Funeral Assistance Programs Guide: Get Help With Funeral Costs

For a lot of us, the financial burden of a funeral can be too much.

So what to do if you have to plan a funeral…but don’t have any money?

You’ll be glad to know there are a number funeral assistance programs out there.

In this guide, I will tell exactly what your options are, in order to get help with funeral costs.

I hope my advice gives you some comfort in this time of need.

The Cost of a Funeral

If you’re tasked with planning a funeral, it’s helpful to know what to expect for costs.

Why? Because costs for funeral-related items and services vary greatly from one seller to another.

Knowledge of this average price range helps you to shop around for the best deal possible.

Average Cost of a Funeral

It’s difficult to give one clear number for the average cost of a funeral.

That’s because there are many choices available to you, and all these choices will impact your final price.

For example, do you want cremation or burial? A memorial service or a funeral?

Here’s a breakdown of different types of services.

Breakdown of Costs By Service Type

Cremation is an affordable alternative to burial.

Cremation along with a traditional funeral will cost you $10,000-$12,000. If you choose a memorial service instead, this (along with the cremation) will cost you between $8000 and $10,000.

As for burial, this averages out to around $15,000 when combined with a traditional funeral service. With a memorial service, it will cost you around $10,000.

Breakdown of Main Costs

You may wonder why cremation, burial, funerals and memorial services are so expensive.

There are many small details which go into these events, contributing to the overall cost.

The funeral service

Funeral homes charge a basic fee for using their services. This fee is paid by everyone, no matter how many services or items you purchase.

It covers the costs of things like transportation and paperwork.

In most areas, you can expect to pay about $2000 for this basic fee.

The casket

There are many types of caskets available, and it’s to your benefit to shop around, or even purchase online.

Funeral homes generally list the most expensive caskets at the top of their list, enticing people to purchase them.

The cost of a casket will typically set you back about $2300.


Although you can dispense with the significant expense of embalming, you’ll generally have to do it if you’re planning to have a viewing.

Another option is refrigeration, which doesn’t cost quite as much.

The average cost of embalming is around $600.

Direct cremation

A direct cremation allows you to save money, cutting out all the expenses associated with a funeral or memorial service.

In fact, it’s the least costly post-death option.

Though prices can vary a lot, a direct cremation usually costs about $2000.


There are many smaller costs associated with burial which can add up to an intimidating total.

On average, burial can cost $9000 or more.

The price varies depending on the cost of things like a headstone, grave marker, flowers and casket. These items have a range of cost depending on the materials chosen.

Cemetery fees

A grave plot in a cemetery will run you between $1000 and $4000. However, this cost may be higher in a large metropolitan area where space is at a premium.

In addition to the purchase of a grave plot, you may have to pay a fee (usually around $1000) to open and close the grave.

Tips To Save Money

Yes, these costs are discouraging, to say the least.

But there are some workarounds.

Here are some strategies to help you save money in this process.

Shop Around

Every funeral home is required to give you an itemized list of the costs for their services.

But don’t just accept this at face value! Compare it with the same services offered by other funeral homes in order to get the best price.

You may be surprised at how much you can save.

Avoid Upsells

Funeral homes are notorious for marking up merchandise like urns, caskets, memorial cards and online obituaries.

This is another reason why shopping around is a good idea.

Sticking to a budget will help with this too, especially if this is done ahead of time, avoiding the emotion of last-minute decisions during a stressful time.

Consider Direct Cremation

The ultimate low-budget service, the choice of direct cremation over traditional funeral or memorial services can save you thousands.

Afterwards, your loved one’s ashes are returned to you and you can choose whether to keep them, scatter them or bury them.

Choose a Simple Casket

Expect funeral homes to push their priciest caskets on you. You don’t have to give in to this pressure.

If you’re planning a cremation, you can save money by renting a casket instead of buying one.

Another great option, if you’re able to do it, is to build a casket yourself.

Plan Ahead

A carefully researched funeral plan protects you from unexpected costs.

To do this, identify those products and services that are most important to you. List them out along with average costs in order to create a budget.

You can even make contracts with funeral homes ahead of time.

For more tips, check out our article on how to have a cheap funeral.

Funeral Crowdfunding

Often, death may find you or a loved one unexpectedly. In these cases, it’s difficult if not impossible to do any planning ahead or budgeting.

That makes paying for a funeral a challenge, to say the least.

Funeral crowdfunding is one solution that is becoming popular for people in this situation.

