to individuals and families suffering an emergency hardship due to the sudden loss of a child to SIDS.

Veterans Burial Benefits

If you or your loved one is an honorably discharged veteran, you are likely eligible for veteran burial benefits.  These benefits include getting a free burial plot in a national cemetery including opening and closing costs or a burial allowance  to cover funeral costs.  You are also entitled to a burial flag, government headstone,  and a presidential memorial certificate.  Here is a link to an article dedicated to the ins and outs of veteran burial benefits.

Direct Cremation and Immediate Burial

Direct burial and direct cremation can save a ton of money compared to a “traditional” funeral.  Direct cremation saves because you don’t have to pay for expenses like embalming, a viewing, a casket, or a burial plot with opening and closing fees.  You can still have a memorial service for your loved one at the time of cremation or at a later date in a meaningful place for the deceased.

Direct burial saves money by getting rid of the unnecessary cost of embalming, viewing, and time required by the funeral home to host the extra services and viewing.  You may request to have a graveside service hosted by the family, clergy, a celebrant, or the funeral director or host a life celebration for them anywhere else you wish.

The good thing about both options is that you can have a meaningful ceremony that honors the life of the deceased whenever and wherever you want.  Here are the definitions of direct cremation and direct burial courtesy of the I’m Sorry To Hear Glossary.

Home Funeral

You can skip the cost of funeral homes all together by having a home funeral.  To have a home funeral you just need to pay for death certificates, a burial plot, and a casket.  Home funeral guides often operate on a volunteer or donation basis to assist you in preparing and honoring your loved one after they die.  You can find a home funeral guide by visiting the National Home Funeral Alliance website and reading more about home funerals and home funeral guides in our prior article.

Social Assistance Programs or Welfare Funeral Benefits

If the deceased was part of a social assistance or welfare benefit program, there is a good chance that the state they live in also has a program that will help you pay for a funeral.  This is usually called an “indigent burial”.  In this case, the state government will help you pay in full or in part for the funeral.  We compiled a list of known funeral assistance programs in the states that I’m Sorry to Hear covers.

Raise Money for a Funeral With Crowdfunding

A funeral or memorial fund is a personal donation site where people can honor the memory of your loved one with a contribution towards the funeral or memorial expenses. There are a variety of platforms available, like Deposit a Gift and WeCare Card, that allow you to setup a campaign in minutes (see our platform comparison) providing you with a simple link to print in an obituary and share via email or social media. Now when friends and family offer to help, you’ll be ready with a real way to lend a hand. Simply ask them to donate online and help spread the word by sharing the link.

Learn more about crowdfunding for funerals and memorials and compare crowdfunding platforms in these articles on Crowdfunding for Funeral and Memorials.

Payment Plans and Personal Loans For Funerals

In instances where you have exhausted all viable cost-reducing and fundraising options and the funeral costs are still over budget, consult with your funeral home of choice to see whether they offer payment plans. Some funeral homes offer in-house payment plans to spread the cost of the funeral over a longer period of time. Others may partner with a 3rd party finance company to offer financing programs for goods and services rendered.

  • Funeral payment plans are offered at each funeral home’s discretion, may or may not charge interest or a fee for this service, and approval is not guaranteed.
  • Financing from a 3rd party consumer-lender will be dependent on credit worthiness, down payments, and since the loans are generally unsecured loans, higher interest rates are generally charged.

The following are programs we found which offer payment plans or consumer lending programs and work with those in need of funeral financing.*

1. Springleaf Financial: A personal loan from Springleaf Financial can help you get the cash you need quickly by means of secured or unsecured loans. If approved, the funds are distributed directly to the consumer to pay for funeral expenses. You can find a full list of locations here: Springleaf Financial Locations. To apply for a loan, use the button below:

Apply Now for a Personal Loan from Springleaf Financial Services

2. At-Need Credit: At Need Credit offers both a payment plan solution via funeral homes as well as direct-to consumer lending:

  • Simple Funeral Payment Plan – a solution powered by CareCap and offered to funeral homes to help faciliate payment plans between the funeral home and the family. Funeral homes can enroll in this program and offer you payment plans at their discretion. Inquire with your funeral director to see if they are a participating provider.
  • Funeral Pay Plan – a direct-to-consumer lending product structured as an unsecured loan. The FuneralPayPlan (FPP) loan application process is powered by Avant.com. A consumer applies for a loan via Avant.com, and if approved, FuneralPayPlan will have the funds deposited into the consumer’s account for distrubution to the funeral providers.

At Need Credit funeral pay button

*I’m Sorry To Hear does not endorse any financial loan service. If considering a loan as your funeral payment method, we highly recommend researching each company, their processes, rates, and their lending policies thoroughly before making a decision.

Seek Advice from the Funeral Consumer Alliance

Another great resource for navigating the funeral planning process is to contact your local Funeral Consumers Alliance who can give you advice and guidance on individual state laws and assistance available.  As the local experts, they can steer you in the right direction to have a meaningful funeral for yourself or your loved one no matter what your budget is.

Click here to find a Funeral Consumers Alliance Affiliate close to you.

