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Saving Money on Funeral Planning

Funerals are important occasions which need to be approached with due care and attention. As a dignified event, intended to help mourners bid their final farewell to loved ones, there are many things to consider when planning a funeral.

Burial or Cremation

Save Money on Funeral CostsPerhaps the first thing you need to consider when arranging a funeral is choosing between a burial and a cremation. According to the National Funeral Director’s Association  (NFDA) just over 40% of Americans chose cremation in 2010 up from only 26% in 2000 and less than 4% in 1960. Plots in cemeteries or churchyards are purchased from the relevant authorities. For those who have chosen a cremation, the collection and internment or scattering of ashes will also need to be considered. Your funeral director will be able to help and advise whatever decision you make.

Service

You’ll need to carefully consider the order in which you’d like the service to run and select appropriate readings or prepare eulogies. There are no rules surrounding this, but it is important to consider the wishes of the deceased when making your decision.

Music

As one of the most personal aspects of any funeral, the music you choose is important. Whether it’s an instrumental piece, religious hymns or modern tracks, try and pick music or hymns with sentimental value to say a touching farewell.

Flowers

Mourners traditionally present floral tributes at funerals as a sign of respect. Floral bouquets and cushions are popular and blooms can be arranged into various shapes, providing a more personal tribute. When choosing the flowers themselves, it may be worth looking into the meaning behind different flowers, allowing you to create something which sums up your feelings. Alternatively, use the favorite flowers of the deceased to give something really personal.

Funeral procession

Getting from the funeral home or your home to the place of the service doesn’t have to follow the quickest route. Funeral processions can be diverted to pass areas or landmarks which hold sentimental value for the deceased and their loved ones. This can be a great way to relive fond memories and is certainly something to consider.

Cost

According to NFDA the average cost of a funeral is $6,560 which includes $2,295 for a metal casket but doesn’t include graveside expenses or the cost of a Vault adding in these expenses will bring the total cost above $8,000. Basic services cost $1,800; remains removal, embalming and body preparation $1,200;  facilities, staff, hearse, and printed literature will add another $1,370. Perhaps one reason for the increase in the number of cremations is that many of these expenses can be avoided in the case of cremation bringing the cost as low as $1000 for a “direct cremation” without  any extra features. On the other hand a fancy wood casket can exceed $10,000 all by itself.

Those who want to arrange their own funerals in advance can do so using a prepaid funeral plan or funeral insurance. These are available for both burials and cremations and ensure that grieving friends and relatives do not have the burden of making key decisions and paying for the funeral during such a difficult time. Pre-paying for funeral costs can help you lock in current prices. To obtain a price guarantee, you will probably need to sign a “pre-need contract” with a specific funeral home. This contract will list the specific services and merchandise that is included. This way you can determine in advance some or all of your funeral arrangements. Often people will choose to pre-arrange only the cemetery portion. But it is also possible to contract in advance for all  of the funeral arrangements and services including the casket, burial vault, and even down to the wording on the gravestone). But not all contracts provide a price guarantee. Many of these contracts require that you use a specific funeral home and can have issues related to refunds.

How to Reduce Costs

Benefits-

If the deceased is a veteran, who dies after Oct. 1, 2011 the Veterans Administration (VA) will pay up to $700 toward burial and funeral expenses, and a $700 plot-interment allowance for a non-service related death or for Service-Related Deaths the VA will pay up to $2,000 toward burial expenses.

Social Security Death and Survivor Benefits provides for a one-time payment of $255 to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the beneficiary at the time of death.

If finances are a major problem, some states provide burial allowances or public aid to eligible individuals.

Buy Online-

The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule, requires funeral homes to provide you with a written price list if you request it. It also prohibits them from refusing or charging a fee to handle a casket or urn purchased elsewhere. So it is actually possible to buy caskets and urns online, and have it delivered the next day.  Funeral homes must also disclose any state or local laws that require you to purchase specific goods or services in your locality.

Shop Around-

Funeral costs can vary significantly from one funeral home to another, so it pays to shop around. Often costs can vary by as much as 100%. It is also possible to buy cemetery lots that were pre-purchased but are no longer needed because the person moved.  If you purchase a secondhand plot be sure to contact the cemetery to ensure the seller actually has legal title and that it is transferred properly. Also be sure to check on other fees such as interment or vault setting that might be involved. You may also be able to find items such as memorial cards, book registers, and flowers at other places for less than what the funeral home would charge.

Consider a Green Funeral

Some funeral homes offer a “green” option. Green funerals normally avoid embalming the body and include a biodegradable casket, both of which may reduce costs.

Tax Deductions

Unfortunately, although medical expenses are deductible funeral expenses are not. However, if you have a large estate that is subject to estate taxes the estate itself may be able to claim a deduction for funeral expenses if you used the estate’s funds to pay for the costs.

Look for Prepayments

As mentioned pre-payments are possible be sure to check the will to see if pre-payment has already been made. Also check to see if burial or funeral costs are covered under any insurance policies.

Like any other purchase careful preparation can reduce funeral costs while still honoring the deceased and their wishes. It is best to do this before the time of need when planning can be done logically and non-emotionally. But even if planning wasn’t done in advance a bit of thought can go a long way to reducing expenses.

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