Funeral Poverty Crisis Affecting Families

indigent-funeral-assistanceRecent reports in the news are attempting to highlight the growing concern about thousands of families that are too poor today to afford a funeral.  A report from the UK claims that those unable to pay for a funeral has skyrocketed by 80% in the last 10 years, and this issue is no different here in the United States.  According to a CBS report in 2011 48% of Americans fell into the bracket of low-income or poverty.  This is a staggering percentage of Americans that find themselves struggling with everyday living costs…never mind dealing with an unexpected, or unprepared for, death in the family.

Every day at DFS Memorials we receive calls from families desperate and distraught as they try and find their way through the process of taking care of a lost loved one without sufficient means to really pay for a funeral.

So what happens if you do not have the money to pay for a funeral?

There are very limited resources available to help those families with insufficient resources to pay for a funeral.  Some states do provide some level of support and some do not.  In some states there is devolved funding at county level.  If you are on any kind of state-assisted welfare or benefits you may qualify for some limited assistance.

In most cases it is likely that you will have to arrange the lowest cost type of funeral that the funds will assist with.  This will mean arranging a basic cremation or a simple burial with minimal funeral services.

Will the State help you cover funeral costs?

If you are fortunate enough to be in a state or county that does offer some assistance, you will find that it does only cover a limited amount.  There is also generally a limitation of the level of family contribution. i.e. you cannot claim funds for an indigent funeral and then have family members all contribute funds.  Use this table for a state by state breakdown of what is available to assist families with an indigent burial.

Bear in mind that although most states still refer to ‘indigent burial programs’ in many states only cremation is now offered as this is far more economical and helps the state, or county, use their budget effectively.

What are the implications of accepting state assistance for a funeral?

When you turn to the state or municipal to pay for a funeral, then you cannot expect the full range of services or much autonomy over what kind of services are available.  In some cases only a basic direct cremation or direct burial is offered as a public aid disposition.

There are also limitations on how much family members can contribute towards the overall funeral cost.

What if the deceased had no life insurance, and surviving family have no money to pay for the funeral?

If there is no life insurance to meet funeral expenses, and you do not qualify for any kind of public assistance, you will have to meet a decision about how to meet any funeral costs.  As mentioned a basic cremation can be conducted in most areas for around $800.  If family can rally round, and make contributions, it may be possible to pool funds and meet a basic disposition.  A simple family memorial service, or ash-scattering service, can be held once the cremated remains are back with the family.

To read more about what options you have to arrange a low-cost funeral service, read this article on Indigent Burial Assistance and assistance for funeral funding.

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