Paying for a Funeral

Paying for a FuneralDeciding how to pay for a funeral can be difficult. Funerals are expensive, and there are many decisions to make. To make matters worse, it may be a very emotional time for you and your family.

In the best of worlds, there is money set aside for this specific purpose. Even if there are funds available, it may not be enough–especially if the death is unexpected. But there are ways to make sure that you have sufficient resources to cover funeral and burial costs.

>>Information on FEMA’s COVID-19 Funeral Expense Reimbursement Program

Paying for a Funeral When Planning Ahead:

It is always best to plan for your funeral before you need it. You’ll have time to set aside money for your funeral and burial in a way that makes sense for your unique financial situation. You’ll also be able to shop around so that you don’t spend more than you need to. If you have the luxury of planning, you can use some standard financial tools when setting money aside.

Wise Shopper Tip: When entering into any financial services agreement, it pays to do research ahead of time to make sure that you choose a financially stable provider and has a good track record. Look for online reviews, ask for referrals, and consult with your local Better Business Bureau and State Attorney General’s office.

Funeral Insurance / Burial Insurance / Final Expense Insurance:

Funeral insurance is one of the most popular ways to pay for a funeral. Insurance guarantees that your loved ones will have the resources they need to give you the final send-off that you have in mind. You will see it referred to as funeral insurance, burial insurance, or final expense insurance. To help you decide if funeral insurance is right for you,  visit our funeral insurance pages. This area of our website contains a comprehensive collection of all information to help you understand what makes funeral insurance unique and how it works.

What if there’s no money for the funeral?
Situations do arise where there simply isn’t any money available to pay for a funeral. What can you do?

1) Ask for help: Try turning to friends and family members. If they can’t help, they may have ideas on how to come up with the money.

2) Talk to the deceased’s employer: If the deceased was employed, the employer may offer a program to help families in situations such as this.

3) Talk to the county coroner: Many counties have programs to help with funerals. While the services you receive may be very basic, it may be a good alternative.

4) Fundraise: There are many ways to fundraise but one of the most popular and effective these days is to sponsor a crowdfunding campaign.

5) Donate the body to science: When a body is donated to science, it is cremated at no cost. It may be possible to receive the ashes after cremation, but that will depend on the program.

Pre-Need Funeral Contracts:

Making arrangements in advance and paying for them over time makes the most sense for many people. In these cases, entering into a pre-need contract with a funeral provider may be an excellent way to go. Pre-need agreements may be legally binding. That means you should be sure to consider all your options. To learn more about the ins and outs of this type of contract, visit our pre-need funeral contract pages.

Funeral Trusts:

A Qualified Funeral Trust is a specific type of fund used for paying for a funeral. The IRS defines the designation. The most common financial tool used to fund a pre-need funeral contract is a funeral trust. For more information, visit our Funeral Trusts page.

Burial Funds:

A burial fund is a financial account that is specifically designated to pay for a funeral or burial. How you spend money in an official burial fund can impact social security eligibility, so be sure to consider all the implications of this type of financial instrument.

Getting Public Assistance for Funeral and Burial Expenses

The State or County generally handles assistance for funeral and burial expenses. At the Federal level, you may be eligible for a cash payment through Social Security or the Veterans Administration. In special situations, you may also qualify for help from FEMA and national victim relief programs.

Federal Assistance

The Federal government has several programs that provide financial assistance for funeral and burial expenses. The amounts provided by these programs are relatively small, and you must meet specific edibility requirements. For more information on social security, veteran’s assistance, disaster relief, and victim relief, see our Federal Assistance Page.

State Assistance

Some states have programs to help pay for funerals, but the administration is usually done locally, primarily through the county. If you need help paying for a funeral, we recommend that you contact either your county coroner’s office or the agency in your area that handles health and human services. To help you get started, we have cataloged information on how each state handles financial assistance for funeral expenses. Visit our state assistance page to learn more.

Getting help when the deceased is an infant: Many local funeral homes offer deeply discounted or free services when the deceased is a baby. Be sure to check with the providers in your area to see if this is a program they offer. Particular organizations provide financial help to those who suffer the loss of an infant. Two of the largest are Angel Names and The Tears Foundation.

Non-Profit Groups

Depending on the resources available in your area, you may be able to find help paying for funeral or burial expenses through charitable or non-profit organizations. Information on how to secure these types of funds is decentralized, so you will need to do a bit of work to determine where to apply. Most grants provided by these types of groups are need-based, so you should be prepared to provide documentation of your situation.

The best place to start is with local faith-based groups since they often have a system to help those in need. Fraternal groups such as the Elks Club, the Shriners, or Rotary Club may have programs to assist in dire situations.

On a national level, the Salvation Army ( / 800-SAL-ARMY) and the Red Cross ( /  800-733-2767) are good places to start. Both typically have local offices that can refer you to the proper person.

Funeral Loans

Funeral Loans are personal loans used to pay for funeral expenses. When you decide to finance a funeral, you are entering into a contract for repayment. Like making any large purchase with credit, this is a decision that has pros and cons. For more information on funeral loans and the implications of this type of financial arrangement, check out our Funeral Loans page.


Raising money by crowdfunding is becoming an increasingly popular way to fund funeral and burial expenses. If you decide to solicit contributions, you can choose from large sites such as and smaller specialized funeral fundraising sites such as To learn more about using crowdfunding for funeral or burial expenses, visit our Crowdfunding page.


Other Great Reads


Planning a funeral is difficult enough, but when there's no money for the funeral it's all the worse. There are things you can do to help. See our article on 10 Ways to Pay for a Funeral When There Isn't any Money.


How Much Will Your Funeral Cost? Try Our QuickPlan to Find Out.