At least one of the above options are available to help you keep funeral costs low and/or pay for the cost of a funeral.  Be sure to explore all options to find the one that best meets your family’s needs and help you avoid an unnecessary financial burden when it comes time to pay for a funeral for yourself or your loved one.

Be sure to use our Funeral Planning ChecklistCasket GuideFuneral Planning TipsFuneral Term Glossary, and Funeral Consumer Advocacy information to assist you during the planning process.

Funeral Assistance for Those Who Need It

Funerals today are very expensive and not everyone is able to afford them.  Because of this some states offer burial or cremation assistance or benefits for indigent persons or families without a means to pay for funeral expenses for a loved one who received welfare of social service benefits.

Indigent persons are typically people with no family, no assets, and no money, that are left to the local government to administer the funeral arrangements (almost always direct cremation as it is the least costly).

Depending on what state you are from you may receive cash benefits through welfare or social assistance to help with your funeral needs, often called Burial Assistance Programs. If you or a loved one recently suffered the loss of a child, there are various federal and non-profit organizations that offer support for families in need of funeral assistance for their baby or child. In addition, some locally-owned funeral homes and cemeteries offer burial and cremation services for babies and children at a discounted price or free of charge. Do not hesitate to inquire with local funeral homes to see what accommodations they will make.

I’m Sorry To Hear has compiled a list of funeral assistance benefits available across the USA.  Most of the states pay the burial benefit directly to the funeral home if the deceased is eligible.  Be sure to read the fine print for each state for additional eligibly requirements.

Burial Assistance Programs

State Requirements Eligiblity Requirements Benefits received Source
 AL The State of Alabama does not offer assistance, but assistance is available at a City, County & Non-Profit level at 13 different locations. Eligibility is dependent on county or town residence, occupation, community involvement, and established financial need of the deceased and their families and the organization. Levels of monetary assistance, reimbursement, and other financial aid methods are dependent on the financial capacity of the relevant parties concerned. The 13 locations offering assistance in Alabama can be found at 2-1-1 Connect Alabama. Each county’s funds may vary in the amount they can offer.
2-1-1 Connect Alabama
 AK The State of Alaska offers relief via the General Relief Assistance (GRA) and various Social Service Organizations provide assistance to those who hold a tribal membership. To be eligible for GRA, there must be an immediate & specific need, the absence of other resources, and the deceased needs to be an Alaskan resident at the time of the application. The GRA progra​m is 100% state-funded and provides limited funds for the dignified burial of a deceased needy person. The Department of Health & Social Services
 AK Various social service organizations in Alaska on a county/town and tribal basis provide assistance to eligible applicants. Where social services are concerned, eligibility depends on the county or town of residence and basis of tribal membership. Alaska Connect 2-1-1 provides information of services provided by 22 locations in Alaska. Each county’s funds may vary in the amount they can offer. If pursuing social service assistance and the relevant parties are tribal membership holders, assistance up to $2,500 may be available. Alaska 2-1-1
 AR The state of Arkansas does not provide burial or funeral assistance; assistance is provided by the County. Contact agency for requirements. Assistance provided varies by county or town. No fee for service. 2-1-1 Arkansas
 AZ The state of Arizona does not provide burial or funeral assistance, though some counties do. Burial assistance is provided to funeral homes for deceased individuals who are found to be financially indigent. Eligibility requires that the individual and the family members do not have the ability to pay. The criteria for eligibility is the Federal Poverty Guidelines. This benefit is available for all indigent deaths in the County regardless of permanent residency. There is no fee, but the County reserves the right to file a lien on real property for repayment. Contact your county’s social services department to inquire what services they’re able to provide. Most municipalities have a budget to cover basic funeral or cremation costs for those on welfare and without funds to pay for a funeral. Eligibility is determined by use of financial assessment forms that must be completed by the family at the funeral home and submitted to your local Public Fiduciary. The basic offer is $485 for a direct burial and $385 for a direct cremation, which is payable direct to the funeral establishment. Arizona Department of Health
 CA The state of California does not provide burial or funeral assistance. Contact your county’s social services department to inquire what services they’re able to provide and the eligibility requirements. Some municipalities require both the decedent and the person legally responsible for the disposition of the remains be legally indigent. Most municipalities have a general relief budget to cover basic funeral or cremation costs for those on welfare and without funds to pay for a funeral for those on welfare or without funds to pay for a funeral. There are no provisions for services or viewing. CA Dept of Public Health
 CO The state of Colorado does not provide burial or funeral assistance. Recipients of MedicAid or Social Security may be eligible for assistance. Contact your county’s Department of Human Services branch to inquire what services they’re able to provide and the eligibility requirements. MedicAid and SSI recipients should review their plans and options. Colorado’s municipalities offer Burial Assistance programs which provides financial assistance to those in need to help pay for funeral, burial, or cremation costs. There is no application fee. EligibleMedic Aid and SSI recipients may be entitled to up to $1,000 in assistance. Denver Department of Human Services
 CT If the recipient has no burial funds, life insurance, or any other assets then they are eligible for burial benefits. If the deceased has any jointly held assets or is a beneficiary of a trust and whoever releasing these payments is willing to pay for the burial with this money than they are not eligible for Burial benefits.  If the deceased has money being held by the Department’s Central Office than request that some of that money is used for the burial. If eligible, Connecticut will give up to $1,800 for funeral expenses. This amount will be diminished by whatever amount of assets the deceased had left before they died. Relatives and others can also contribute a maximum of $1,000, making the total burial amount $2,800. CT Dept of Social Services
 DC The deceased must have been a District resident prior to their death. The resources of the deceased and financially accountable relative must not exceed $800.  The deceased must not have a pre-paid funeral plan. Families asking for burial assistance will receive $800 toward burial or $450 toward cremation. Family contributions cannot exceed $2,000 (not including the cost of opening and closing the grave), unless the deceased requires an oversized casket. The total cannot exceed over $3000 if the deceased requires an oversized casket. DC Dept of Human Services
 DE Any person, man or woman, having a legal residence in the State of Delaware, who has been unable to obtain employment, or is unable to work, who has no property or income sufficient to provide the necessities of life, who has no permanent place of abode, and no relatives or friends to care for him or her, may be considered an indigent persons and eligible for a State burial. Any persons found to own property, have a trust in their name, be a deserted husband or wife may be found ineligible and fees will be incurred at the expense of said property, trust or deserted relatives to cover all burial or cremation services. Delaware will give $400-$1,500 for burial (No clear data available) in one of three Pauper Cemeteries by means of the Delaware Division of Social Services. In the event of the death of an indigent person, whether an inmate of the Home or dying outside of the Home, he or she may be buried at the public expense, on the order of the Commission, or any member thereof, but in no case shall the expense of the burial exceed One Hundred Dollars ($100) Delaware General Welfare Law

