Preparing for a Loved One’s Funeral
America began 2021 experiencing the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic. As of Feb. 1, case numbers continued to rise, with recorded deaths since January 2020 ranging from 413,1961 to 441,4092, depending on sources used (CDC provisional count waits for a death certificate, which can cause up to a two-week delay). Fox News reports that funeral homes in some areas of the country are swamped with new business. Services at some homes have increased from an average of 35 to 50 funerals a month to 100 to 150 in a single month.3
In response to the increase in funerals and efforts to contain further spread of the coronavirus, the CDC offers funeral guidance on how to plan and hold funeral services and visitations during the COVID-19 pandemic.4 However, when it comes to figuring out how to pay for the services, most families are on their own. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid do not reimburse these expenses, and only under the most dire circumstances do local government programs cover the cost of an “indigent” burial or cremation.5
If your circumstances are not dire, be aware that the cost of burial and funeral services can run quite high. With the exception of a house or a car, they may well be the biggest expense many families incur in a lifetime. One way to pay for funeral expenses is to purchase some form of life insurance. Please let us know if you’d like recommendations based on your circumstances.
The most recent statistics put the average cost of a funeral between $7,000 and $12,000, which generally includes viewing and burial, basic service fees, transporting remains to a funeral home, a casket, embalming and other preparation. Be aware that while there are regulations related to preserving remains prior to burial or cremation, embalming is not required and is one way to save money if you opt for a direct funeral. Also note that embalming can be avoided through cremation, which runs the gamut from $1,000 to $8,000, depending on options selected.6
It’s also important to know that none of these estimates include the cost of a cemetery plot, monument, marker or flowers. If you are aware of an impending death, you can shop for things like a casket and liner at other places than the selected funeral home.
There are two ways you can “prepay” for your own funeral. One is through a prepaid plan with a funeral home, wherein you select your options ahead of time and pay a fixed cost via lump sum or installments over time. The other is to earmark money for your survivors to use for funeral costs. This can be through a bank account with a designated beneficiary authorized for a “transfer on death” (TOD) distribution after submitting a death certificate.7 Or, it can be through some form of life insurance paid out to the beneficiary who will handle your funeral arrangements.
It’s a good idea to both discuss these arrangements ahead of time and leave written instructions for your loved ones. It is very difficult to plan a funeral when grieving, so written directions of both your preferences and how to pay for them are very helpful during this time. Be aware that if you do not make some type of arrangement for payment ahead of time, and your family cannot decide how to pay, the decision may be left up to the probate judge who handles your estate. In this case, the person(s) most likely assigned the cost will be the closest relative(s) by blood or marriage (e.g., spouse, parents, children, siblings).8
1 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Feb. 1, 2021. “Daily Updates of Totals by Week and State.” https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/nvss/vsrr/COVID19/index.htm. Accessed Feb. 1, 2021.
2 Johns Hopkins University & Medicine. Feb. 1, 2021. “Coronavirus Resource Center/New Cases as of February 01, 2021.” https://coronavirus.jhu.edu. Accessed Feb. 1, 2021.
3 Hunter Davis. Fox News. Jan. 18, 2021. “Coronavirus surge increases strain on funeral homes: ‘Our morgues are too full’.” https://www.foxnews.com/us/coronavirus-funeral-homes-morgues. Accessed Jan. 26, 2021.
4 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Dec. 28, 2020. “Funeral Guidance for Individuals and Families.” https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/daily-life-coping/funeral-guidance.html. Accessed Feb. 1, 2021.
5 Nolo. 2021. “Who Pays for Funeral Costs?” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-pays-for-funeral-costs.html. Accessed Jan. 26, 2021.
6 Lincoln Heritage Funeral Advantage. 2021. “How Much Does a Funeral Cost?” https://www.lhlic.com/consumer-resources/average-funeral-cost/. Accessed Jan. 26, 2021.
7 Eric Reed. SmartAsset. Aug. 21, 2019. “Transfer on Death (TOD) Accounts for Estate Planning.” https://smartasset.com/estate-planning/tod-account. Accessed Jan. 26, 2021.
8 Nolo. 2021. “Who Pays for Funeral Costs?” https://www.nolo.com/legal-encyclopedia/who-pays-for-funeral-costs.html. Accessed Jan. 26, 2021.
We are an independent firm helping individuals create retirement strategies using a variety of insurance products to custom suit their needs and objectives. This material is intended to provide general information to help you understand basic retirement income strategies and should not be construed as financial advice.
The information contained in this material is believed to be reliable, but accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed; it is not intended to be used as the sole basis for financial decisions. If you are unable to access any of the news articles and sources through the links provided in this text, please contact us to request a copy of the desired reference.
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