Funeral planning checklist
Most of us haven’t sat down and crunched the numbers on our final send-off. But sooner or later, it’s coming – and your family could wind up with some pretty eye-popping bills.
The average funeral cost can add up to $10,000 or more, from funeral home expenses to bouquets of your favorite flowers at the service. The cost of your funeral depends a lot on the options you choose. For example, a funeral with a cremation costs less on average than a funeral with a burial. Other choices like flowers and music can add to the total funeral cost. If you have a small budget and are looking for ways to economize, knowing what goes into the price tag can help you decide what’s worth spending on, and what’s not.
An affordable way to have a funeral is to know the facts in advance, so you can make the best decisions for your family. To help you and your family understand what’s in store, here’s how the average funeral costs break down.
Table of contents
- What is the Funeral Rule?
- How much does a funeral cost?
- How much is an average funeral with cremation vs. a burial?
- How can you make a funeral more affordable?
Understanding the Funeral Rule
Your family may be grieving, but they still have the right to make their own financial choices while planning your funeral. That’s the intention behind the Funeral Rule, a list of rights enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) for families who are planning funerals for their loved ones.
The Funeral Rule is meant to simplify the decision-making process when choosing options for arrangements, goods, and services. This allows you to compare prices among different funeral homes and select only the arrangement you want at the home you choose, rather than having to consider more costly packages outside of your budget.
Other highlights of the Funeral Rule include:
- The right to pricing details. Funeral home directors are required to give you pricing information, whether over the phone or by sending you a General Price List (GPL), without asking for identifying information.
- The right to a written statement. Before you make a purchase, you must receive a written statement of all the goods selected with individual pricing and the total cost, along with a summary of any legal cemetery or crematory requirements.
- The right to provide your own casket. The funeral home cannot refuse to use a casket that you have bought elsewhere.
- The right to use an alternative container for cremation. There’s no law requiring you to use a casket for cremation. You can always ask the funeral home about alternatives.
- The right to pass on embalming. Check your local and state laws for requirements on preservation before burial or for viewing. You can always ask the funeral home about alternatives, like refrigeration.
The Funeral Rule helps protect your final wishes. Your family should feel empowered to give you the funeral you want, without being overwhelmed at a difficult time by unnecessary funeral expenses.
A guide to funeral costs
As your family makes their selections for your final sendoff, this list of prices can help them plan.
The Basics: $2,100 On Average
This is a required flat fee for the funeral home that covers things like filing paperwork, funeral home overhead, and coordinating with the cemetery or crematory.
Transferring Remains to the Funeral Home: $325 on Average
If your body needs to be transported later to a church or cemetery, the funeral home may charge an extra fee.
Embalming and Additional Preparation: $975 on Average
Embalming preserves the body if you’re having an open-casket service.
Use of the Funeral Home: $1,085 on Average
This covers your use of the facility for a viewing and a service, as well as a basic memorial printed package.
Burial Costs (if You Choose a Burial): $4,270 on Average
Typically burial costs are more expensive than cremation. If you’d like a hearse or limo to transport your body, this will cost extra. You’ll also need to consider including budget line items for a casket, a vault, a grave liner, cemetery plot, and grave marker if you choose to be buried in a casket.
Cremation Costs (if You Choose Cremation): $1,875 on average
For cremation, you’ll need to pay for transportation of your cremains (a.k.a. ashes), a cremation fee, and a cremation casket and urn, which can vary wildly in price.
Additional Items: Varies
You’ll want to consider setting aside money to pay for copies of your death certificate. Your family will need copies of the death certificate to close certain accounts, such as your credit cards and health insurance. They may also need copies of the death certificate to claim certain benefits, such as life insurance benefits and penchant payouts.
Depending on the type of funeral you want, you’ll also want to include a budget for flowers, music preferences, officiant or religious member, funeral home fees, and the cost of printing a commemorative flyer or handout for attendees.
Source: “Statistics,” National Funeral Directors Association. Costs vary by location.
How much is an average funeral with cremation vs. a burial?
Choosing cremation over a traditional burial is one of the biggest areas for savings when it comes to average funeral costs.
For a traditional full-service funeral with a burial, the biggest-ticket item is generally the casket. Caskets are often bought for visual appeal and can vary widely in style, material, and cost, ranging from $2,000 for an average model up to $10,000 for a higher-end one.
The Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to show your family a list of all their options, with descriptions and prices. This can be especially helpful, because lower-end models may not be on display.
With cremation, your family will need to plan for the cost of the urn or other container, the cremation itself, and any transportation of the cremated remains. Bringing in your own container can be more affordable than purchasing one from the funeral home, but your family should be sure to ask the director about their options.
Making your funeral more affordable
Finding ways to save on funeral expenses can help reduce the burden on your family during a tough time. Here’s where to start.
- Shop around. The Federal Trade Commission requires funeral homes to itemize their services, so you can compare prices. Since your bereaved family may not be up to the task, consider doing some research ahead of time.
- Say “no” to embalming. If you’re planning on direct cremation, your family can opt for refrigeration instead, which is much less expensive.
- DIY a little (or a lot). For a less expensive and more meaningful service, skip the professional flower arrangements and musicians for peonies from your garden or a piano performance by a friend.
- Go simple with the casket. Remember: The fanciness of your casket doesn’t reflect how much your family loves you. To save even more, they can buy one elsewhere – funeral homes can’t charge a handling fee for bringing in your own.
Paying for funeral expenses
When it comes to funeral planning, one of the biggest questions you’ll face is how to cover funeral costs. Depending on your situation, budget, and insurance options, there are a few different ways to cover your funeral expense checklist.
