Funerals can become very expensive, and for those without resources, it may be difficult or impossible to provide a decent burial. In general, the reality of this situation is anticipated and most states and major cities have funds set aside to help indigents, homeless, and low-income individuals through burial assistance services. People who have received Medicare or Medicaid may be eligible for help, and some churches offer help with funeral and cremation expenses. Also, tax deductions can help counter some expenses.
If you are seeking financial help with a burial, the first step is to see if the state you live in offers burial assistance services. To access these funds, you may have to provide information such as proof of residency, income, resources, and relationship to the deceased. The money available may or may not cover all the required payments. For example, in the District of Columbia, $800 will be provided for funeral services, $450 for cremation, and the total amount cannot exceed $2,000. In Colorado, the deceased must have received Aid to the Needy Disabled, Aid to the Blind, Colorado Supplement, Old Age Pension, or Medicaid while they were alive to be eligible. Also, there must be proof that the both the deceased and those legally responsible for support of the deceased do not have sufficient funds to pay for a funeral. The total costs cannot exceed $2,500.
Many churches will offer help and advice with burial and funeral costs for those struggling to come up with necessary funds. Ministers frequently have relationships with funeral parlor directors and can serve as an intermediary to negotiate a reasonable overall cost. Catholic Social Services has a specific ministry for burial assistance to help families with limited resources bury a family member.
Funeral costs cannot be deducted as a medical expense, but funeral and last illness expenses are allowable deductions with regard to estate tax. This is not helpful for low-income people, but it can counter costs in the event the deceased did not have insurance or a trust to pay for burial expenses.