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What Does the Average Funeral Cost?

Personal Finance
retired couple at home researching the question: what does the average funeral cost?

Planning your own funeral might not be something you want to do (or even think about). Yet, it often becomes top of mind when you are arranging a funeral or attending a service for a loved one who has recently passed away. You might realize that someday it will be your turn.

Consider looking past this morbid thought and shifting into compassionate planning, which could help free your loved ones of financial worry and ensure that they can afford to carry out your final wishes someday. Here, we will examine the average funeral cost and learn more about the various ways you could plan for the future.

How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

The average cost of an adult funeral with a viewing and burial, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), was $7,181 in 2014, which is 28.6 percent higher than it was a decade before ($5,582). Those who chose a cremation and viewing paid a median cost of $6,078 in 2014 — and that does not include burial or storage of cremains.

A few decades ago, funerals were somewhat standardized, especially for members of mainstream religions. Personalization has recently become a trend, and you might want your personal passions or hobbies to play a role in your funeral, viewing or burial. There are also movements toward "green" burials, burials at sea and other forms of burial.

All of these things could affect the average funeral cost — and this could be a heavy burden on your loved ones if you don't plan ahead. Some experts suggest you write down the details of what you want, according to The Wall Street Journal. Don't just file these with your will, as this might not be read until after your funeral arrangements have begun. Give them to a trusted friend or relative, such as the executor of your estate.

Celebrating Your Life

When it comes to paying for your funeral, there are multiple options you can consider. A life insurance policy could be a suitable choice, as there are various types of life insurance that could be used to pay for your funeral and burial. Many states also allow funeral homes to offer a service called "pre-need planning." You select all of the particulars about your desired service and then pay for it outright or via a trust or life insurance policy. A prearranged funeral could help make planning easier for your loved ones — and using a payment method like life insurance to pay for your final arrangements could help ease any financial worries. You may need to arrange for your burial separately, so it might be good to discuss funeral and burial costs with the funeral director.

And if you select this option, consider asking the following questions: Is the money kept in trust (or in a life insurance policy) until it is needed? Is the money ever refundable? Are the costs "locked-in" or will they increase through the years (and need to be paid after you've died)? And, of course, you may want to conduct due diligence to ensure the funeral home is in good standing and trustworthy.

You also might consider opening a dedicated bank account. The terms differ a bit among banks, but basically a payable on death (POD) account could allow you to set aside money specifically for your funeral and burial/cremation. A POD account could be a good idea for all of your bank accounts, as it would prevent your liquid accounts from being frozen for those who will need to manage your money after you pass. When you die, the beneficiary you name collects the money so they could then immediately pay the funeral home and/or cemetery. Remember that average funeral costs may increase between the time you establish the account and when the funds are needed.

No one wants to think about their own passing — or earmark money for it — but doing so could give your survivors financial security and help ensure that your final wishes are carried out.

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