Saying Goodbye to a Loved One: Average Funeral Costs and Expenses

When facing the loss of a loved one, the last thing someone wants to think about is the expense related to the funeral. Often the cost comes as a shock to the family.  When I lost my father in 2006, it was up to my step-mom and I to go about planning his funeral arrangements.  I guess I always knew that the cost of a funeral could get pricey, I just never realized how much!

The cost of the average funeral has dramatically increased in the last 25 years. However it’s an expense that we can’t avoid. Being prepared and understanding the costs involved can help the process of planning for a funeral a little bit easier.

Breaking Down the Costs

From death to burial, and all the steps in between, today’s average funeral can cost upwards of $10,000. There are a few areas where the expense can be cut, such as in choosing the style and extravagance of the casket.  But some basic services, such as the cost of the funeral directors services can not be avoided.  There are two areas that need to be looked at in terms of expense:  the funeral service/funeral home fees, and the burial/cemetery fees.

The Funeral Services

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average funeral cost is around $6,500. This does not include the burial fees, including plot and headstone.

Here’s a look at some of the fees broken down and what they cover:

  • Non-declinable basic services fee, $1800 – this fee can include the cost of the funeral directors services in securing permits, overhead, arranging the funeral plans, and coordinating services
  • Removal/transfer of remains to the funeral home, $250 – while your loved one may pass at home, in a hospital, or someplace else, their body has to get moved to the funeral home for the services
  • Embalming, $625
  • Other preparation of the body, $200 – this may include dressing the body, grooming, or applying make-up
  • Use of facilities/staff for viewing, $395 – average cost, but can change based on the duration of viewing hours and space needed
  • Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony, $450 – lets face it, those folks who drive the hearse, open the doors for visitors, fetch more tissues, etc… need to get paid
  • Use of a hearse, $275 – includes a driver and their services as well
  • Use of a service car/van, $125 – this is usually a limousine used to transport the family from the funeral home to the church and/or cemetery
  • Memorial printed package, $125 – can include programs and mass cards

 

The Cemetery Costs

Costs related to the burial are separate then those of the funeral.  The burial costs include:

  • The cemetery plot, $1000 – this is the area of land purchased in the cemetery for burial of the body
  • The vault, $700 – an airtight container is required to hold the casket, cost can vary based on material used
  • Headstone, hundreds to thousands of dollars – this cost varies greatly based on the size, material chosen, engraving and details.

Regarding the headstone, I have to emphasize “cost varies greatly”.  I was unaware of all the subtle differences that can go into selecting a headstone and much the cost can escalate.  For example, by having smooth sides or edges really jumped the price up considerably.

Planning Ahead

It is common now for people to plan ahead for their funeral services and even pre-pay.  Arrangements and payments can be made over time with the funeral home to help family members not be burdened with the costs and details of funeral arrangements in their time of grief.  Even if your loved one hasn’t paid ahead, taking the time to consider what costs are really necessary and where you might be able to save is a good idea.

Word of caution on pre-paying funerals: make sure you know where the money is going.  An estate attorney that I work with shared a story of a funeral home that was selling pre-paid funeral plans.  Those plans became obsolete, when the funeral home went bankrupt.

Did you have to bury a loved one and get shocked on how much it cost?

Sources:

http://www.whathappensnow.com/articles_show.cfm?id=37&cat=8&sub=1

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro19.shtm

Creative Commons License photo credit: swanksalot

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