How It Works

The Internet has made it easy to set up fundraising opportunities, allowing friends, coworkers and family members to help with funeral costs.

It only takes a few minutes to set up a fundraising platform which can be shared over social media with potential contributors.

How It Can Help You

Crowdfunding is a convenient way to get access to a large amount of funds very quickly.

Not only does it help you pay, it also gives grieving friends an outlet to show their condolences and concern, providing a place for people to share comforting stories and photos of the deceased.


There are many popular crowdfunding sites available. But for funeral crowdfunding, we recommend a company called Everloved.

It’s a user-friendly site that allows you to do all your planning and fundraising in one convenient platform. It even connects you with funeral service providers in your area.

Types of Funeral Assistance

The cost of a funeral can come as a shock, especially to low-income families.

Sometimes a death can happen unexpectedly, leaving the family with the entire burden of planning and paying for a funeral.

If you find yourself in this position, be aware that help is available for those in need.

Non-Profit Organizations and Charities

In response to the overwhelming need, some organizations have been formed for the purpose of providing funeral expenses to those without the ability to pay.

Here are some non-profit organizations you can look to for help if necessary.

Funeral Consumers Alliance

This organization works with families to counsel them on affordable funeral choices. They help individuals find services that fit their personal wishes and their budget.

In doing so, they take a comprehensive look at all your assets including savings, investments and life insurance policies. This gives families a clear idea of what they can afford.

Final Farewell

The death of a child is almost always unexpected. In addition to the burden of their grief, parents are also left with the burden of unexpected funeral costs.

Final Farewell provides both financial assistance and advice to bereaved parents in order to help them say a meaningful and dignified goodbye to their beloved child.

Children’s Burial Assistance

This charitable organization was the brainchild of a Georgia couple who were struck by the exquisite pain of bereaved parents who couldn’t afford proper burials for their children.

They help by donating burial plots, caskets, vaults and urns to parents of deceased children to minimize costs.


Religious organizations often have funds available to help their members during times of loss.

They can also help by planning the funeral service, thus eliminating some of the expense which would normally be incurred by a funeral home.

If you are involved in a local church, it’s worth reaching out to them for assistance.

Government Organizations

Depending on where you live, there are some government organizations (at the state, county or national level) who may be able to help with funeral expenses if you’re in a bind.

Here are a few to look into.

Burial assistance

Different states have their own budgets and rules for accessing burial assistance.

Some states, like Maine, offer General Assistance for cremation and burial at prices ranging from $700 to $1000. Others require a specific set of criteria for assistance.

For more information, feel free to check out state-specific information at the end of this article.

Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)

You often hear about FEMA in the news when there is a flood or a hurricane.

But FEMA does much more than simply show up. They can help the victims of disasters in many ways.

Who they are

This government agency provides burial assistance to direct or indirect victims of national disasters.

To qualify, you first have to prove that other forms of aid have not been enough.

What they cover

FEMA can cover:

  • The cost of a casket or urn

  • Mortuary services

  • Up to five death certificates

  • A burial plot

  • A cremation niche

  • A marker or headstone

Social Security

Social Security Administration can often provide assistance in the aftermath of losing a loved one.

Here are some of the ways they may be able to help.

One-Time Payment

Direct family members may be eligible to receive a one-time payment of $255 after the death of their loved one.

This is only if the deceased person has accrued Social Security benefits during his/her life.

You can check out their website to apply.

Monthly Survivor Benefits

Some immediate relatives may be eligible to receive monthly survivors’ benefits.

Spouses may be eligible depending on the number of years they were married. And children can receive benefits until they reach the age of 18 or finish high school.

The amount you receive is dependent on the earnings of the deceased person.

Additional guidelines and documents are available on the Social Security Administration website.


This government-administered insurance program provides healthcare to people of all ages who otherwise could not afford it. In some cases, it can help cover the cost of funeral expenses.

It is administered by individual states. Each state has its own rules about what may be covered, and these tend to change as state leadership changes.

The best way to find up-to-date information on Medicaid funeral coverage in your state is simply through a Google search with the name of your state and the term “funeral assistance.”

Potential benefits

In some states, Medicaid will pay a portion of the cost of burial.

In Wisconsin, for example, Medicaid recipients are eligible for up to $1500 towards funeral expenses. And Michigan provides $475 towards the cost of burial.

Other states where funeral expenses may be partially covered by Medicaid include New Mexico and Rhode Island.