Delaware Health and Social Services Office Locations

 FL Must meet poverty guideline of Florida state, or be ruled as innocent victim of crime. Determined by county’s Health & Human Services Florida Health and Human Services is mandated by state law to provide proper burial arrangements for residents who are poverty-stricken and whose bodies are unclaimed Florida Health and Human Services
 GA The family and immediate kin are indigent and unable to provide for the decent interment of the decedent, and the decedent is a pauper and destitute of the means of paying for decent interment. A DFCS staff person will begin an investigation to verify eligibility for state burial. Items such as insurance status, property ownership, bank accounts, and other assets may be considered in the eligibility analysis. The governing authority of the county where the death occurred shall

make available from county funds a sum sufficient to provide a decent
interment for the deceased pauper, or to reimburse such person as may have
expended the cost voluntarily. The governing authority of the county will
determine the amount though it varies somewhere between $350 and $1,200 and will be decided via each county’s Indigent Burial Department.

Georgia 2-1-1 Connect
 HI Eligibility for the death payments program shall be limited to:
(1) Medical or financial assistance recipients who were residents of the State at the time of death; or
(2) Unclaimed bodies
Denied if application not submitted within sixty days from the date of death. The deceased, at the time of death, is eligible for the Social Security Administration’s one-time lump-sum death benefit or if full funeral benefits are available to the deceased from other sources including, but not limited to, pre-paid funeral or burial plans, insurance plans, associations, and clubs. The state of Hawaii Med-QUEST Division (MQD) provides assistance to eligible low-income families. The Funeral Payments Program is limited to medical or financial assistance recipients who were residents of the State at the time of death or unclaimed bodies. An application must be submitted within 60-days of the death. An amount to the extent of $800 is payable to a licensed funeral provider. Phone (877) 628-5076 for further information.

There is also a $255 lump sum death benefit payment available from Social Security for those that qualify.

Hawaii Med-QUEST
 IA The county’s Health & Human Services department may pay some burial expenses following
the death of a person receiving state supplementary assistance or who
received assistance.
You are eligible if the decedent does not leave an estate which may be probated with sufficient proceeds to allow for payment of the funeral claim or monthly income is determined to be at or below 100% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines. Applications must be submitted no more than 60 days following a death. The county of residence may pay, from funds appropriated to it for the purpose, a maximum of $400 toward funeral expenses. Assistance may be available for the burial of nonresident indigent transients and the payment of the reasonable cost of burial, not to exceed $250. 2-1-1 Iowa
 ID Burial expense assistance may be available to you through social security, the Veterans Administration, or through your County’s Indigent Fund. Applications must be made prior to services rendered on behalf of the county, to which each will have it’s own basis of eligibility. To be eligible for burial benefits, the veteran must be in receipt of VA benefits at the time of death or must have died from a service related condition. Anyone receiving social security is entitled to a burial benefit of $255. Burial expense assistance paid through your County Indigent Fund County will be of an amount established by the Board of County Commissioners to pay for the cremation or burial of deceased county resident or unclaimed body. (For the contact information for the Social Security Administration or County Indigent Fund near you, please call the 2-1-1 Idaho Careline at 2-1-1 or 1-800-926-2588). 2-1-1 Idaho
 IL The Illinois Department of Human Services, which suffered a recent fund-cut in 2015 by Gov. Rauner, may once again pay for indigent person’s burial and funeral expenses. As of May 1st, 2015, Rauner has reinstated the annual budget. The department pays the funeral and burial expenses of a person who at the time of death: was receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) cash, Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD) cash, All Kids Assist, Parent/All Kids Assist, All Kids Moms & Babies, Family Assist, AABD Medical, General Assistance Foster Care/Adoption Care, or who would qualify for All Kids Assist, Parent/All Kids Assist, All Kids Moms & Babies, AABD Medical Maximum amount that DHS will Pay: $1,103 for a funeral, $552 for a cremation or burial Illinois Dept of Human Services
 IN The state of Indiana provides burial assistance. A recipient is eligible for Burial Assistance regardless of where their death occurs or whether the funeral and interment takes place in Indiana or elsewhere. Relatives and/or friends may contribute as much as they wish toward the funeral expenses of the deceased recipient.

