Who Legally Has To Pay For Funeral Costs?

Funerals can be a very large but unexpected expense after someone’s passing. Fortunately, insurance can help with the cost. Burial insurance is a type of life insurance policy that allows families to pay for the policyholder’s funeral after they pass. However, many people wonder who is legally obligated to pay for the funeral. Read on to learn more about who must pay for the funeral and how you may help your loved ones pay for yours.

Who Must Pay

To pay for a funeral, you must first sign a contract with a funeral home. Whoever signs this contract is legally obligated to pay for the funeral costs. The funeral agreement generally spells out exactly what’s covered in that cost. If no family members are willing to pay for the funeral, the funds will be drawn from the person’s “estate.” 

The estate refers to savings, property, and other assets. If the deceased doesn’t have any assets, the executor or administrator of the will is responsible for arranging and paying for the funeral. If the person does not have a will, a probate court will decide who the executor is, therefore making that person responsible for the funeral cost. 

Costs of a Funeral

Funerals can be very expensive. These costs can differ depending on what type of funeral you have: cremation or burial. The National Funeral Directors Association breaks down the common funeral costs below.

Funeral with Burial:

  • Hearse: $340
  • Embalming: $750
  • Service car/van: $150
  • Printed materials: $175
  • Use of facilities for viewing: $425
  • Metal burial casket: $2,500-$5000
  • Other preparation of the body: $255
  • Non-Declinable basic services fee: $2,195
  • Use of facilities for funeral ceremony: $500
  • Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home: $350

Funeral with Cremation:

  • Hearse: $340
  • Embalming: $750
  • Cremation urn: $295
  • Service car/van: $150
  • Printed materials: $175
  • Cremation casket: $1,200
  • Use of facilities for viewing: $425
  • Other preparation of the body: $255
  • Cremation fee—if using a third party: $350
  • Non-Declinable basic services fee: $2,195
  • Use of facilities for the funeral ceremony: $500
  • Removal/transfer of remains to the funeral home: $350

With no cremation casket and urn, the total cost of a funeral with cremation is around $5,150. With the casket and urn, the average cost is $6,645. 

Miscellaneous expenses are often harder to predict. These include: 

  • Flowers: $500-$700
  • Obituaries: $200-$500
  • Grave Plot: $1,000-$4,000
  • Burial wreaths: $100-$200 each
  • Reception: $400-700 + food cost
  • Church Service Donation: $50-$200
  • Opening and closing of grave: $1,000
  • Monument/Marker: Upright: $2,000-$5,000 for an upright marker, $1,000 if lying flat

Options for Funeral Payment

As you can see, funerals can become quite expensive. Fortunately, there are many ways to help your loved ones ahead of time with these costs. Life insurance can help defray the charges, but these policies are often costly. One popular option is a burial insurance policy. Burial insurance is a type of life insurance policy that is smaller, easier to qualify for, and more affordable. These policies can be used for anything, but many people choose to use them to cover the funeral costs. Finally, there’s preneed funeral insurance. Preneed funeral insurance is a very specific type of insurance which we discuss further below.

Preneed Funeral Insurance

Preneed funeral insurance is another type of insurance that helps your loved ones cover your funeral cost. These plans are also called prepaid funeral plans because you buy this policy and pay for it before you pass. 

Although it’s called “insurance”, a preneed policy is slightly different from traditional insurance. To purchase a preneed insurance plan, you have to approach a specific funeral home. You then tell the funeral home which services you would like and pay for them in advance. Some of these services are guaranteed, and others are referred to as non-guaranteed. A guaranteed service is one where the rate is set when you pay for the insurance. Your loved ones won’t be expected to pay more later if inflation has caused that price to increase. For non-guaranteed services, your loved ones will have to pay the difference if the cost rises over time. 

Pros and Cons of Preneed Insurance

Preneed funeral insurance can work for some people, but not all. There are several pros and cons with preneed insurance. Some of the major advantages of preneed insurance are that you get to be in control, the prices are often guaranteed, and some things can be replaced if they’re unavailable in the future. 

There are also cons, often related to the inflexible nature of this insurance type. Preneed plans are only valid with that specific funeral home. Many policies cannot move with you, meaning that your funeral policy is no longer valid with a new funeral home if you leave that area and move to a different state. Many of these policies are non-refundable, even if the funeral home goes out of business (depending on your contract). Lastly, some preneed policies have graded death benefits, meaning that you won’t receive the death benefit if you die within a certain period. 

Contact SLS Today

At Senior Life Services, we know about all of your different options to help your loved ones financially after your passing. To learn more about your options to help your family cover your funeral costs, contact our team today!


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