A couple reviews funeral expenses for an expected death in the family..

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

Paying for a funeral can be difficult, especially if you’re grieving and have more pressing things to worry about. If the deceased leaves no will or financial resources, survivors may choose to take on these costs though they are not required to do so. Knowing what to expect and understanding payment options can help alleviate the stress.  

Funeral expenses can vary

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 opt for a traditional burial or cremation. Even when the person has prepaid for their funeral, there are often additional costs that must be paid, typically by the deceased’s estate. These can include death certificates, obituaries, flowers, and the cost of using the funeral home’s chapel or other facilities.

The cost of cremation vs. burial

The number of people choosing cremation in the U.S. has been on the rise in recent years. Nearly four out of five (78.4 percent) Americans are expected to choose cremation by 2040,1 driven primarily by environmental concerns, land scarcity, and the desire to avoid stressful inter-family funeral coordination plans.

While the cost of cremation depends on a number of factors, the typical cremation is still less expensive than the average funeral and burial ceremony. For example, the median cost of basic services for cremation is $2,300.1

By comparison, the median cost of a funeral in the U.S. with a viewing and burial was approximately $7,848 in 2021.1 The largest contributing factor to burial expenses is the purchase of a casket. The median cost for a metal burial casket is $2,500.1 The cost of a casket can increase significantly in price based on materials and customization.

What other costs are there beyond funeral expenses?

Even after you’ve paid for a funeral, you could face additional expenses when it comes to settling the estate. For example, before any beneficiary can receive their 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 often take months and incur additional expenses for the estate.

Moreover, if you are the executor and responsible for distributing the estate’s assets to its beneficiaries, you’ll need to understand the expenses the estate might have to pay fees associated with:

  • 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

Other estate expenses to be managed could include everything from the costs of storing or shipping the deceased’s belongings to the final utility bills.

What if there is no will?

If the deceased did not have a will, the process can be significantly different. If the deceased left money and property to be distributed, a court may need to appoint an administrator to oversee the estate. This person will be responsible for distributing the assets of the estate, if there are any, according to state law. The survivors and estate administrator are not personally responsible for the funeral expenses unless they choose to be—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 expenses out of the estate’s assets. In addition, estate tax and/or inheritance tax may become due.

The distribution of inheritance funds, if there are any, is the final stage of estate settlement. Depending on the size and complexity of the estate, this process can also take months or years to complete. It only occurs after taking inventory of all the assets, paying debts and taxes, and distributing any remaining assets to the beneficiaries.

Depending on your relationship to the deceased, if there are no funds once the estate is settled, you may choose to pay for expenses related to:

  • Selling property
  • Canceling accounts and memberships
  • Final utility bills

It’s important to be prepared for the burden of settling an estate. So, if you are named as the executor in a will, be sure to understand exactly what your administrative responsibilities might be.

If the deceased leaves no estate or savings and the survivors are unable to pay for a funeral, a personal loan can help if you want to voluntarily pay for expenses yourself. Personal loans are unsecured loans that can be used for any purpose, which can be vital in a situation where you need money quickly and might not have assets to use as collateral.

Most personal loans also come with these benefits:

  • Fixed term and fixed rate to ensure a set regular monthly payment
  • Fast funding, providing you with the money you need quickly

But before taking out a personal loan, be sure to compare offers from multiple lenders to find the best rate. You should also consider the repayment terms and whether you will be able to afford the monthly payments.

The importance of preparation

In addition to the anxiety and grief that comes with the death of a loved one, those left behind could choose to take on the financial burden to. That’s why it’s important to be prepared for all the potential costs and to make a plan for dealing with them as soon as possible. If you don’t have the funds available, a personal loan might be the ideal solution.

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