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What to Do if You Need Emergency Funeral Funds

Whether a death is sudden or expected, many families find themselves struggling to come up with money to cover the high cost of funeral expenses. It’s difficult to know where to start when it comes to finding assistance for funeral expenses, but it is important to know your options.

Why do many families need emergency funeral funds?

You might be wondering why families struggle to cover the costs of a funeral in the first place, especially if you’ve never had to pay for a funeral. The average funeral cost in the United States is between $7,000 and $12,000 -- and that’s just the national average. Here are some of the reasons a family might be unprepared to cover these enormous costs:

  • Many deaths are unexpected and unplanned for, which gives families no time to prepare.
  • Many families are totally unaware that the average cost of a funeral is in the $7,000 - $12,000 range and find themselves unable to cover these costs.
  • Most funeral homes do not offer payment plans or delayed payment. They require payment for services upfront.
  • Funerals take place usually within a week of someone dying, leaving little time to prepare monetarily, especially if the death was sudden.
  • Even if an individual has put funds away for a funeral, some might be caught off guard by the inflation and the actual cost of a funeral now compared to when they started saving. Funeral expenses are 242.78% higher in the year 2020 than they were in 1986, a massive increase.
  • The average time it takes to resolve an estate is 16 months, leaving those who are relying on estate funds to fend for themselves until the funds come in.
  • A family member might have specifically requested to be buried with a full funeral and expected their family to cover the cost, not realizing how expensive it is.
  • Most American families do not have savings and cannot cover emergency expenses, especially to the tune of $7,000. According to Statista, almost 70% of American have less than $1,000 in savings.

There are very few programs that help with the cost of funeral expenses.

What to do if you need funds

The good news is, while your options are limited, you do have options. Let’s go over some of the ways you can come up with emergency funds to cover the costs of a funeral.

Set up a memorial fundraiser

Creating a memorial fundraiser is an easy, fast, and free way to raise money to cover unexpected funeral expenses. Many people set up a memorial fundraiser in under 10 minutes and end up receiving thousands of dollars in assistance from their friends, family and broader community. Fundraisers on Ever Loved are easy to share and are connected to memorial websites where people can leave condolences, share memories, view event information, and learn more about the person who passed away. Funds raised can be transferred in just a few days, making it an especially great option for anyone who needs funds quickly.

Create a memorial fundraiser

Many families are surprised by the amount of money they raise and the support that their community provides during such a difficult time. It’s also a great way for individuals to feel connected to the family and that they are doing their part to support the family, especially if they cannot attend the funeral or services in person, or are searching for a way to help out.

Apply for Social Security death benefits

Social Security offers benefits to qualified survivors of individuals in the form of a one time payment or monthly payments, depending on the survivor. The one-time payment of $255 is paid out to the surviving spouse if the surviving spouse was living with the deceased. If there isn’t a surviving spouse, the lump sum can be paid out to an eligible child who was on the deceased’s record when the deceased passed away.

Applying for Social Security Death Benefits can be a time consuming process, so it’s incredibly important to apply as soon as a death has occurred. You can apply for Social Security death benefits by phone by calling 1-800-772-1213. There is currently no way to apply for death benefits online. For more information about death benefits, visit Social Security’s website or read more about collecting benefits after someone dies.

Apply for VA benefits

If the deceased was a veteran, it’s important to apply for benefits with the VA. Those who passed away due to a service related death or injury are entitled to up to $2,000 with the VA. If they’re buried in a national cemetery, you’ll also most likely qualify for additional benefits to cover transportation. If they passed away due to a non-service related injury or death, the VA will cover up to $796 of burial and funeral expenses. They’ll also provide additional benefits if the veteran was in VA hospice care and was buried at a national cemetery. For more information, and to apply online, visit the VA’s website.

Apply to your county, city, and state funeral assistance programs

While most states do not offer funeral assistance at the state level, many offer assistance at the county and city level. Some counties offer thousands of dollars in assistance, so researching your county, city, and state can end up saving you a lot of money. If you’re unsure if your state has any funeral assistance programs, check out our funeral assistance guide for more information. It’s important to note that many government programs have restrictions and are often for those who are low-income or on Medicaid.

