As the cost of funerals and related burial expenses continue to rise, so does the number of families struggling to pay these expenses. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of sources that provide significant contributions toward burial expenses. However, a family member may locate multiple sources that can provide small amounts of assistance to help defray the costs of burial and related expenses.
State governments may have benefit programs to assist with paying for burial costs for low-income residents. Often these programs are only available to those who received government assistance through programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Medicaid. If the deceased person received any benefits from the state, family members should contact that state’s Human Services department for information on burial expense benefits.
Many county and local governments have indigent burial funds to assist family members with the costs of paying for a funeral. The amount of assistance will vary significantly from one area to another. Some programs will only provide funds to cover cremation or burial while others will assist with the costs of funeral or other services. Family members should contact the local coroner’s office for information on what services are available, though funeral directors will also be familiar with any local benefit programs that assist with burial costs.
As of 2011, the Social Security Administration provides a payment of $255 to a surviving spouse or minor child to assist with burial expenses for those currently receiving Social Security benefits. To receive this benefit, the Social Security Administration must receive proper notification of the death. Family members can report the death to the Social Security Administration, but in most cases the funeral director will make the required report for the family. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) also provides benefits to assist with the burial of veterans. To apply for these benefits, a family member must submit a death certificate, complete an application and provide other documentation.
A family member of a deceased person without the needed funds to pay for a funeral should contact friends and business associates of the person to assist with uncovering any unknown benefits. For example, many civic and social organizations offer funeral insurance or benefits to members. In addition, these organizations may donate to help pay the costs. Banks and credit unions often provide small life insurance policies to account holders. As another source of assistance, local churches and charity organizations may also provide financial assistance for burial expenses.