However, all contributions and the resources of the deceased must be considered when determining the amount, if any, of
the funeral expenses to be paid by the Division.

Deceased TANF recipients are eligible for Burial Assistance, as well as recipients in the Medicaid Aged, Blind, and Disabled categories. The maximum allowable burial assistance payments are $1,200 for the funeral director’s expenses and $800 for cemetery expenses, for a total of $2,000. Payment is made by the Local Office of the Division of Family Resources. Family & Social Services Administration of Indiana
 KS In the state of Kansas, there are no funds available to help offset the cost of an indigent death. Counties are under no obligation to help the poor pay for burial expenses. But under state law, counties are responsible for paying for the burial or cremation of unclaimed bodies. If the deceased is claimed, chances of assistance by the state or county are slim. Residents of Jackson County, Missouri (816-881-3355), Platte County (816-858-2130), & Clay County (816-407-3250) should call their local administrator or county counselor’s office to seek help with indigent burials or cremations. In addition, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and Johnson Counties generally help but only when bodies are unclaimed by family members or friends. Residents of other counties should contact the local sheriff’s department who may contact Kansas Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services to determine if family members would have qualified to receive funeral assistance under the previous state program, which can be used as a criteria to determine if the county should cover the expenses of $550 maximum and that is relative to each county and the funds available. Other counties will cremate the deceased in lieu of a burial. Kansas Department of Health & Environment
 KY There is no state wide assistance program in the state of Kentucky although most county municipality’s Coroner’s office may be able to assist. To qualify, the deceased, or his/her estate, must possess no assets of any nature which can be used or sold to pay for the cremation. If such assets are later identified, the relevant County Fiscal Court, reserves the right to recover any such financial assistance paid by the County. In the event family or friends cannot meet the financial requirements to dispense with the remains of a loved one, some counties may offer assistance on behalf of an Indigent Cremation Assistance Program. Family members or friends of the deceased, who accept financial responsibility for dispensing with the remains, may apply for financial assistance of up to $500 towards the cremation costs of their loved ones from the county of residence of the deceased. Payment will be made directly to the vendor after application approval has been granted and an invoice is received. No visitation, grave marker or additional services at the funeral home or cemetery are currently available. Contact your local Corner’s office for more detailed information. Kentucky Coroner’s Association
 LA Louisiana does not provide burial assistance. The burden of indigent deaths, those with no estate and no relatives, belongs to the locality of the deceased. If the rights of the deceased are claimed by friend, relative or spouse, the burden of burial belongs to the affiliated and not the municipality; familial contributions are considered and may be taxed to the extent of Louisiana law. The coroner shall arrange for the burial of paupers, preferably by a Louisiana licensed funeral home. The burial expenses shall not exceed the actual cost of the service, and shall be paid by the parish or municipality in which the death occurred. Although the burden of indigent and non-indigent deaths and burials must be handled by the coroner, the costs for non-indigents are taxed against the estate and the costs for indigents must be borne by the local government. Contact your local parish or county coroner for more information. Louisiana State Coroner’s Association
 MA The department of Social Services shall provide for the final disposition of all deceased persons who are at the time of death recipients of aid or assistance of the state and all unknown persons found dead. The commonwealth shall have the right of reimbursement from whatever resources may exist in the estate of the deceased person, expenses from any legally liable family members, or through taxing the commonwealth. One does not need to have been a DTA recipient to qualify nor are there immigration status requirements. The deceased and any financially responsible relative (spouse or parent of a minor child) must have less than $1,100 in assets. The request for funeral and final disposition benefits must be made no later than six months from the date of death. The commonwealth shall pay an amount not exceeding $1,100 to the funeral establishment, if the total expense of the funeral and final disposition does not exceed $3,500. Any assets of the deceased or their financially responsible relative will be deducted from $1,100 and the remaining amount up to $1,100 will be paid by DTA to the funeral director. Resources for Final Arrangements,

