What is a Prepaid Funeral?

Prepaid Funeral DefinitionPrepaid Funeral Definition

Key Takeaways

  • Prepaid funerals lock in current prices, shielding against future cost rises and potentially saving money.
  • Prearranging and prepaying for a funeral reduces stress on loved ones by ensuring all plans reflect personal wishes.
  • Providers often offer various payment options, but it's crucial to understand terms related to refunds and adjustments.
  • There are risks if a funeral provider fails or if significant life changes occur, highlighting the importance of provider stability checks.
  • Alternatives, like designated savings accounts or life insurance, can offer similar benefits with more flexibility and less risk.

What is a Prepaid Funeral?

A prepaid funeral is a service arrangement made with a funeral provider in which you plan and pay for your funeral expenses in advance.1 This type of planning allows individuals to select the specific services and goods they want for their funeral, such as the type of casket, ceremony specifics, burial costs, cemetery costs, or cremation preferences. By making these decisions ahead of time, individuals can help alleviate the financial and emotional burden on their loved ones after their passing.

Prepaid funerals can be a practical part of estate planning, helping provide peace of mind knowing that arrangements are taken care of and that the specifics reflect your wishes. This allows family members to focus on mourning and celebrating the lives of their loved ones without the immediate stress of planning and financial concerns.

National Average Cost of a Funeral (with burial)2


How Does a Prepaid Funeral Work?

Prepaid funerals let individuals plan and prepay for their funeral, ensuring their final wishes are met and locking in current service prices. Here are some important simple steps to follow:

Step 1: Do Your Homework

  • Identify Your Preferences: Determine what type of funeral you want. Consider if you prefer a burial or cremation, the style of ceremony, and any specific cultural or religious practices that are important to you.
  • Research Funeral Service Providers: Look for funeral homes that offer the memorial services you want. Compare their packages, focusing on what is included and the total costs to ensure there are no hidden fees.
  • Check Transparency: Ensure that pricing and services are clearly outlined. This transparency will help you avoid unexpected costs and complications.
  • Read Reviews: Look at reviews and testimonials from others who have used the funeral services. This can provide insight into the quality and reliability of the providers you are considering.
  • Seek Recommendations: Ask friends, family, or professionals for recommendations based on their experiences. Personal insights can be invaluable in making a well-informed decision.

Step 2: Choose Your Plan

  • Assess Your Needs: Discuss what you envision for your funeral, including the type of service you prefer (e.g., traditional burial, cremation, or a more unique celebration of life) with the funeral director. Understanding your desires helps us tailor a plan that fits perfectly.
  • Review Options: Review the variety of prepaid funeral plans offered by providers. Each plan covers different services and amenities.
  • Consider Costs: This includes understanding upfront costs, payment schedules, and what is guaranteed against price increases in the future.
  • Ask Questions: It's important to ask any questions you have about each plan. You might want to know about the transferability of the plan if you move, or what happens if the chosen service provider goes out of business.

Step 3: Settle the Finances

  • Choosing a Payment Plan: Depending on the funeral service provider, you may have several payment options. These can include a lump sum payment, or more manageable installment plans, such as monthly payments or annual payments.
  • Understanding Costs: It's important to get a clear breakdown of all costs involved. This includes not just the service itself, but also any potential future costs that might not be covered in the initial payment.
  • Securing the Price: One major benefit of a prepaid funeral plan is the ability to secure prices at today's rates. This protects you against future inflation and increases in funeral costs, ensuring that your family will not have to pay more when the time comes.
  • Financial Safeguards: Check how your payments are protected. Typically, your funds are either held in a trust fund (such as a revocable trust or irrevocable trust) with legal protection or in an insurance policy that pays out upon death.
  • Legal and Tax Implications: Discuss with your planner about any potential legal or tax implications. Depending on your region, there might be benefits or considerations to take into account, like estate tax considerations or how these arrangements fit into your broader financial planning.

Step 4: Sign All Documentations

  • Review the Contract: Carefully go through the contract provided by the funeral provider, which details your selected services, items, costs, and payment terms.
  • Ask for Clarifications: If any part of the contract or additional legal documents is unclear, ask the funeral director for explanations.
  • Sign the Documents: Once you are satisfied with the details, sign the contract and any other required legal forms. This formalizes your arrangements and ensures they are legally binding.
  • Lock In the Price: By signing the documents, you lock in the current prices of the services, protecting yourself from future price increases.

Step 5: Inform Your Loved Ones

  • Document Everything: Keep a detailed record of what services and arrangements you have prepaid for, including any receipts or contracts. This documentation should be easily accessible.
  • Communicate Clearly: Have a conversation with your loved ones about your decisions, either during a family meeting or through individual discussions.
  • Provide Access: Make sure that one or more trusted family members know where to find all related documents and contact information for the funeral service provider.
  • Discuss Your Wishes: Discuss why you chose a prepaid funeral and what you hope it will provide for your loved ones.
  • Update as Needed: If your plans or personal wishes change, update your loved ones and ensure your documents reflect these changes.

