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How much does a funeral cost?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

While most people instinctively understand the need to plan for major events in life, thoughts around planning funeral services often fall by the wayside. Whether due to discomfort around the topic or a view that death lies very far away, planning around death tends to be at the bottom of the list of priorities, if it makes the list at all. In truth, however, funerals spawn not only grief, but also a substantial financial cost. Planning for this inevitable event alleviates both. 

Funeral cost breakdown

Funeral expenses involve a number of services after a loved one passes on. Besides a basic service fee and charges for removal of the body from the home, hospice or other location for transportation to the funeral home, costs also include preparing the body through embalming and then preparing the body for viewing and burial, including casketing, cosmetology, dressing and grooming. Other factors in funeral costs include use of facilities for viewing and also for the funeral ceremony, use of service vehicle or hearse as well as memorial cards, register book or other memorial printed packages.

In cases where funerals involve burials, additional costs involved include such things as the cost of a cemetery plot along with a grave marker or monument, flowers or an obituary. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the 2019 median cost for a funeral involving a burial cost $7,640. With a vault, something typically required by cemeteries, the cost climbs to $9,135.

In cases where funerals involve cremation, additional costs include a cremation casket, rental casket or cremation container. Other costs include an urn to hold ashes as well as cemetery costs for those who choose to bury a loved one’s ashes. NFDA put the 2019 national median cost of funerals involving cremation at $5,150.

The table below outlines 2019 median funeral costs as calculated by NFDA:

Service2019 Median Cost
Basic service fee$2,195
Removal/transfer of body to funeral home$350
Body preparation$255
Use of facilities for viewing$425
Use of facilities for funeral service$500
Service vehicle or hearse$150-$340
Basic memorial printed package$175
Metal casket$2,500

How costs vary by state

Just as the cost of living varies by state, the cost of dying likewise varies by location. Famous for high costs of living, Hawaii, California and New York also fill the top three slots in terms of funeral costs. Oklahoma, Arkansas and Mississippi, on the other hand, rank as the most inexpensive states for funerals. 

Take a look at the table below to get an idea of average funeral costs in each state:

StateAverage cost of a funeral
New York$10,799
New Jersey$9,712
Rhode Island$9,269
New Hampshire$8,516
South Dakota$7,748
North Dakota$7,670
South Carolina$7,445
North Carolina$7,367
West Virginia$7,072
Kansas $6,909
Michigan $6,902
Tennessee $6,886
New Mexico $6,793
Oklahoma $6,754
Arkansas $6,746
Mississippi $6,684

How to plan for a funeral financially

While the cost of funerals rise year after year, planning for the inevitable event creates peace in the sense of helping loved ones to avoid financial overwhelm along with emotional pain. 

Life insurance

Life insurance acts as one of the most sure ways to minimize financial damage around funeral costs. By using the benefit amount to cover funeral costs, beneficiaries avoid an out-of pocket expense and keep any additional funds for living expenses and other costs. 

Whole life insurance

A kind of permanent life insurance, the policy pays the death benefit regardless of when the policyholder dies. 

Term life insurance

Coverage for a limited period, usually 10, 20 or 30 years, the policy pays a death benefit when the policyholder dies before the end of the term. Term life insurance offers an inexpensive choice for those capable of saving enough money to cover funeral expenses before the term expires, but provides a financial safety net for families in the event of the policyholder’s premature death. 

Burial insurance

Also referred to as a “funeral policy” or “final expense policy,” burial insurance works as a type of whole-life insurance. Often marketed to seniors as a way to allow them to alleviate funeral expenses for loved ones, no restrictions exist on the benefit paid out meaning it isn’t restricted solely to covering funeral costs. 

Preneed life insurance

Another type of whole-life insurance, individuals typically buy pre-need life insurance policies through a funeral home. The coverage amount usually corresponds with the cost of funeral arrangements chosen by the policyholder. In some cases, the funeral home locks in the cost of the funeral with the policy purchase. 

Laws around preneed policies vary by state. In some states, the death benefit directly pays the funeral home. In other states, policyholders appoint a spouse or adult child as a beneficiary

Prepay for a funeral

Another potential approach in helping loved ones avoid the financial burden of paying out-of-pocket for a funeral relies on the straightforward strategy of simply prepaying a funeral home for the service. To ensure this approach works without potential hiccups, make sure to get the agreement in writing. A contract for a prepaid funeral should include:

  • The geographic boundaries included in the funeral home’s service area as well as any stipulations around transferring to a funeral home outside the outlined area.
  • Deposit of the money used for the funeral and the responsible party for taxes on any income or interest generated from the prepaid funds.
  • The guarantee or lack of guarantee on the price of goods and services provided by the funeral home and the party responsible for any additional costs for items without a price guarantee.
  • Any circumstances allowing for the cancellation of the policy and the amount of money refunded upon cancellation.

Cash savings

The Funeral Consumers Alliances advises against investing in a prepaid funeral, claiming consumers find a better value in paying for funeral services at the time of need. Instead, the nonprofit group suggests more traditional savings to cover the cost of funeral services. 

How to prepare for a funeral logistically

Just as with all major life events, planning for a funeral requires organization. From choosing a casket to flower arrangements and catering, organizing a funeral requires extensive attention. And considering the planning happens in a matter of days or a week or so, stress levels tend to soar. 

To alleviate the stress loved ones take on, some level of preplanning serves as a godsend to those in the midst of grief. Writing down final wishes and discussing those wishes with a loved one allows movement from grief to the celebration of life. 

The takeaway:

  • Funerals involve a number of elements, including transporting and preparing the body as well as arranging the memorial service. Costs of these services can reach close to $15,000 in some states. 
  • Life insurance and other methods of financial planning for funeral services can alleviate financial hardship for loved ones.
  • Creating a written record and discussing final wishes provides guidelines for loved ones in the midst of grief. 

The business of day-to-day living comes in front and center for most of us, but the inevitable end of life ultimately requires attention. And while those who pass on get beyond earthly concerns, loved ones left behind still deal with the very real experience of funeral costs. Taking the time to plan and budget and to express wishes around a funeral translates to a final act of love as it helps to alleviate some of the emotional and financial hardship of family and friends.

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