DTA Office Locations

 MD The deceased must receive aid from Maryland; whether it is Temporary Cash Assistance, SSI, General Assistance, etc. They will not help pay for the funeral if the total cost of the funeral exceeds $2,500. Maryland will pay up to $650 to help pay for the funeral cost in Social Security assistance. The limit of familial contribution is $850. Dept of Human Resources MD
 ME The deceased must be on the general assistance program in order to receive benefits. There must be no liable relatives who can pay for the deceased’s burial. The amount of assistance available to low-income and at-need families varies depending on the county of residence of the deceased. If the deceased is an indigent person, the municipality will assume burden of the funeral, and not the state. The funeral director of the deceased will receive $785 for cremation services and $1,125 for burial services. They will also get $50 to go towards an urn or $450 for a grave liner. If the deceased has any assets that will be subtracted from the amount of money the funeral director receives. ME General Assistance Program
 MI Offers a program called ‘Home & Burial Services.’ When the descendant’s estate, mandatory copayments, etc., are not sufficient, burial payment assistance may be available to pay for burial, cremation, or costs associated with donation of a body to a medical school. If the deceased’s estate or mandatory co-payments on behalf of liable family members covers the cost of burial, assistance may be realized unnecessary. An application for burial assistance must be made no later than 10 business days after the burial, cremation or donation takes place. The decedent’s remains must be in Michigan. Transportation, or other charges to bring a decedent back to Michigan, is not covered. The maximum amount paid is $555. Michigan Department of Health & Human Services
 MN County assistance may be available when a person dies with insufficient funds to pay for their final disposition. The amount of money available varies by county. If financial assistance is needed, a social worker in the county of primary residence of the deceased can assist to see if you qualify. Applications must be submitted within 14 days of the date of death; the county will not reimburse payments already made. There may be restrictions put on the goods and services available when using county assistance for a funeral. Minnesota law allows a county to use cremation in lieu of burial when there are no objections by the next-of-kin. County expenses covered vary. All assets must be applied to the county maximum payment of $2,600. Total costs of burial must not exceed $4,000. A lump-sum death benefit of $255 may be paid upon the death of a person who has worked long enough to be insured under the Social Security program (To file for the lump-sum death benefit, one should call 1-800-772-1213 to request an appointment with the local social security office.). Minnesota Department of Health
 MO There is no state offered burial assistance. The Indigent Burial and Funeral Fund, split between three community foundations in the state, Greater Kansas City Community Foundation, Greater St. Louis Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Ozarks, serves a geographical area of the state. The CFO reimburses county or city governments to help cover the cost of indigent burials. The CFO does not reimburse to assist funeral homes or families in making up an discrepancy or difference of cost. Eligibility depends on burden to cover the cost of the unclaimed body. When family members relinquish rights of the deceased, the remains will not be released to the family. The current reimbursement rate is $400. The Community Foundation of the Ozarks
 MS Mississippi state does not offer burial assistance. Counties provide indigents with a simple, decent burial for all persons who die in their local County without family or assets that could otherwise provide the cost or means of burial.
The County Administrator is empowered and authorized to make an initial inquiry and determination of any person on whose behalf a pauper’s burial is requested and will consider whether said person has relatives liable and able to pay burial expenses, whether the deceased maintained any account(s) with a financial institution and the sums, and whether the person is being held as unclaimed by any physician, hospital, funeral director, embalmer, coroner, or other party after five (5) days’ notification to relevant parties. The pauper may be provided burial services which may include cremation, the cost of which may be partially or completely defrayed by the County as determined on a case by case basis. Mississippi State Department of Health
 MT The state of Montana does not provide burial assistance although a county may provide for the burial, entombment, or cremation of indigents. The Coroner is also responsible for administering the funds for indigent burials. A county may establish the criteria for determining eligibility for assistance, including but not limited to residency requirements, limits on income and resources, and the amount of assistance. The county coroner negotiates and pays the negotiated amount due to the funeral home or mortician for an indigent burial. Assistance provided varies. Many city and county governments across Montana, including Missoula County, don’t pay for indigent burials and the burden is is, at times, left to the funeral home. Montana Coroner Directory
 NC The state of NC does not provide burial or funeral assistance. For Unclaimed Bodies: the director of the county department of social services in which an unclaimed body (decedent) is located is responsible for its final disposition, either by cremation or burial.  If a decedent’s estate cannot cover burial expenses, then the decedent’s county of residence will bear the expense.  If the county of residence is unknown, then the expenses will be borne by the county in which the death occurred. There is no state-wide indigent burial fund, and any county assistance is very limited.  Individuals should check with the local county department of social services to determine if any assistance or resource is available. NC Division of Health & Human Services
 ND The state of North Dakota does not provide assistance for burials. If the deceased did not leave sufficient means to defray funeral expenses, including the cost of a casket, the county social service board of residence or the county social service board of the county in which the death occurs shall employ some person to arrange burial or cremation. No clear data The General Assistance Program is an emergency assistance program intended to meet basic maintenance needs of families in financial crisis, disabled adults, and burial of deceased poor persons. The amount provided varies by county; can be from $300 to $3,000 North Dakota Department of Human Services
 NE The state of Nebraska does not provide funding for burial assistance though some Counties provide assistance via a General Assistance program. If the estate of the decedent and/or the income and resources of responsible relatives are insufficient to meet the cremation or burial expenses, General Assistance may be authorized to meet these expenses. The spouse of the deceased can earn no more than the federal poverty level, $903 a month for one person. And the deceased, if there is no spouse, can have no more than $800 in his or her estate. If the decedent’s body is unclaimed by next of kin or a responsible party, then the County may authorize the body to be cremated or buried. A fee of $800 (Eight hundred dollars) will be paid for cremation services. A fee of $2,150 will be paid for county burial of an adult and a fee of $1,147 will be paid for the burial of a minor child. Amount of assistance varies by county and funding available for General Assistance. Consult with your local county or municipality for assistance information. Nebraska Counties
 NH The state of New Hampshire does not provide burial assistance. Any persons have the right to be decently buried or cremated, and where applicable, at the expense of the town or city in which the assisted person was a resident. Assistance is granted only when the individual does not have liquid assets to cover the expense of burial or cremation or where relatives, other people, the State, or other sources will not cover the entire expense of burial or cremation, and only if costs do not exceed $750.00. The State of New Hampshire and surrounding municipalities set a rate of up to $750.00 for burial or cremation, whichever is most cost effective. If some payment has been made to the funeral home, only the difference between that payment and $750.00 will be considered. Some county’s assistance burden may vary. NH Welfare Dept,