By taking care of the details and costs now, you’re not only making sure that your final wishes are honored but also protecting your family from the burden of planning and paying for your funeral during a time of grief. It’s important to do your research, think about what you want, and discuss your plans with those closest to you.

Live More & Worry Less
We have financial professionals ready to assist you on your retirement journey. Get My Free Financial Review!

Pros & Cons of a Prepaid Funeral

Prepaid funerals can appear as a convenient and thoughtful option when considering your final arrangements. However, it's important to weigh the advantages and potential drawbacks to determine if this choice aligns with your financial and personal goals.

Potential Benefits

  • Locks in Today's Prices: Prepaid funeral planning allows you to pay for future services at today's prices, securing the cost and potentially saving your family money in the long run.
  • Eases the Financial Burden on Your Family: Prepaying for your funeral relieves your family from the financial burden and tough decision-making during their time of grief, ensuring all arrangements are covered in advance.
  • Ensures Your Wishes Are Followed: A prepaid funeral plan lets you prearrange all details of your service, ensuring it aligns with your wishes and simplifies the process for your family.
  • Protects Against Rising Costs: Prepaying for your funeral can lock in current prices and shield you from future cost increases in services, caskets, urns, cremations, burial plots, and vaults, potentially leading to significant savings over time.
  • Flexible Payment Options: Many funeral providers offer prepaid funerals with flexible payment options, including lump sum or installment plans, to accommodate different financial circumstances.
  • Tranquility: A key benefit of estate planning is the peace of mind it helps provide. It ensures that your affairs are in order, relieving your family from making tough decisions and bearing expenses during challenging times, and guarantees that your final wishes are respected.

Potential Drawbacks

  • Financial Risks: While a prepaid funeral can lock in today's rates, a potential loss could occur if the provider goes out of business or changes ownership. Additionally, prepaid funds typically do not accrue interest and there may be issues with refunds if not all the money is used.
  • Lack of Flexibility: Prepaid funeral plans often lack flexibility. If life changes, like moving to a different state or country, adjusting your plan can be difficult and costly. Other after-death financial arrangements might offer more adaptability.
  • Potential for Overpaying: It's important to do thorough research to avoid paying for unnecessary services. Be wary of sales tactics that may lead you to buy more costly services than you need, potentially straining your finances.
  • Impact on Eligibility for Assistance: When applying for Medicaid or other government assistance, be aware that prepaid funeral plans could impact your eligibility. While some states consider the value of these plans as part of your assets, others may exempt them up to a specified limit.
  • Complexity and Hidden Costs: Prepaid funeral contracts can be intricate, often including additional fees and complex clauses. It's important to review these contracts carefully with a trusted advisor or attorney to fully understand the terms and conditions.

While prepaid funerals can provide certainty and ease the burden on loved ones, they also come with significant risks and limitations. Carefully evaluate your options and consult with financial experts to make an informed decision that best suits your long-term wishes and financial situation. 

Considerations When Choosing a Prepaid Funeral

Choosing a prepaid funeral can be a thoughtful way to plan, easing the emotional and financial burden on your loved ones during a difficult time. Here are some considerations to think about when selecting a prepaid funeral plan:

  • Understand What’s Included: Prepaid funeral plans differ. Check what's included (casket, service) vs extras (flowers, obituary) to compare plans better.
  • Consider the Cost: Choose a prepaid funeral plan that fits your budget. This is the most important factor as prices vary based on selections and providers.
  • Inflation Protection: Ask if the plan includes inflation protection, locking in current prices for future services and products, providing savings and stability. Not all plans have this feature, so it's crucial to ask.
  • Flexibility and Portability: Life is unpredictable, and your preferences for your funeral might change or you might move. Ensure the plan is flexible, allowing for changes to the funeral home or services if needed.
  • Financial Security: Check the company's financial health before buying a prepaid plan to ensure it remains operational and your investment is secure. Ask how your payment is managed: is it kept in a trust or used to buy insurance for funeral costs?
  • Legal and Tax Implications: Understand the legal and tax effects of a prepaid funeral plan, such as its impact on Medicaid eligibility and the handling of surplus funds after funeral costs. Consulting a financial advisor or estate attorney is beneficial for guidance.
  • Reputation and Reviews: Check the funeral home's reputation by reading reviews and seeking recommendations from friends or family. A provider known for quality and reliability is more likely to fulfill their commitments.

By researching and considering key factors, you can select a prepaid funeral plan that suits your needs, helping ensure peace of mind for yourself and your family.

Planning allows your loved ones to focus on celebrating your life, without the stress of arranging and financing your funeral.

