Cremated ashes remain unclaimed as Social Security becomes responsible for more unclaimed bodies

The cost of death care can be crippling when you are already on the breadline.  More Americans are searching for help with funeral expenses from social security, and funeral directors are finding themselves supporting families with social security financial aid claims.

Who picks up the tab when no one has any money to pay?  The costs are adding up, both for county Social Security departments, and for funeral providers.  Most county welfare sections have some funds to defray funeral expenses for those on welfare and simply without any money to cover funeral costs.  Costs vary depending on state and county, but can usually be around the $500 mark, payable to a local funeral establishment to conduct a basic disposition on behalf of the family concerned.    The question is – who wants to handle these funerals?

Some funeral businesses are themselves already feeling the pinch, as they have to write off more debt to offset families who have been unable to pay in full for services provided.

Even the ‘lump-sum death payment’ paid out from Social Security for a person who has worked long enough to be covered is only $255.   When you consider that an average funeral today costs $7,300 (NFDA), then this amount does nothing to cover typical funeral costs.

So local county social security departments are finding themselves handling more cases of unclaimed bodies.  Someone may die in hospital or in a nursing home and no one comes forward to claim the body.  The cheapest and most common method of dealing with these unclaimed bodies is for the county to arrange a direct cremation.

And just like this story about unclaimed cremated remains from Cleveland County Department of Social Services where they now have a shelf of unclaimed ashes, other counties are reporting building additional budget columbarium’s as ‘pauper graves’.

It is tragic that the economic downturn is leaving so many without the simple dignity of looking after their lost loved ones.  Some are turning to body donation in a desperate attempt to obtain that promised “free cremation” otherwise called a “no cost cremation”.   But as with anything else in life…..nothing is ever free!  The body donation programs are selective about what donors they can accept, especially if the practicalities of an application have not already been arranged.  Overweight donors are generally not accepted – ruling out about 40% of the population.  And that ‘free’ cremation may mean a wait to get the cremated remains returned.  I have even heard instances of up to a year after the death occurred.

More budget and low cost cremation providers are emerging to meet the need for cheap funerals, but this still means that a family needs between $500 and $1400 in most areas to meet these basic cremation costs.

For those that can, finding a low cost cremation provider locally, and setting aside the funds for a direct cremation in a POD or Totten account, is probably to very good way to make sure you are assured of a basic send-off when the time comes.

If you want to know where your nearest low cost cremation provider is – contact us immediately.

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