- Get covered with final expense insurance. Want to know your funeral won’t be a financial burden when planning for funeral expenses? Final expense insurance is an affordable, simple way to provide your family with cash to cover your funeral and related costs. After you die, your beneficiaries receive a lump sum payout they can use to cover any requested or remaining end-of-life expenses. Check out some options here.
- Use a prepaid funeral plan. A prepaid funeral plan is where you prearrange your entire funeral or cremation with a specific funeral home ahead of time. In some cases, prepaying funeral expenses can even include a ceremony, music, flowers, and other details. While this does take decision-making out of your family’s hands, it does require you to commit to a funeral home ahead of time and may not leave room for flexibility later.
- Name a funeral home as your life insurance beneficiary. Wondering how to pay for a funeral with life insurance? You can actually name an organization, such as a funeral home, as a beneficiary of your life insurance to cover funeral costs. This means the funeral home would receive part or all of the proceeds from your policy to put towards your funeral costs or a pre-selected package. Before committing, you’ll need to check whether your preferred funeral home accepts this form of payment and what that process will look like.
Final expense insurance vs. life insurance
Comparing final expense insurance and traditional life insurance can be confusing, especially when final expense is often combined with other permanent life products. But the difference comes down to what each type of insurance is intended to cover and how long it lasts.
Final expense insurance may be the best choice if you are:
- Nearing or at retirement and ready to plan for end-of-life expenses. eFinancial’s final expense plans cover people between the ages of 50 to 85.
- Have a smaller budget for insurance. Final expense is more affordable than larger permanent insurance policies, since the coverage amounts are lower.
- Don’t have large remaining debts or expenses to cover. Final expense policies typically pay out $35,000 or less. That amount can be ideal for preplanning funeral costs, settling outstanding bills, and other smaller expenses, but not bigger expenses.
- Have been turned down for other policies due to age or health. You can apply for final expense plans until age 85, with no medical exam required.
On the other hand, life insurance could be a better fit if you are:
- Looking for long-term options. If you’re younger or still want more than a few decades of coverage, term life plans cover you up to 30 years, while permanent plans last a lifetime.
- Willing to invest in insurance. Life insurance generally costs more than final expense, but it comes with larger coverage amounts and longer protection. If you’re on a budget, term is a much more affordable choice than permanent coverage.
- Have dependents and large expenses to cover. If you’re still financially responsible for kids, elderly or disabled relatives, or paying off large debts like a mortgage and credit cards, a final expense plan may not be enough coverage for you.
- Still in good health. Most life insurance policy rates are based on your health and lifestyle, so the younger and healthier you are, the lower your rates are likely to be.
What’s in a final expense checklist?
Planning your funeral is just one of the many final expenses you may have on your to-do list. Winding down your affairs can be daunting, but it will make a huge difference to those you leave behind.
A final expense checklist can help keep you on track as you start planning your last few decades or help you decide how you’d like to leave things behind. Circumstances and your health could change at any moment, and you don’t want to leave difficult decisions too late, so try to get started as soon as possible.
Here’s a quick list of final expense must-do’s to check off:
- Add up all your remaining expenses and assets, including 401(k)s, investments, savings, pensions, and other retirement accounts. If your assets outweigh your expenses, then you won’t be leaving debt behind for your family to pay off. If your expenses outweigh your assets, talk to a financial advisor or a family member about how to create a payment plan to lessen your debt.
- Write your will and get it officially notarized.
- Gather, organize, and store all important documents and clearly label the folder “important documents.” Be sure at least one family member knows where to find this folder and has access to it if you pass away. For example, if this folder is in a filing cabinet, make sure they have a key. Some examples of important documents may include:
- copies of your will
- mortgage documents or house deed
- financial documents
- insurance policy and company information
- important contacts
- Outline how you want your insurance payout and other assets spent, whether that’s on debts or your funeral, and distributed.
What’s in a funeral plan checklist?
Your funeral plan checklist should include instructions, details, and any important documents for your funeral. You can include these items in your “important documents” folder or in a separate folder titled “funeral arrangements.” Be sure that at least one family member knows where this folder is located and can access it easily.
Some examples of what to include on your funeral plan checklist include:
- Make a list of who you’d like to invite to your funeral.
- Make a list of people you don’t want to attend your funeral.
- Write down your preferences for the viewing or service. This could include your hair, makeup, and outfit preferences, as well as the color of your casket or music choices.
- Write down where and how you’d like to be buried. This could include the name of the funeral home, if you already have a plot selected, or if you’d prefer to be cremated.
- Make a list of who you’d like to speak at your funeral.
- Make a list of bullet points you’d like included in your obituary, such as your partner’s name and how you met, your place of birth, accomplishments, children’s names, and more.
- If there’s a specific photo you’d like to be used at your memorial, specify which photo to include.
- Specify if there’s a special poem, quote, or hymn that you’d like passed out to all attendees alongside your photo. Write a brief description of what it means to you.
- If you’ve already paid for a casket, funeral services, or a plot, include those receipts in this folder.
- Write a list of people you’d like to be notified about your death and include their contact information.
- Detail where your will and final wishes are kept. If your will or final wishes are being maintained by a lawyer, include their contact information.
Wondering how much your own final send-off will cost?
Use our customizable final expense checklist to do the math and ensure your family is financially prepared for your funeral planning.
At eFinancial, our goal is to make life insurance simple, affordable, and understandable for everyday families. This content is intended for educational purposes only. Each post is carefully fact-checked, reviewed and updated regularly to ensure the information is as relevant as possible.