FuneralsShow Table of Contents
The executor often arranges the deceased person's funeral, although this is not a legal responsibility. There are a number of websites and books that provide excellent advice on arranging funerals, but here are a few starter tips:
At a time when you may be dealing with numerous other issues, not to mention needing time to grieve, arranging a funeral can be a lot of work. Don't try to do handle all this yourself; enlist other friends or family to help with the arrangements, getting the word out, and so forth. If the decedent was a veteran, there are additional resources available as well.
Discount $$: Funeralwise offers a helpful arrangements guide, including information needed for first calls, how to transport someone who died away from home, etc. In addition, licensed EstateExec users qualify for a free copy of the Wise Plan Complete (normally $80). Note that EstateExec does not recommend or receive compensation from discount providers; we make these offers available simply as a service to our customers.
Burial or Cremation
If you know whether the decedent preferred burial or cremation, it's best to honor those wishes. If you don't know what the decedent wanted, you can check the will, a durable power of attorney for health care document, a separate document sometimes called "final arrangements", or the presence of prepaid arrangements in the decedent's papers.
Burial: Traditional burial is more expensive and involved, but the funeral home or mortuary can guide you through the process.
- All together, a traditional burial will likely add $5-$8K to the cost of a funeral (including such things as the burial plot, burial marker, a burial vault for the casket, the actual burial, etc.).
- If desired, you can save significantly by opting for a direct burial, in which the decedent is buried shortly after death, without the funeral home providing an extended viewing or service.
- Newer "green" burial options avoid embalming the deceased, ensure the caskets are not decomposition-resistant, and rather than a traditional a grave marker, a tree may be planted above the gravesite as a memorial (see Green Burial Council).
Cremation: More than half of all deaths in the US (59% in 2022) are now handled via cremation.
- Typically costing $500-$1500 (excluding any burial plot or memorial service), cremation is substantially less expensive than burial, although electing a fancy container to hold the ashes will increase the price somewhat.
- Rather than having to rush to hold an immediate burial service, cremation allows you to more naturally hold the memorial service whenever you want, perhaps after things settle down a bit, out-of-town relatives can arrange to return, and so forth.
- Discount $$: Some people store the ashes in memorial urns, some people inter the ashes in a cemetery, and others scatter them in meaningful places (restrictions apply). Better Place Forests offers another alternative, via "Memorial Trees" in protected forests (a Memorial Tree is an established, growing tree that serves as a resting place to spread the ashes, mixed with soil and spread at the base of the tree you choose, becoming forever a part of the forest). Licensed EstateExec users qualify for a 10% discount with Better Place Forests. Note that EstateExec does not recommend or receive compensation from discount providers; we make these offers available simply as a service to our customers.
Military Service: If the decedent was a veteran there are additional options to consider: see Veterans.
A "standard" funeral, including a casket, will probably cost around $6-10K (plus any burial costs, which can be substantial), with the caveat that funeral costs vary significantly by region and by service choices.
The National Funeral Director's Association maintains a list of average costs for various funeral elements. The basic services fee is $2,300, but when you add in things such as a casket, transportation, use of the facilities for viewing, and so forth, the price climbs significantly: the average casket funeral in 2021 cost $7,848 (excluding flowers, cemetery plot, and internment). TheFuneralSite maintains an even more extensive, dated list, but be aware both sites include items that not everyone uses.
Funeralocity offers free online price comparisons for funeral homes in your area, listed by standardized services. By mentioning Funeralocity, you may also be able to obtain a discount at participating funeral homes.
Discount $$: EstateExec users can access discounts on funeral (and other) flowers, saving up to a maximum of $300. See Task: Arrange funeral. Note that EstateExec does not recommend or receive compensation from discount providers; we make these offers available simply as a service to our customers.
Typically, the executor or another relative will pay for the funeral, and be later reimbursed by the estate once the executor has access to estate funds. Alternately, you can try to get the service providers to agree to accept delayed payment directly from the estate. Whoever pays the funeral expenses should be reassured to know that in cases where the estate is insolvent (owes more than it is worth), the law gives paying these expenses a high priority, along with taxes and probate court fees.
Veteran's Benefits: If the decedent was a veteran of the US military, you may be able to get financial assistance with the funeral, burial plot or other benefits. You can find information on the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Burial Benefits web page, or you can call Veterans Affairs at 1-800-827-1000 or your local veterans agency. See also Veterans.
As part of this process, you may wish to publish an obituary in a local newspaper (typically for a fee). Legacy.com provides a convenient way to find and interact with the appropriate newspapers, or your selected funeral home can do it for you.
See also First Week.