In cases where an individual did not make advance funeral plans, chances are fairly good that a spouse or adult child will be responsible for planning and financing the funeral. Long held as the custom across countries and cultures, the idea that a child must bear the burden of burial is one that many of us recognize. After all, these are the individuals who brought us into the world…it seems only fitting that we send them out of it.
Unfortunately, circumstances and financial hardship often get in the way of these types of plans. In addition to the emotional toll that losing a parent can have on an individual, it can be difficult to know where to find the resources to cover funeral costs as well as what types of decisions to make to best honor your parent.
If a parent’s death has recently occurred, we suggest you sit down with other siblings and your remaining parent to go over your options and to discuss funeral planning details. Depending on what kind of pre-plan funeral arrangements were made and your financial situation, you could rely on any of the following payment types.
- Life Insurance: Although not everyone purchases a funeral pre-plan, life insurance is fairly common. The named beneficiary (or beneficiaries) will receive a lump sum payable upon death and may use those monies for the funeral. Because these funds may take a few weeks to be processed, most funeral homes are willing to work with you to arrange the payments at a later date.
- Funeral Insurance: Funeral insurance differs from life insurance in that the benefits are paid out faster (and are usually smaller). Some people opt to name a funeral home the beneficiary to streamline the process.
- Funeral Home Financing: Life insurance and funeral insurance are ideal ways to pay for a parent’s funeral because they don’t require you to dip into your own pockets. However, if your parent died and didn’t leave anything behind, you may need to make alternate financial arrangements. Funeral homes may offer you an extended payment plan, a credit-based loan, or other long-term financing arrangement. These are typically based on personal credit and finances, though, so they aren’t for everyone.
- Estate Assets: When a parent dies (and there isn’t another parent to care for), the estate is usually split between the surviving children. From the house and vehicles to any money in the savings account or retirement package, this inheritance is one of the most common sources of funeral funding. Unless the estate is liquid, however, you may need to finance the funeral out-of-pocket until the items can be sold, distributed according to the will, or otherwise arranged.
- County Grave: In some cases, it’s simply not possible to pay for a parent’s funeral. Whether it’s because you don’t have the money or because you don’t feel the need to be burdened with the expense, you are not legally required to pay for your parent’s funeral. However, by disclaiming responsibility for the costs, you are also relinquishing your right to make decisions. A body that is turned over to the county for burial will be taken care of according to local regulations, and you will not be allowed to have a say in what happens. (Also, the county can go after the estate to cover the costs, leaving you with less of an inheritance.)
Death isn’t easy under any circumstances, and the death of a parent can be one of the most stressful times in anyone’s life. To avoid financial strain during this difficult time, talk with your parents while they are still alive. If necessary, help them make advance arrangements and discuss their wishes. The fewer surprises that occur during the funeral planning stages, the better for everyone involved.