Alternatives to Prepaid Funerals

Many explore prepaid funerals to ease their loved ones' burdens but should also consider flexible, cost-effective alternatives to ensure their final wishes are met without restricting future choices. Here are some alternatives that offer flexibility, and potential cost savings:

  • Life Insurance: Life insurance offers a lump sum to your beneficiaries upon your death, helping cover expenses like funeral costs. Key types include term, whole, and universal life, each with unique benefits. Certain policies also feature riders that provide early access to funds for funeral expenses.
  • Funeral Insurance or Final Expense Insurance: Funeral or final expense insurance helps cover funeral costs and end-of-life expenses. These policies usually offer lower benefits and are easier to qualify for than traditional life insurance, ensuring funds are available for funeral expenses without the need to prepay.
  • Payable-on-Death (POD) Account: A POD (Payable on Death) account is a bank account where you can name a beneficiary to directly access the funds when you pass away, avoiding the probate process. This allows immediate availability of funds for expenses like funerals. You can save any amount, providing financial flexibility for the beneficiary's needs.
  • Totten Trust (or Funeral Trust): A Totten Trust, also known as a payable-on-death account or a funeral trust, is a bank account set up to cover funeral, cremation, and burial expenses. It designates a beneficiary, typically a family member or funeral service provider, who can access the funds directly after your death to pay for these expenses.
  • Veterans Benefits: As a veteran, you and your dependents may qualify for burial benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. This includes a burial plot in a national cemetery and financial assistance for funeral expenses.

Why Consider Alternatives?

Prepaid funerals help to know that arrangements have been made in advance, but they also have downsides. Costs can vary widely, and services that seemed appropriate at the time of purchase may not fully meet future needs or wishes. Moreover, if the funeral home goes out of business or your plans change (like moving to a new area), you may face significant challenges.

By exploring alternatives to prepaid funerals, you can maintain flexibility, potentially save money, and help provide for your funeral arrangements for your loved ones. Always consult with a financial advisor or estate planning professional to choose the best option for your circumstances.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a prepaid funeral & a pre-need policy?

A prepaid funeral and a pre-need funeral policy both allow individuals to plan and pay for their funeral expenses in advance. Still, they differ in terms of their financial arrangements and scope:

  • Prepaid Funeral: In a prepaid funeral, you directly pay a funeral home for selected services. This locks in costs, shielding against future price increases, and protecting against inflation. The funds are generally held in a trust or used to purchase an insurance policy with the funeral home as the beneficiary.
  • Pre-need Funeral Policy: Also known as pre-need insurance, this insurance policy coverage pays funeral expenses through premiums paid to an insurance provider, which provides a death benefit to cover costs at any funeral home. Payments can be spread over several years, allowing flexible payment options and choices upon death.

Can you get your money back on a prepaid funeral?

Yes, many prepaid funeral plans allow you to cancel and get a refund, though the amount you receive back can depend on the plan's terms and how long it's been since you paid. It's important to read the fine print or chat with the funeral service provider to understand any potential fees or deductions if you decide to cancel your plan.

How does funeral insurance work?

Funeral insurance, also known as final expense insurance, is a policy designed to cover the costs of your funeral and related expenses, ensuring your loved ones don't have to bear the financial burden.

When you pass away, the insurance company pays out a lump sum to your beneficiaries, which they can use to pay for funeral services, cremation costs, burial costs, or any outstanding debts.

How does life insurance pay for funeral expenses?

Life insurance can help cover funeral expenses in a couple of ways. When a policyholder passes away, the life insurance policy pays out a death benefit to the designated beneficiaries. The money can then be used by the beneficiaries to pay for funeral costs, along with any other expenses they choose to cover.


Prepaid funeral plans are not just about planning for the inevitable; they're an act of love and consideration for those we leave behind. By choosing to plan, you secure not only your legacy but also the emotional and financial well-being of your loved ones. Take the first step today!


  1. What is a Pre-Paid Funeral? https://www.memorialplanning.com/how-to-plan/what-is-a-pre-paid-funeral
  2. 2023 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Inflation Increasing Faster than the Cost of a Funeral. https://nfda.org/news/media-center/nfda-news-releases/id/8134/2023-nfda-general-price-list-study-shows-inflation-increasing-faster-than-the-cost-of-a-funeral.

Related Estate Planning Articles


Information provided is general and educational in nature, and all products or services discussed may not be provided by Western & Southern Financial Group or its member companies (“the Company”). The information is not intended to be, and should not be construed as, legal or tax advice. The Company does not provide legal or tax advice. Laws of a specific state or laws relevant to a particular situation may affect the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of this information. Federal and state laws and regulations are complex and are subject to change. The Company makes no warranties with regard to the information or results obtained by its use. The Company disclaims any liability arising out of your use of, or reliance on, the information. Consult an attorney or tax advisor regarding your specific legal or tax situation.