Contact local funeral homes and see if they happen to offer a payment plan

While the vast majority of funeral homes do not offer payment plans, it definitely doesn’t hurt to ask. Your funeral home might be able to work out a specific payment plan with your family or make allowances due to your circumstances. During COVID-19, it might be possible for extra allowances to be made due to the nature of the pandemic in the US.

Find a funeral home

Consider taking out a loan

If you’re unable to come up with funds in any other way, you could consider taking out a personal loan as a last resort. Personal loans can be useful in emergency situations, especially if you happen to have a good credit score. Pulling out a personal loan can also be a smart solution if you know you’re going to be reimbursed (either by the government or by an estate) in the future for any expenses you have to cover immediately.

Taking out a personal loan can also be an extremely risky thing to do, especially if you don’t have a good credit score. Personal loans tend to have higher interest rates, origination fees, and require monthly payments. If you don’t have any funds to cover a funeral, and know that you won’t be able to afford monthly payments on a large loan, taking out a loan to cover funeral costs is not a recommended idea. Personal loans are also rife with scammers and can lead individuals into a “debt cycle”, where you’re taking out additional loans (or using credit cards) to cover the cost of your first loan, a difficult cycle to break out of.

Get in touch with your local church

If you're a part of a local religious organization (or your loved one was), get in touch with the leadership and see if they offer any type of assistance. Churches are excellent sources for support as they may be able to offer financial assistance, but can also offer you a network of support. You can ask your religious leaders to share a memorial website you set up for your loved one with the congregation, or to make an announcement to the congregation regarding your loss. The more people you're able to reach, the better.

Ways you can save money on a funeral

With all of the ways you can cover funeral costs in mind, it’s also important to think about ways you can reduce the expected costs before attempting to cover them. Here are some easy ways to reduce funeral expenses:

  1. Choose a direct cremation. Cremations forego the cost of a number of big ticket items when it comes to funerals. If you go for a cremation, you won’t need to worry about purchasing a casket (which can save you thousands of dollars), you won’t need to pay for embalming, and you likely will not be paying for a burial plot. Direct cremation reduces this cost even more by having the body almost immediately cremated in a simple cremation container. Direct cremations generally cost around $600 - $6,000, depending on the state you live in and the provider you go with.
  2. Buy funeral products online. If you are in need of funeral products, it’s always cheaper to purchase them online or directly from the manufacturer. Funeral homes will markup funeral products a whopping 300-500%, so purchasing online is a massive cost saver. Your funeral home is required by law to use any funeral products you purchase online, so it’s a good idea to browse products before going with their suggestions. Purchasing products online also makes it easier to compare prices across vendors, which we make easy to do in our marketplace.
  3. Compare prices. Do your research before going with any funeral home or cremation provider. Many funeral homes are hesitant to share their prices online and instead want you to come in for an in-person consultation or over the phone consultation. These are sales tactics that are meant to persuade you to go with their services. To avoid being pressured into an overpriced contract, do price comparisons online before purchasing. You can check if the funeral home has provided their pricing either on their website or in our database. You can also request a full price list from the funeral homes before signing a contract. You’ll want to get price lists from multiple funeral homes in your area to make sure you’re getting the best deal. It’s also a good idea to have an idea in mind of what a national average or state average is for funeral services local to you.
  4. Forego funeral home services and hold your own services. You can also avoid costs by holding your own services in public venues. Consider holding a celebration of life in a park or public place. Alternatively, ask your local church if you can hold a memorial service at the church for free. If you’re holding your own services, ask a trusted friend or family member to host the services and invite your friends and family to speak at the service.
  5. Ask your friends and family for help with tasks. Many friends and family members want to know how they can support a family after they’ve suffered a loss. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your community and ask for assistance. You can ask for help in cooking food for services, providing seating, finding venues, setting up programs, getting programs and cards printed or mailed, and a lot more.

Being unable to pay for something is stressful at any moment, but especially so when it comes to funeral expenses. It’s difficult to know where to start when you’re responsible for covering such enormous costs with (often), very little time to prepare. We strongly encourage you to consider all of your options when it comes to emergency funeral funds and to apply to as many assistance programs as you can. We also highly recommend creating a memorial fundraiser and sharing it with your friends and family, as many families are shocked by the amount of support their community can offer them during their time of need.

Create a memorial fundraiser

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Last updated February 15, 2022
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