Category: Financial Planning

Saying Goodbye Without a Major Hit in the Wallet

Dying can take a large emotional and financial toll on loved ones.

Kiplinger’s recent article, “7 Ways to Slash the Cost of a Funeral,” reports that the median cost of a funeral is roughly $8,500, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. That includes embalming, viewing, a hearse, a metal casket, a vault and other related services. The price, which has increased 29.3% in the past ten years, could be a shock to grieving heirs and may take a hefty chunk out of your estate. 9-8-2016

That $8,500 price tag doesn’t include common cemetery expenses like a burial site, marker, paid obituary and flowers. Also, that is the middle price—some funerals can cost over $25,000. You can prepay for your own funeral to save on some expenses, but you may want to reconsider prepayment. There are better ways to set aside cash for a funeral, such as reducing funeral costs. Let’s look into this further.

  1. Shop around. Licensed funeral homes are required by law to give you a General Price List, or GPL, which is a breakdown of funeral expenses. Ask for a copy if it isn’t offered. Also, funeral homes are required to provide pricing information by phone.
  2. Create a budget. With all of the emotions and grief, families can rush into a decision, which can mean unnecessary costs and additional stress. Develop a budget and hold firm. Reputable funeral directors will either work within the budget or recommend a funeral home that can.
  3. Think outside the box. The median price of a metal casket sold by a funeral home is around $2,400, and the high-end ones can reach five figures. However, you don’t have to buy a casket from a funeral home, and the funeral home must accept a casket purchased elsewhere—even online. They also can’t charge you a handling fee for receiving a casket purchased somewhere else.
  4. Consider cremation. The median price of a funeral with a viewing and cremation is about $6,000—as opposed to $8,500 for a comparable funeral with burial. This expense can be cut further by declining the cremation casket (median funeral home price: $1,000). Funeral homes are required to offer inexpensive alternatives to cremation caskets, like simple containers. You can also supply your own urn and save another $300 or so.
  5. Skip embalming. Preserving the body with embalming isn’t a requirement for every death, but many funeral homes will require embalming if there’s going to be a public viewing. However, if a service is held within 24-48 hours with no public viewing, embalming may not be necessary. Even if the service can’t be held right away, refrigeration may be an acceptable alternative to embalming in many states. The median cost of embalming is $695.
  6. Make it a simple service. The median charge to use funeral home facilities and staff for a viewing and ceremony adds up to $915. If you really want a funeral home service but can’t afford the full deal, funeral directors will usually work with you to cut corners. You don’t have to buy a funeral home’s complete package. Just pick the goods and services that fit your budget and needs. A cremation memorial service could be held elsewhere for a lot less.
  7. Give your body to science. There are several companies that act as an intermediary for whole-body donors and labs doing medical research. For donors accepted by one of these programs, the costs are covered for cremation, transportation and the filing of the death certificate. The cremated remains are returned to the family at no cost within a few weeks.

Reference: Kiplinger’s (July 5, 2016) “7 Ways to Slash the Cost of a Funeral”