What is the average cost of a funeral in the United States?
Worrying about paying for a funeral after a loved one passes away is hard. It's important to know just how much a funeral costs and what you want and don't want. It's also smart to have a plan to pay for a funeral so the burden doesn't fall onto family members.
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UPDATED: Mar 15, 2022
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- In the United States, the average funeral costs almost $8,000 including basic service fees, casket, cremation, burial, embalming, and other costs
- You can use the lump sum from your life insurance policy to pay for your funeral expenses
- There are ways that you can make sure your funeral bills are covered
In the United States, the average cost of a funeral and burial in 2021 was $7,848, while a funeral and cremation were $6,970. This is a lot of money to pay all at once, especially if the person’s passing was sudden and unexpected. Your loved ones shouldn’t have to worry about affording funeral expenses, so it’s a good idea to plan for the inevitable future and make sure all of your expenses are covered. Also, it’s important to know what exactly is included in funeral services, so there are no surprises when it comes time to pay for everything.
What is included in funeral expenses?
You might be aware that caskets and burial vs. cremation costs factor into funeral expenses, but there are many more costs that you might not be aware of. According to PBS, the funeral market is estimated to be a $20.7 billion per year industry and there are an average of 2.4 million funerals a year. Here is a list of things that are included in the typical funeral service cost.
- Basic service fee. This is a standard fee that is associated with the funeral and is charged by the funeral home for services common to all funerals. It includes funeral planning, securing permits and death certificates, preparing notices, sheltering remains, and making arrangements with the cemetery, crematory, and other parties.
- Embalming. State laws do not require a body to be embalmed, but a funeral home might, especially if you plan on having an open casket.
- Caskets. Casket prices range depending on what type of material it’s made out of (wood, metal, etc.) and designs and dimensions.
- Cremation. Cremation is the cheaper route when it comes to cutting funeral expenses. In fact, 41% of Americans choose to have their bodies cremated.
- Grave liner or burial vault. A grave liner is a burial receptacle placed on the ground in a cemetery built to support the weight of the earth and cemetery equipment and prevent the grave from collapsing. A burial vault is a more secure grave liner.
- Preservation processes and products. Materials used by the funeral home in order to preserve the body.
- Other services. There are many other services that are factored into funeral costs. These include transporting the remains, use of the funeral home for the viewing, ceremony or memorial service, staff and equipment for graveside service, and use of a hearse or limousine.
- Cash advances. Funeral homes may charge you before the funeral for goods and services like obituary notices, flowers, and other things they pay third-party vendors for.
While not all of these are necessary, the price certainly starts to add up, and you’ll want to be prepared for how much money a funeral is going to cost. These costs tend to vary state by state, so you should also check your local state costs. Florida has the lowest average funeral cost at $5,875, and Maine has the highest average funeral cost at $8,675.
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What is the average funeral cost?
Here is an easy-to-read breakdown of typical funeral costs:
|Basic service fee||$2,300|
|Other body preparations||$270|
|Funeral home staff and facilities||$500|
|Vault or grave liner||$1,325|
Can I use life insurance to pay for funeral expenses?
Funeral expenses can add up quickly, so it’s a good thing you can use your life insurance policy to cover them. Many life insurance companies, like AARP, pay a lump sum when you die to the beneficiary you specified in your policy. Average life insurance ranges from $25 to $30 a month. With a life insurance policy, you pay a monthly premium, and after you die, your beneficiary will receive the lump sum as a death benefit. This doesn’t have to go through probate — a process that can hold up a deceased person’s estate — and can be put towards funeral costs.
You can also purchase burial insurance policies that are intended to pay for death-related costs. Currently, the best burial insurance for seniors is offered by companies like AARP, State Farm, Mutual of Omaha, and Transamerica.
What are other ways to pay for funeral costs?
Payable-on-death (POD) account
A payable-on-death account is a way to put money aside for your funeral expenses in a bank account. Someone can name a beneficiary to the account while they are still alive, and they cannot access the account until after that person dies. POD accounts are also referred to as Totten trusts. All you have to do is notify your financial institution of whom you wish to inherit the money, and then it’s done. Having a POD also saves the account from going through the probate court.
Much like a POD account, a savings account can be used to pay for funeral costs. And if you don’t want the money in this account to go through probate, make sure to have a joint account with your beneficiary.
A funeral trust is an agreement where one can set aside money for bills and name a trustee. The trustee is only able to withdraw money from the account after the person dies.
Similar to a funeral trust, a regular trust can use an agreement where it owns the life insurance policy. Once the owner of the trust passes away, the trustee can submit a claim, and then the money can be used how the owner outlined in their will.
Prepay at funeral home
Prepaying funeral expenses is becoming more and more popular. It saves a person’s loved ones from having to worry about paying and planning a funeral during such an emotional time. Funeral homes offer prepaid plans so that you can decide exactly what you want and what you don’t.
If a person is a veteran, they can be buried in one of 141 national cemeteries at no cost. A spouse and family members can also qualify as well. Also, many privately owned cemeteries offer burial benefits to veterans and their families.