New Hampshire 2-1-1 Connect

 NJ A lot of people are eligible. If you are living in New Jersey and not well off apply for the recently deceased at the department of human services. The deceased cannot die in a penile or correctional facility. If the deceased is 2 years+ in age then the family will be given $2,246 for a funeral home, $524 for cemetery fees, and their family members/friends will be able to give up to $1,570 as supplementation money. If the deceased is 1 week-2 years old then the family will be given $1,684 towards a funeral home, $393 towards cemetery fees, and their family members/friends will be able to give up to $1,178 as supplementation money. If the deceased is a stillborn-6 days old then the family will be given $1,123 towards a funeral home, $262 for cemetery fees, and their family members/friends will be able to give up to $785 as supplementation money. NJ Public Assistance Welfare
 NM The state of New Mexico assists in payment of burial expenses for an individual who was a low-income individual at the time of death. A request for payment of funeral expenses may come from the family, the mortuary, or other persons furnishing funeral services to any project area on behalf of the state General Assistance fund program. Payment towards the burial expenses for an eligible individual may be made when the resources considered available to meet the cost of the funeral are less than $600. The deceased individual must have been a recipient of NMW, GA, refugee assistance, ARSCH or medicaid benefits from the state of New Mexico. The department may provide up to $200.00 towards the funeral expenses recipients of financial and medical assistance if the deceased’s available resources are insufficient to pay for the funeral, the persons legally responsible for the support of the deceased are unable to pay the funeral expenses, and no other person or organization, or state agency will undertake to pay for the expenses. New Mexico Department of Human Services
 NV Nevada has an indigent burial assistance program that is managed at a county level but not on a state level. In order to qualify for assistance individuals must be a county resident or a non-Nevada resident who fell ill and died within their respective county, and meet all other financial and non-financial requirements for their household size. For those on very low income and without income, the local county will cover the costs of a direct cremation. Nevada 2-1-1 Connect
 NYC The HRA of New York City will provide financial assistance to individuals in need of assistance to meet funeral expenses Application must be completed and submitted within 60 days of death of the individual for whom a burial allowance grant is sought. Funds are available when an indigent resident of New York City dies who may have been in receipt of Supplement Security Income (SSI), Cash Assistance (CA), or leaves no funds to cover his or her burial expenses, and there are no Legally-Responsible Relatives (LRR) able to pay the funeral expenses. Low-income New York City residents may be eligible for up to $900 in financial assistance to meet funeral expenses of no more than $1700. The cost of cremation or grave and grave opening charges are excluded, however, the cost
of burying the ashes, after cremation is not excluded in calculating the $1,700 total cost. If the total funeral bill exceeds the amount of $1,700, HRA will make no payment. Applications must be completed and taken to the Burial Claims Unit in Brooklyn in order to be considered and fulfilled.
Burial Financial Assistance
 NY The state of New York does not offer burial assistance and the burden falls to the County or City. Eligibility requirements vary by county and city. The Monroe County Funeral Assistance Program provides benefits for residents who are indigent or who have no assets to pay for their funerals. Currently, the maximum benefit is $1,250. These benefits are subject to approval and an investigation by the County. Rochester Cremation offers “No Cost” Cremation to those who qualifies and receives the maximum benefit from the Monroe County Funeral Assistance Program. Other counties and cities vary in amounts and terms of assistance. Rochester Cremation
 OK Financial assistance is not available directly from any state agency. Assistance may be provided through the county. However, the administration of assistance is different from county to county. Please contact your local funeral home to find out what assistance may be available in your county. Varies. Contact local county coroner or health department. Some counties do provide burial or cremation assistance and you would need to contact your county social services office to inquire. There are also a few indigent and Native American burial assistance programs available in Oklahoma. There is a $255 lump sum death benefit payable from the SSA if you qualify. Veterans and certain dependents are also entitled to some benefits, which include a free cemetery plot and grave marker.

