Burial assistance is a type of program which helps families and survivors of the deceased pay for all or a portion of the costs of a funeral, burial or cremation. Burial assistance programs are often operated by charitable organizations or state agencies. Burial assistance may be available in situations when the deceased was indigent, assets in the decedentís estate are insufficient to pay for burial, or the next of kin are unable to afford a funeral or burial for their loved one.
What Documents Are Needed to Apply for Burial Assistance?
The types of documents required for a burial assistance application vary by program. An applicant may be required to submit the following types of documents:
Proof of decedentís identity, such as birth certificate, social security card or driverís license;
Proof of applicant's identity and relationship to the deceased;
Proof of decedentís income, such as pay stubs or statements from Social Security or SSI;
Verification of assets, such as bank statements and other account statements; and
Invoices from funeral home, crematorium or cemetery.
Review the burial assistance application form for a list of documents that must be included.
When is Burial Assistance Available?
Burial assistance may be available if there is a government-sponsored program in the city, county or state where the deceased person resided. Burial assistance may also be available if a local church or charitable organization makes funds available to assist with burying the deceased.In many cases, burial assistance is only available if the application is submitted before any funeral or burial arrangements are made. The burial assistance program may require a specific funeral home or mortuary be used, especially because discounted rates may be available when a burial assistance provider is making payment.In general, burial assistance is only available if the decedent was indigent or there is no money in the decedentís estate to pay for burial. For example, if the deceased person received Medicaid, SSI, or other public assistance, the eligibility requirements for a burial assistance program may be met. Some programs may require the assets or resources of the deceased personís surviving spouse be reviewed to determine if there are sufficient funds to pay for funeral and burial expenses. If there are death benefits, insurance proceeds or contributions from family or friends to pay for the deceased personís funeral services and burial, the applicant may be deemed ineligible for burial assistance. If money is available from life insurance policies owned by the deceased or in the decedentís estate to pay a portion of the funeral costs, the amount of burial assistance awarded may be reduced by the amount of other funds available.
What Do Burial Assistance Programs Cover?
The amount of funds available and what a burial assistance program will pay for varies by program. Burial assistance programs typically cover only the least expensive cremation or burial services. Some burial assistance programs will pay for a modest funeral but the majority of them do not. Most burial assistance programs pay only very minimal amounts. The amount of financial assistance provided is usually in the range of 400 to 2500 dollars. In fact, to be eligible for burial assistance, some programs require that the total burial expenses must not exceed a specified dollar amount. Funeral homes that agree to handle final arrangements in exchange for payment from a burial assistance provider often do so at cost or at a loss.A burial assistance program may pay for items such as an inexpensive casket, grave liner, and burial plot, as well as services such as embalming, and burial or cremation. If financial assistance is provided for funeral services, it may pay for use of a hearse and use of the funeral home. A burial assistance program will not provide reimbursement for items or services paid for by family or friends of the deceased.
Burial Assistance Eligibility Requirements
An application for burial assistance can be submitted by the surviving spouse, next of kin or the person with legal authority to control the disposition of remains. If there are no surviving relatives and the deceased did not appoint an agent to oversee the disposition of his remains, an application for burial assistance may be submitted by a funeral home director in some circumstances.
If an heir of the deceased person applies for burial assistance, the heir may have to sign a statement that he or she does not have the financial resources to pay for the decedentís final arrangements. An applicant for burial assistance may also have to agree in writing to pay any money in the decedentís estate, as well as any death benefits from the government or an employer, to the funeral home so those amounts can be used to reduce the amount paid by the burial assistance provider.
If No One Claims the Body of the Deceased
If the deceased was indigent and no one claims his or her body, the disposition of remains will be handled according to applicable state laws and local ordinances. The body may remain in the county morgue or coronerís office for a long time, in some cases several years. If the deceased was a veteran, an attempt is usually made to determine if the deceased is eligible for burial in a veteranís cemetery. If the municipality where the deceased resided has the funds to pay for burial, it may pay for the deceased to be buried in a pauperís plot. Such burials are often in mass graves and there is usually no grave marker. In cities and counties where funds are more limited, the remains are usually cremated. Some municipalities have a cremation only policy due to the rising costs of burying those who are unclaimed by any surviving family members. Cremated remains are often commingled with the ashes of deceased individuals and interred in columbariums.When no one claims the body, there is typically no funeral, memorial or graveside service for the deceased. In these situations, the location of the deceased personís remains is often unknown, so there is no place for loved ones to visit. When cremation or burial is left to the city or county, the manner of disposition of remains may violate the deceased personís religious beliefs.Surviving relatives of a deceased person who was indigent often do not come forward because they are unable to pay funeral and burial expenses. However, in some states, the city or county is not allowed to force a relative to pay such expenses. Nevertheless, some states do have laws which allow the government to force next of kin to pay the costs of cremation or burial of the deceased. If a relative wants to claim cremated remains after the city or county has paid for cremation, they are required to pay the cremation costs. The municipality has a claim against the deceased personís estate to recover its costs. Check the state laws where the decedent resided, as well as any municipal ordinances, for information regarding the disposition of remains of indigent residents.
Get Information About Burial Assistance
The county or state where the decedent resided may have a burial assistance program. Contact the local social services office or state department of health and human services. If the deceased person died in a nursing home or hospital, ask a social worker at that facility for information about burial assistance. Ask a funeral home director for information on burial assistance programs before making any final arrangements or contracting for services. The clergy at the deceased personís church or place of worship may also be able to arrange donations to help provide a funeral service or burial when no other funds are available.