What Happens if You Can’t Pay for a Funeral

Published February 28, 2023

Whether a sudden death or the culmination of a long illness, the passing of a loved one is a tremendous blow. Relatives must navigate a whirlwind of grief while taking on a slew of time-sensitive tasks—from contacting family and friends to making funeral arrangements. But what happens if you can’t afford a funeral?

From the funeral home services to the burial, funerals are expensive and can become one stress too many in an already trying time, especially if you don’t have the funds to pay. Explore what happens if you can’t pay for a funeral and how you can cover the costs of a ceremony that lays your loved one to rest, celebrates their life, and provides emotional closure.

What Happens If You Can’t Afford a Funeral For a Relative?

It’s a stressful—but not uncommon—scenario: a beloved relative passes away. Suddenly, you have to reach out to family, notify estate attorneys and life insurance providers, all while making funeral arrangements. Then you discover that the funeral will cost thousands of dollars, and you can’t afford the expense.

Many families are unaware of the cost of a funeral until they have to plan one, a task already fraught with sadness and anxiety. Fortunately, this does not mean loved ones must abandon the important ritual. If someone can’t afford high funeral costs on their income, there are several alternatives they can turn to—from life insurance to personal loans. Let’s explore them all.

Your Options to Cover The Cost of a Funeral

Funerals and all the attendant costs can run from a few thousand to tens of thousands of dollars. What if you can’t afford cremation or a coffin burial? What’s more, what if you can’t afford the entire funeral—wake, religious service, and the gathering after the burial? If you are facing the death of a relative and can’t afford funeral services, there are several options you can explore to access cash and cover the cost:

  • Exercising a life insurance policy: If your relative had a life insurance policy, this can be a generous source of cash to fund funeral services. Depending on the policy, life insurance death benefits could be enough to cover the full or greater share of funeral costs.
  • Asking family members to chip in: The death of a relative doesn’t just affect the next of kin. Often, it touches a wide family network who may welcome the chance to make a meaningful contribution to the funeral. If you’re short of funeral funds, reaching out to your relatives for assistance can be both financially and emotionally satisfying to all parties.
  • Raising money through online crowdsourcing: Thanks to the rapid progress of technology, the internet offers another avenue of funeral fundraising. Crowdfunding websites are an efficient way to spread the news of your loved one’s passing, and a convenient and fast platform for collecting funeral donations.
  • Taking out a personal loan: As with any large expense, loans are a common solution to funeral funding. Depending on your credit, you may be able to obtain a personal loan large enough to cover the entire cost of a funeral.
  • Signing a release form with the coroner’s office: If you’ve exhausted all of your fundraising options and still lack sufficient funeral money, it’s time to go to your local coroner’s office. There, you can sign a release form stating your inability to pay, and the county will take over management of the body and coordinate burial or cremation.
  • Requesting government help: The state can provide much-needed financial support in the event of a loved one’s death. Public health departments and financial aid programs are great places to start when looking for federal funeral help.
  • Tapping into veteran assistance: If your loved one served in the military, they may be eligible for veteran aid. This financial assistance can provide critical funding to help pay the funeral service, burial, and even transportation to a national cemetery.

What Happens If You Can’t Afford Your Own Funeral?

Funerals are an important rite but expensive under any circumstance. However, some factors can make them even harder for your relatives to fund. If there is money left in your estate after death, these funds can go towards funeral expense payments. But if you leave behind outstanding medical bills or unpaid debt, the estate funds will likely go towards these pressing obligations first, instead of the funeral. This leaves your next of kin to shoulder the full burden of funeral payments.

But the responsibility does not have to spell financial distress, even if your relative(s) cannot afford funeral services. Read on to discover several ways to lighten the financial load.

Your Options to Reduce The Cost Of a Funeral

Not every funeral is alike, and neither is the final bill. Funeral expenses can vary significantly, depending on the type of burial, service, and setting. For example, cremation is often less expensive than casket burials and can save families thousands. Likewise, whole-body donation programs take care of body management and can be completely free, so families don’t have to pay any burial or cremation costs.

When looking to lower funeral costs, it is best to explore and compare the wide variety of options. For those having trouble finding the funds for a funeral, try pursuing the following strategies to bring the cost within your budget.

  • Compare funeral home and service costs
  • Select a low-cost casket
  • Look into green burial services
  • Consider cremation
  • Pursue whole-body donation
  • Conduct the funeral at home

Cover Your Funeral Costs With a Life Insurance Settlement

In the face of loss and grief, the rush to pay funeral costs and search for budget-friendly options is something many want to avoid. For those individuals, selling a life insurance policy is the ideal way to both cover the full cost of a funeral and bypass the work in the above strategies.

Life insurance is a valuable asset that can be sold in a process called a life settlement. In this sale, a qualified buyer takes on the responsibility of all future premium payments in exchange for the insurance death benefit, and the policyowner receives a significant cash payout. While the sum the policyholder is paid is less than the policy’s mature value, it is far more profitable than surrendering a policy—on average, providing four times more than the cash surrender value.

Life settlements allow you to tap into the value of your policy before you die, sometimes tax-free. This makes them an ideal option for those who are worried their estate won’t be large enough to cover funeral costs. If you have life insurance, learn about how much your life policy is worth to discover how much of your funeral costs it could cover.

Have an End-of-Life Plan

Death is a sensitive subject—especially when it comes to communicating your funeral wishes. But putting thought into how you would like to be laid to rest, setting aside money for funeral expenses, and discussing plans with family can reduce the stress of funding funeral services.

End-of-life plans help you calculate how much money you will need to cover funeral costs so you can leave enough funds in your estate when you die. By taking time to research financial options like life settlements, you can prevent your loved ones from worrying about funeral costs and allow them to grieve in peace.

Growing old brings many new financial considerations, but seniors can soften the blow of high medical costs and other aging and end-of-life expenses. Considering pursuing a life settlement? Get in touch with Coventry Direct to uncover everything you need to know about the process and qualifications so you can sell your life insurance with confidence.

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