One of the most important steps you should take regardless of your age is writing your last wishes or memorial preferences. It not only allows you to make your own individual imprint on your final arrangements, it shows thoughtfulness to your family and friends that you took the time to put your affairs in order. However, communicating your last wishes may be a lot easier than paying for them. See Funeral Trusts.
This article gives you access to information about funeral costs that is often hidden from us until we actually have to plan and pay for a funeral for someone else. After seeing what each individual aspect of your
memorial preferences could cost, you may be asking yourself can I afford a funeral?When deciding how much you want your estate to spend on final arrangements, keep in mind that your funeral service will be a brief moment in time. But the costs of the memorial tribute you have planned could take your loved ones years to pay off.If you have the financial means to pay for your final arrangements or purchased a life insurance policy to ensure the expenses will be covered, then it is only a matter of making sure your last wishes can easily be located by your executor or next of kin. If you do not have money to pay for the memorial preferences you requested, you may want to consider changing your last wishes to reduce the burden on your survivors.
Casket Can Be Huge Expense
If you are concerned about how much will be spent on your funeral, leave detailed instructions in your last wishes about what should be spent on a casket. The cost of even the most basic casket can be surprisingly high and the cost of premium caskets is staggering. Caskets sold by the funeral home may start as low as 700 dollars to as high as 13,000 dollars or more. Some funeral homes offer a selection of caskets that sell for as high as 30,000 dollars. A fairly basic pine wood casket can cost as much as 4,500 dollars while a nicer cherry or oak casket can cost 6,500 to 9,000 dollars. Steel caskets are among the more affordable options.If your memorial preferences are for cremation, one option is to rent the casket rather than purchase it. However, renting a casket can cost as much as 750 to 2,500 dollars at some funeral homes. Also, some funeral homes do not allow casket rental and require the casket be purchased, even for cremation.
Other Costs of Having a Funeral
When making funeral arrangements, there are other miscellaneous costs as well. These costs include the honorarium typically paid to the church or clergy, the cost of flowers and a vehicle to transport them, the cost of vehicles used in the funeral procession, the fee for music for the service, and the fees for paperwork required for estate administration. There is also a fee for transportation of the deceased to the funeral home, which typically starts at 250 to 400 dollars or more, plus per mile charges.
The Cost of Two Funerals
If you will be having more than one funeral or will need to have the deceased transported from one funeral home to another for any reason, be prepared to pay a high price. When a funeral home receives remains from another funeral home or has to transport remains to another funeral home, they can charge thousands of dollars for this service. Fees for receiving or transferring can run from 1,250 to 4,000 dollars or more. Remember, there may be a charge on both ends, one from each funeral home. These fees do not include the cost of the funeral service, memorial or any other services to be held at the second location.
Deciding What to Include in a Funeral
When deciding whether you can afford a funeral, it is best to review the wide range of options available. On the high end of the range, you can have a funeral that includes several viewings, a funeral service, an impressive funeral coach, and a graveside service. At the ultra high end, you can have viewings, funerals, and graveside services at two different locations, such as the town where you grew up and the city you called home later in life. For examples, see Unique Last Wishes. If you have a very small budget, but still want some type of final remembrance service, you could have a simple graveside service, without a viewing or a formal service at a funeral home. Another way to keep your funeral costs at the lower end of the range but still have a formal funeral service is to eliminate the viewing or visitation. Including two separate days of viewing or visitation can add as much as 500 to 800 dollars to your funeral costs, while one day of viewing or visitation can add 250 to 550 dollars to your funeral costs. The more hours the funeral home makes available for your services, the greater the cost.
The Cost of a Funeral Viewing
The steps involved in preparation for a viewing add significant costs to final arrangements. A viewing is not mandatory. Embalming services alone can cost approximately 500 to 1000 dollars. Additional preparations necessary to prepare the deceased for viewing include cosmetology, dressing, hairstyling or grooming, casketing, and other steps related to embalming and presentation of the body. These additional preparations can add 150 to 600 dollars to the funeral costs. Total costs for embalming and preparation steps for an open casket can range from a total of 650 to 1600 dollars. If it is important for you or your loved ones to ensure there is a viewing, you should include these costs in your funeral budget. If you are trying to plan a funeral without much money, removing a viewing from your memorial preferences planner will lower the costs. See How to Plan Your Funeral.
Cremation and Burial Costs
While you may be overwhelmed by the total cost for a viewing, funeral service, graveside service, casket, flowers, transportation, and funeral director charges, this amount does not include the added costs of cremation or burial. The cost for direct cremation ranges from approximately 900 to 2,500 dollars. A typical estimate for direct cremation is in the range of 1,400 dollars, but varies depending on where you live and the service provider. Your Last Wishes Form should indicate whether you want your ashes interred at a cemetery, as the cost for that is in addition to the cost for cremation.
If your memorial preferences include burial, there are several expenses to include in the total funeral costs, including costs for the burial plot, burial vault, grave liner, headstone or grave marker, and the cemetery fee for burial. It is much more difficult to estimate burial costs than other types of funeral costs as they vary widely depending on location and whether individual, joint or family plots are chosen, etc. Because there are long term or perpetual maintenance costs associated with maintaining the burial site, this is often the largest expense involved in final arrangements.
One of the added costs associated with burial is the cost for a burial vault and grave liner. Burial vaults typically cost between 500 and 3,500 dollars, plus the additional cost of the grave liner. There is also a charge for the cemetery opening and closing the grave. This cost ranges from approximately 500 to 1,500 dollars.
Because having a viewing and a funeral service is optional, if your estate or your relatives will not have the money to pay for these expenses, the first priority should be to make sure the costs of cremation or burial will be covered. When considering the total cost of a funeral, you may want to start with the costs of cremation or burial first, then decide what additional services you can afford in terms of funeral services.
Charge for Having a Funeral
One disturbing fact about planning a funeral is that you are charged for the services of the funeral director and the funeral home overhead whether you have a small, private service or an elaborate funeral. Funeral homes often list this mandatory charge on the funeral home price list under the heading Services of Funeral Director and Staff. Be prepared for this unavoidable fee to range from 1,000 to 3,000 dollars. Many funeral homes charge approximately 1,700 dollars for this part of the funeral. Because this funeral home charge is typically added to the total cost of other final arrangements, be sure to ask whether this fee is included when getting an estimate for funeral expenses.
Free Funeral Planning Guide
To learn more about leaving instructions on your memorial preferences as part of your estate plan or planning a funeral, including cremation, prepaying for services, burial options, and unique last wishes, see our free online funeral planning guide.
Actual Funeral and Burial Prices
All costs and expenses discussed in this article are estimates based on price lists obtained from funeral homes in the United States. The costs and expenses of having a funeral, burial, cremation, and related final arrangements vary widely. Contact a mortuary or funeral home near you for information on funeral and burial expenses in your area.