Apr 21, 2023

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No one wants to think about their death or the death of a loved one, let alone plan for it. But when it happens, a funeral can come with a heavy financial burden if the deceased leaves no estate, no savings, and no plan.

The median cost of a funeral was $7,848 in 2021, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA). That’s not counting the cost of a cemetery plot or headstone, which can add thousands more to the total bill.

Paying for a funeral can be difficult, especially if you are grieving and have more pressing things to worry about. Knowing what to expect and how to finance funeral costs can help relieve the stress.

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Common funeral costs

The average cost of a funeral includes the services of a funeral director, the use of a funeral home, transportation of the deceased, embalming and other preparations, a casket or urn, and a headstone or grave marker.

These costs vary depending on where you live, the type of service you choose, and whether you choose a traditional burial or cremation.

Even when the person has prepaid for their funeral, there are often additional bills to pay.. These can include death certificates, obituaries, flowers, catering, and fees for using the funeral home’s chapel or other facilities.

The cost of cremation vs. burial

Cremation in the U.S. has been on the rise in recent years. Nearly four out of five (78.7%) Americans are expected to choose cremation by 2040,1 according to a study by the NFDA. This is mainly because of environmental concerns, land scarcity, and the desire to avoid the stress of coordinating a funeral.

While the cost of cremation depends on many factors, the typical cremation is still less expensive than the average funeral and burial ceremony. The median cost of cremation in the U.S. in 2021 was $6,971.2

By contrast, the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial was around $7,848.2 The biggest burial expense is the cost of a casket. The median cost for a metal casket is $2,500.2 And that price can increase a lot depending on materials and customization.

Funeral extras: other costs to account for

Beyond the major expenses of a funeral, smaller costs can add up quickly. Don’t forget to factor in the cost for any of these products or services you might need:

  • Vault
  • Hearse
  • Service vehicle
  • Printed materials
  • Flowers
  • Wreath

If you need to host a repast or reception, catering might add significantly to the total bill, too—in the range of $20 per person or more depending on your location.3

Settling the estate and probate

Even after you’ve paid for a funeral, you might need to pay to settle the estate. For example, before any beneficiary can receive an inheritance, the estate may need to go through probate. Probate is a legal process that confirms the will is valid and appoints an executor to administer the estate.

This process can take many months and might incur additional expenses for things like:

  • Administering the estate (hiring an attorney, opening a bank account for the estate, etc.)
  • Appraisal of assets
  • Storing the deceased’s property
  • Mailing documents to beneficiaries

When there is no funeral insurance or no will

If the deceased did not have life or final expense insurance, also known as funeral insurance, settling the estate and paying for funeral costs can be difficult.

If there is money and property to be distributed, a court may need to appoint an administrator to oversee the estate. That person would then be responsible for distributing the assets of the estate according to state law. The survivors and estate administrator are under no obligation to pay for funeral costs if they do not want to—those would be paid from the deceased’s funds.

The probate process can take several months, or even years, to complete. During this time, the administrator will be responsible for managing the estate and paying any debts and funeral costs from the estate’s assets.

How to finance funeral costs

If the deceased leaves no estate or savings and you can’t pay for a funeral, a personal loan can help. Personal loans are unsecured loans that can be used for any purpose, which can be vital when you need money fast and don’t have assets to use as collateral.

Pros and cons of funeral loans

A personal loan can be a great option to pay for funeral costs. But borrowing money to pay for a funeral might not be right for you. To decide, review your budget carefully and weigh the pros and cons:

Pros

  • Fast funding. Your money can be sent as soon as the next business day after acceptance.
  • Defined repayment term. You will repay the loan by making one set regular monthly payment usually for a period of 3 to 7 years. You can choose a payment and term that fits your budget and know exactly when the loan will be paid off.
  • Potential stress relief. The death of a loved one can be overwhelming emotionally and financially. A personal loan can help relieve the immediate financial stress and let you focus on celebrating the life of your loved one.
  • Online lenders don’t require a pre-existing relationship—unlike some banks and credit unions.

Cons

  • Taking on new debt could get in the way of your financial goals. Wanting to honor the wishes of a loved one is understandable. But if you can’t pay for a funeral with savings, make sure you know how a personal loan will affect your finances now and in the future so you don’t do something you will regret.
  • You are wholly responsible. Instead of splitting the costs among several family members or friends of the deceased, you will be solely responsible for paying down your loan.
  • You might need a good credit score. To get the best loan terms and interest rates, you will need a strong credit score. Otherwise, you might only qualify for an interest rate that would make the loan difficult to pay off.

How to find a lender

Many online lenders offer unsecured personal loans that you can use to pay for funeral costs. The application process is easy and fast, and you can even check your rate before you apply without affecting your credit score.

Be sure to do your research and compare multiple lenders to find the best loan for your situation. Make sure you understand the total cost of borrowing and can afford the monthly payments. Review the loan terms and check for any hidden fees that can add to the total price of your loan. (Discover® Personal Loans doesn’t charge any fees as long as you pay on time.)

Also pay special attention to the lender’s reputation. Customer reviews can give you a good sense of whether you will be able to rely on a skilled and compassionate support team to help you through this difficult time.  

The importance of planning

Along with the anxiety and grief that comes with the death of a loved one, a funeral can create unwelcome financial stress.

That’s why it’s important to be informed about all the potential funeral costs and to plan how to pay for them. If you don’t have the funds available, a personal loan might be the ideal solution.

Use our calculator to see what your monthly payments would be with a Discover personal loan.

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Articles may contain information from third parties. The inclusion of such information does not imply an affiliation with the bank or bank sponsorship, endorsement, or verification regarding the third party or information.

1 NFDA Cremation and Burial Report (2022) https://californiahealthline.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/3/2022/09/2022_Cremation-and-Burial-Report.pdf
https://nfda.org/news/statistics
3 https://nyfta.org/catering-costs-complete-pricing-guide