Veterans’ Benefits

If you or your loved one served in the military, then you may be entitled to certain benefits to help cover the cost of a funeral.

Who’s eligible

In some cases, your loved one may be eligible for full Military Funeral Honors, such as having Taps played and a flag folded to give to the next-of-kin.

These honors come at no charge.

To be eligible, you must:

  • Have been honorably discharged after at least one term/period of service with the Selected Reserve

  • Be on active duty in the Selected Reserve

  • Honorably discharged while serving on active duty, or

  • Have been discharged due to injury while in the line of duty


The amount of benefits you receive depends on whether it was a service- or non-service-related death.

For a service-related death (like dying in the line of duty or from an illness or injury caused by serving), the VA will pay up to $2000 towards burial expenses. This includes a $300 burial allowance.

For a non-service-related death, they will pay up to $780. This also includes a $300 burial allowance.

In both cases, the VA will provide a gravestone and a burial flag.

If your veteran is buried in the National Cemetery, the VA will pay for opening and closing the grave.

Other services that can be covered by the VA:

  • Transportation of the body to the cemetery

  • A plot at a VA cemetery

  • Perpetual care of the cemetery plot

  • A Presidential Memorial Certificate

  • A military honor guard

However, if you have received funeral assistance from any other avenue, you will not be eligible for VA benefits. The same is true if the veteran was dishonorably discharged from military service.

Spouse benefits

If you are a military spouse, you too are eligible for free burial in a VA cemetery. This is true even if the spouse dies before the veteran does.

Spouses and dependents also get perpetual care for the gravesite, as well as a headstone with their name and dates on it.

Donating a Body to Science

Direct cremation is inexpensive. However, there is a way to arrange for cremation without paying anything at all.

You can donate your body to be used for scientific research.

This can greatly simplify the grieving process, freeing you of the obligation of planning and paying for cremation or burial.

In addition, you can feel good about advancing the medical field so that we all can enjoy a better quality of life.

How it works

You simply make arrangements with a teaching hospital or medical school.

They will use the body for research and experiments.

It could be used to test new medical technology or to try out the safety features on cars.

When finished, the body will be cremated and the ashes returned to you to keep.


If you’re unsure of whom to contact to arrange to donate your body, here are some organizations that can get you started on the process.

United Tissue Network

This is a non-profit company which seeks to match donors with professionals who want to advance the fields of medicine, science and technology.

All you have to do is register with them before or after the death. They welcome donations from people of all ages.

Science Care

This organization makes the process of body donation effortless, taking less than five minutes from their website.

They guarantee acceptance of the body, even for the elderly or the terminally ill.

State Programs

Your state may have funds available to assist needy families with funeral costs.

However, every state is different in eligibility requirements and amounts.

Here are a few states with benefits you can look into.


California does not offer any burial assistance at the state level.

At the county level, it’s possible to qualify for assistance if you are indigent.

The income thresholds for this vary from one county to another.


The Department for Health and Human Services is required by law to provide burial for unclaimed bodies, as well as for those stricken with poverty.

However, application for these services must be made at the county level.

You must be able to prove that you meet certain income guidelines, or that the deceased was the victim of a crime.

New York

No assistance is available at the state level. However, individuals can apply to their city or county of residence.

In most areas, these benefits are capped at about $1250.

In New York City, assistance is administered at the burough level, and requires that services cost no more than $1700.


There is a very limited amount of assistance available in Texas, and this can only be accessed at the county level.

Most assistance is targeted to veterans.

You can contact the Department of Health and Human Services for information about indigent burial programs.


The state of Pennsylvania provides burial assistance to anyone who is already receiving benefits from Social Security or from the Department of Health and Human Services at the time of death.

There is also assistance for nursing home residents who have received aid through the state


There is aid from the State of Illinois for anyone who is already receiving benefits from a number of state programs including TANF (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families), Adi to the Aged, Blind and Disabled, and All Kids Assist.

Claims must be submitted by a representative from the funeral home or cemetery.


Georgia leaves it up to individual counties to make determinations about burial assistance.

The Department of Human Services (Division of Family and Children Services) in the county of residence makes the decision.

The amount varies widely from county to county, but ranges on average between $350 and $1200.

North Carolina

The state of North Carolina does not provide assistance for burial, and does not mandate that counties provide it, either.

However, individual counties are responsible for the costs of burying unclaimed bodies.

Depending on where you live, your county of residence may provide some limited assistance.

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