What does it truly cost to bury or cremate a Loved One?  On November 9, 2012, Money Magazine published on-line the first in a three part series dealing with end of life issues.  Part 1, The High Cost of Saying Goodbye, provided an excellent overview of pricing, sales tactics, and even deceptive practices that some disreputable companies and directors have used.  The articles also presented a number of steps people can take to protect themselves financially at one of the most difficult times a surviving spouse or family will ever face.

Families will typically spend $10,000 or more for a traditional funeral and burial.  If you’re one of the people who made prepaid arrangements, your survivors may still be pressed for extras such as viewings, pictures, printed programs, memorial web pages, or even a release of doves to special music.  There are a number of items that contribute to the funeral cost including:

  • Casket:  Average prices range from $2,400 for a steel casket to $3,500 for wood.  Copper and bronze models can easily go for $10,000 or more.
  • Embalming:  Cost range from $700 (average) to as much as $3,000 and may or may not be required in your State.
  • Burial Plot:  Cost for single plots vary widely and depend on where you live, but a range of $1,500 to $6,000 is common.
  • Grave Marker:  A basic headstone starts at $250 and thousands can be spent for an elaborate or bronzed monument.
  • Burial Vault:  A vault is a concrete container in which the casket resides and is designed to prevent the ground from sinking in as the casket deteriorates.  The average cost is $1,195 while a concrete liner runs $400.

Other costs include printed materials, music, director fees, and even fees to dig the hole for the casket and fill it back in (the cost for a weekend funeral is more than a weekday funeral).

Many people opt for cremation to help their survivors save on the high cost of a funeral, however, even then the survivors are not immune to being upsold.  Survivors should expect to be pitched some of the following items:

  • Casket:  Yes, a casket suitable for a viewing in which the deceased would later be cremated.  While a cardboard cremation box is suitable, many may feel pressured to have something more suitable for family members and friends to say goodbye.
  • Urns:  Usually the deceased’s ashes will be placed in a box or plastic bag until the family buys an ornate urn suitable for display that can run hundreds.
  • Amulets & Jewelry:  Many family members are offered amulets and jewelry pendants that can carry some of the ashes.  Prices vary widely.
  • Niche:  A wall with recessed areas in it for holding urns of cremated remains.  Couple this with a bench ($3,000 at one cemetery) or a bench estate for multiple family members to visit at one time ($15,000).

It’s easy to see why most people underestimate the cost of a funeral.  It’s also imperative each of us knows what we want when we die and that we communicate in writing to our loved ones.  I’m preparing an outline for my wife and sons so everyone will be on the same page when I die.

As an insurance agent who helps clients with their life insurance, there are three questions to answer:

  • What do you want the money to do?
  • How much will that cost?
  • What premium amount will your budget handle?

Part of what a life policy should do is help people fund what I refer to as final expenses which include but are not limited to funeral expenses.  The choice to be buried or cremated is an intensely personal choice.  Knowing what those costs are and factoring them into a life policy is an important part of the life insurance consideration.  To help with that discussion, I’ll be sharing Money Magazine’s article which you can find at http://money.cnn.com/2012/11/01/pf/funeral-costs.moneymag/index.html.

Share your thoughts, questions, or the steps you’ve taken with us in the comments section of our blog or on our Google + and Facebook pages.  We’ll all learn something helpful from each other.

Evie Wise
Evie Wise


Evie Wise
Evie Wise

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