In addition, home funerals and burial by the family is legal in Oklahoma though zoning laws must be followed and self-burials must be conducted outside of certain city limits. A family held funeral may help off-set costs and parties interested must consult with their local health department concerning required paperwork or stipulations.

Oklahoma Department of Human Services
 OH While the state of Ohio may not provide assistance for indigent burials or low income funerals, the counties and municipalities of Ohio do. Contact your local county or city to determine their procedure. Eligibility for assistance varies according to each county. A good resource is the Ohio Township Association which prepared a Model Policy and Application for Indigent Burial. Regardless of where death occurred, if the body of a dead person is located in Ohio and is not claimed, and if the decedent is not eligible for burial assistance, then the decedent’s body must be buried at public expense. When an indigent individual, having no legal residence in the state, dies in a transient bureau and his body is not claimed by any person for private interment, or delivered for the purpose of medical or surgical study or dissection, the indigent individual will be buried at the expense of the county. The City shall dispose of the remains of indigent persons by cremation only.

The City shall pay a maximum of five hundred dollars ($500.00) for the cremation and internment of the remains of the deceased. For deceased individuals claimed by family or friend, for private burial or not, the family must work with a funeral home in order to apply for assistance. The funeral home will send the city a completed application, copy of death certificate, and itemized statement of all costs and services. The city will deny or approve the request within two weeks. Maximum assistance is $750.

Ohio County Localities
 OR The state of Oregon, in collaboration with the Oregon Mortuary & Cemetery Board, maintains the Indigent Disposition Program which seeks to provide licensed funeral homes with reimbursement for services for the disposition of unclaimed indigent bodies. This is a limited fund created to offset the costs incurred in providing final disposition. Varies A licensed funeral establishment shall submit to the Oregon Mortuary & Cemetery Board (OMCB) an itemized statement of expenses for services performed and supplies provided for disposition of unclaimed indigent bodies. For deceased individuals claimed by family or friend, who may also be indigent, they must work with a funeral home in order to apply for assistance and/or contact their local Coroner’s office to determine other means of assistance. Oregon Mortuary & Cemetery Board
 PA Individuals who are recipients of Cash Assistance—Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), General Assistance (GA), State Blind Pension (SBP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or State Supplementary Payment (SSP)—at the time of death may receive burial assistance on behalf of the state. The deceased will not receive burial benefits if they have assets that are over $1,500 worth in value. Also if the deceased has a relative that can pay for their burial they become liable. The deceased will receive $750 to help cover burial, cremation, or both by a funeral director registered with DHS. If the deceased has more than $750 dollars but less than $1,500 it will be subtracted from $1,500 which is the total amount of money that will be covered for the deceased’s burial. PA Dept of Human Services
 RI Burial benefits are awarded to those who are indigent residents of Rhode Island whose family cannot provide money to pay for their burial. For the Department of Human Services to consider granting assistance to those persons who may be eligible, application for payment of funeral and burial expenses must be made on behalf of the deceased within thirty (30) days of the date of death. The state of Rhode Island will pay up to $900 for burial expenses. A lump sum death benefit of $255 is payable upon the death of a deceased insured wage earner or self-employed person who may be eligible to receive monthly survivor-ship benefits, payable to the surviving spouse or child. RI General Public Assistance
 SC South Carolina does not have any burial benefits at state and city level. Only one known coroner’s office, Greenville’s County Coroner, will absorb the cost of disposition but only for a cremation. Social Security pays out a lump sum death benefit of $255 (if you qualify), and veteran’s and certain dependents are entitled to certain benefits. Families who claim their loved one can conduct a home burial in South Carolina and set up a family burial plot on your own land, which will help decrease costs of a disposition. South Carolina 2-1-1
 SD South Dakota does not offer assistance, although under South Dakota state law, counties have a legal responsibility to provide assistance to deceased indigent residents. Varies for each county. County assistance is meant to be a resource of last resort, available only after all other personal resources, governmental programs, insurance benefits, and family assistance have been exhausted. Minnehaha County, Davison County, Pennington County, Codington County, Lincoln County and Brown County provide some level of general assistance and welfare, although limited. Minnehaha County: Cremation only. No memorial service: $1,000. Cremation with memorial service, and all others: $2,250. Children under 5″: $750. Lincoln County: maximum of $2,500. Contact your local county’s Welfare Office for more information and relevant paperwork/forms.


