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Thinking about funeral expenses isn't always top of mind for most people. In fact, it may be the last thing you want to think about. Contemplating the end of your life can be difficult.
However, without a plan in place, funerals can have a significant emotional and financial impact on your loved ones. While the main focus of a funeral is a celebration of your life, it has a financial component that shouldn't be overlooked. If you haven't planned ahead, your loved ones may need to cover the expenses.
So, how much does a funeral cost? Here's a rundown of the most common expenses and some strategies for planning ahead.
Common Costs Associated With Funerals
Even the most basic funeral can cost a few thousand dollars. According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the national median cost for a funeral with burial is nearly $8,000, which is up 6.6% over the past five years.1 The prices aren't much different for a funeral with cremation; that total expense is approximately $7,000, an increase of 11.3% in the last five years.
Funerals have many different components, so it's wise to research options. As you start planning your end-of-life arrangements, keep some of these NFDA cost estimates in mind:
- A rental casket for viewing is nearly $1,000.
- Burial caskets range from $1,500 to $3,000.
- A cremation casket is $1,300.
- A vault is nearly $1,600.
- An urn for ashes is approximately $300.
Costs also vary based on burials versus cremations, so you may want to evaluate other related expenses. For example, if you prefer a burial, you'll need a burial casket, hearse and cemetery plot along with the costs for body preparation and viewing. For cremation, you'll still need a casket, though it's typically less expensive. You'll also need to cover cremation fees and pay for an urn for the ashes.
The Federal Trade Commission has a funeral expenses pricing checklist you can review before you reach out to funeral directors to talk about arrangements.2
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Planning for Your Funeral Arrangements
One way to help prepare for the costs of a funeral is to go through your options as part of your estate planning strategy. This can help you determine the options that match your needs and put your plan in writing. If you know the type of service you'd like to have for your funeral, you can map out the expenses and establish a plan to cover the costs yourself or help your loved ones pay.
In general, there are three components of a funeral to think about: preparing the body, the service and the internment. Costs are associated with each of these, and the prices range depending on your wishes. Accordingly, it is wise to consider your options. Burials and cremations are still common. However, new options are available, including cremation combined with a burial, eco-friendly burials and nontraditional funeral locations.3
Speak with your loved ones once you have an idea of what you want for your service and have estimated the related costs. It may be a difficult conversation, but it's important. You'll want to communicate your wishes to those closest to you. If you've taken steps to help pay the costs, it's a good idea to inform them, including putting details in writing. Knowing you have a plan can help reduce their stress and financial concerns when the time comes.
How to Prepare for Funeral Expenses
There are a few ways you can prepare for future funeral costs. Most strategies revolve around setting a plan early. If you're unsure of your choices, consult with a financial professional or estate planning lawyer to learn more about your options and what they may mean for you and your loved ones.
Here are some common ways to start preparing for your funeral costs:
- Consider life insurance. Many people use their life insurance policy to help pay funeral expenses. Your beneficiaries can use your death benefit to cover those costs as well as any additional expenses. Benefits are typically paid out relatively quickly.
- Set aside savings. When you have an idea about how much your funeral will cost, you may want to put money into a dedicated account so it's available for your loved ones to use. This is sometimes called a payable on death account.
- Secure final expenses insurance. If you don't have a life insurance policy, burial insurance may help. These policies often have a smaller death benefit, around $25,000, to help cover funeral expenses. They don't typically require rigorous health questions or exams for approval.
- Prepay for your services. Check with your preferred funeral home about prepayment options. Some directors will work out a payment plan with you so that your funeral costs can be taken care of ahead of time. However, it's important to review your plan as you age and update it as necessary.
The answer to "How much does a funeral cost?" is different for everyone. Thinking about your death isn't easy or enjoyable, but doing so could help give your survivors a measure of financial security and help ensure that your final wishes are carried out. If you think you would benefit from having another set of eyes review your plans, consider reaching out to a financial professional for personalized assistance.
1 2021 NFDA general price list study shows funeral costs not rising as fast as rate of inflation. National Funeral Directors Association. 2021 NFDA General Price List Study Shows Funeral Costs Not Rising as Fast as Rate of Inflation. Published November 4, 2021. Accessed May 18, 2022.
2 Funeral costs and pricing checklist. Federal Trade Commission Consumer Advice. Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist. Published July 2012. Accessed May 18, 2022.
3 Statistics. National Funeral Directors Association. NFDA - Statistics. Last updated April 15, 2022. Accessed May 18, 2022.