South Dakota Department of Health
 TN Tennessee does not offer burial assistance and most counties have ended their pauper burial services. Some funeral homes and very few counties still offer assistance. Varies Metro Social Services coordinates and funds the burial of deceased persons who did not leave sufficient resources to cover the cost of their burial expenses in Davidson County or who for those who died in Davidson County. Applications for burial/cremation assistance must be made by the family member closest in relation to the deceased. If not available, other family members, friends, or agency representatives may apply for burial assistance for the deceased. All applications for burial or cremation services must be made during the hours of operation: Contact (615) 862-6458. Tennessee 2-1-1
 TX Texas does not offer any state wide burial benefits and although some counties do, they’re mainly geared towards deceased veterans. Varies The total cost of the funeral, cremation, and/or burial cannot exceed $2,500. Veterans, spouses, and dependents may be eligible for VA burial and memorial benefits including reimbursement of burial expenses, military funeral honors VA headstones and markers, presidential memorial certificates, burial flags, burial in VA National Cemeteries or other Veterans’ cemeteries. Death benefits may also be available to replace a portion of family income that is lost when an employee dies because of a work-related injury or occupational illness. Social Security Income has a $255 payout for burial expenses based on amount paid in through earnings that can be applied to burial expenses as well. Burial Expense Assistance
 UT Utah does not have burial assistance although some counties offer indigent burial programs.


Varies Cremation services, only, are offered through contracted mortuaries for indigent individuals who have passed away in counties that provide assistance. Utah 2-1-1
 VA To be eligible you must either be on Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and apply for assistance through your county or municipality. Payment is given to the relevant funeral professional. Varies by county Virginia grants burial benefits depend on the county you are in. Norfolk county will give $500. You can set aside up to $3,500 for a burial fund that will not count as income. Virginia Common Help
 VT The state of Vermont provides burial assistance, distributed by county depts. Applications must be submitted in person at local county office. If the deceased and spouse together have in total more than $1,100 then they are not eligible for burial benefits. Vermont will give up to $1,100 in burial funds, paid directly to the vendor. VT Agency of Human Services
 WA County welfare departments, as agents for the county commissioners, are responsible for authorizing and approving payment claims, not the state of Washington. Varies County assistance is very limited. The King County Veterans Program provides burial assistance to veterans, family members, or friends of veterans who have or will incur costs related to the burial or cremation of any deceased indigent veteran or the family member of any veteran who lacks the resources to cover burial expenses. The total amount of assistance may not exceed $500. Proper documentation is required and certain rules apply. Please contact the Veterans’ Program to learn more about eligibility for burial assistance. Other county residents should consult their local municipalities in regards to assistance.


WA 2-1-1 Connect
 WI The Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program (WFCAP) provides assistance to those in need in lieu of the state. You must complete an “EBD MADA” application. The Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program (WFCAP) may reimburse service providers for up to $1,500 of unmet funeral/burial expenses and up to $1,000 of unmet cemetery/crematory expenses for certain decedents that were enrolled in public assistance and welfare programs. The program usually reimburses up to $1,500 for unmet funeral and burial expenses where these total expenses do not exceed $4,500 and, up to $1,000 for unmet cemetery expenses where these total expenses do not exceed $3,500. Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program Reimbursement Request
 WV West Virginia provides residents with an Indigent Burial Program, which seeks to provide a decent burial for
persons who die and have no resources to pay for the interment costs at the time
of death.
The deceased must have been a resident of West Virginia at the time of death in order to be eligible for a burial payment, or be a non-resident of West Virginia who passed while traveling or visiting in the state and has no family, friends, or institution in the state of his residence that will assume responsibility for the funeral arrangements or otherwise claim the body. The maximum allowable payment for burials may not exceed $2,450. The person who has made application for burial expenses may request that the deceased be cremated.

Green burials are also allowed under the burial program policy. Payment for burial expenses cannot be made unless the application form, DFA-BU-1, has been completed and the applicant found eligible for payment and the date of interment or cremation did not occur more than 30 days prior to the date of application. The application form must be signed in blue ink.

WV Dept of Health and Human Resources
 WY The Wyoming Department of Family Services provides and administers programs for public assistance and social services, including indigent and welfare burial programs, through a county/city level. Failure to diligently pursue information regarding monetary assets will result in refusal of payment by the County. The total cost to the County of non-veteran/veteran indigent burials or cremations shall not exceed $1,800. Contact local municipality for further information and regulations. Wyoming Department of Family Services

Infant Funerals

In most states, you have the option of caring for your child at home and without the care of a funeral director, which can help reduce funeral costs. If you choose to use the services of a funeral director, know that some locally-owned funeral homes and cemeteries offer burial and cremation services for babies at a discounted price or free of charge. Do not hesitate to inquire with several local funeral homes to see what accommodations they will make. In addition, financial aid assistance is available to those in need and are offered by the following organizations:

The Tears Foundation a nonprofit organization, aims to lift any financial or emotional burdens following the death of a child. They offer free support groups and provides funding for current infant funeral and burial expenses for families in need.

Angel Names Association offers programs designed to ease the financial burden burden following a stillbirth and provides support. The Securing End-of-Life Expenses (SEOLE) program provides needy families assistance with autopsy, funeral, burial and cremation expenses and the Grief Recovery Assistance Program (GRASP) provides funding and assistance to uninsured families seeking counseling services following a stillbirth.

SIDS Foundation, or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome Foundation, provides short-term assistance to individuals and families suffering an emergency hardship due to the sudden loss of a child to SIDS.

Be sure to use our Funeral Planning ChecklistCasket GuideFuneral Planning TipsFuneral Term Glossary, and Funeral Consumer Advocacy information to assist you during the planning process.