Nobody looks forward to funeral services. First, someone must plan the funeral. Then someone has to pay for the funeral. And let’s not forget that a loved one has passed away. It is an extremely difficult period of time, all things considered. Often one of the biggest stressors is the cost of the funeral.
According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a burial funeral is $7,200 and the average cost of a cremation funeral is $3,200. Most families simply do not have this kind of money laying around. Fortunately, there are many ways to save money on funeral fees that most people are simply unaware of.
With the help of some state governments or specific counties within the state, it is possible to have a more affordable funeral for a loved one. Let’s look at all of the state and county governments in America that do have burial assistance programs in place to help families cover funeral expenses.
Please note that many states and counties change these laws and programs regularly regarding the funeral assistance they provide. We try to keep this list as updated as possible.
Alabama – Each county will assist in paying necessary burial expenses and funeral costs of someone who has died in the county and doesn’t have the financial means to pay finance the funeral.
Alaska – Monetary assistance is only offered for native tribal members.
Arizona - Limited burial or cremation expenses may be paid for. This benefit is available for all indigent deaths. This assistance varies from county to county. The county reserves the right to file a lien on the property for repayment. Call your local county office. Eligibility requires that the individual and the family members do not have the ability to pay.
Arkansas – Each County Judge offers a Paupers fund to the indigent and low-income families. This fund is payable to the funeral home for individuals that have no insurance or cash to pay for a funeral. All other options need to be utilized before the county may assist.
California – Most municipalities have a general relief budget to cover basic funeral or cremation costs for those on welfare and without funds to pay for a funeral. There are no provisions for services or viewing.
Colorado Department of Human Services (CDHS) offers Burial Assistance. The program can provide financial assistance to help pay for burial, funeral, and/or cremation costs. The amount offered will vary based on whether someone receives help from SSI or Medicaid, but CDHS may pay up to $1000 to the family.
Connecticut Department of Social Services – This government agency will pay up to $1800. If the deceased has assets that can be sold to cover the cost of the memorial service, then these funds will be used first before the state provides assistance.
D.C. – Families asking for burial assistance will receive $800 toward burial or $450 toward cremation. Family contributions cannot exceed $2,000 (not including the cost of opening and closing the grave) unless the deceased requires an oversized casket. The deceased is required to have been a D.C. resident at the time of death.
Delaware – May contribute up to $400 for pauper burial. Any persons found to own property, have a trust in their name, be a deserted husband or wife may be found ineligible.
Florida Health and Human Services are mandated by state law to provide proper burial arrangements for residents who are poverty-stricken and whose bodies are unclaimed.
Georgia – If the family and immediate kin of the deceased are indigent and unable to finance the funeral, a DFCS staff person will begin an investigation to verify eligibility for a state burial. Items such as insurance status, property ownership, bank accounts, and other assets may be considered in the eligibility analysis. The governing authority of the county will determine the amount though it varies somewhere between $350 - $1,200 and will be decided via each county's Indigent Burial Department.
Hawaii – The state will provide up to $400 toward funeral home or crematory expenses. The government may also offer an additional $400 for cemetery expenses.
Iowa – You are eligible if the decedent does not leave an estate which may be probated with sufficient proceeds to allow for payment of the funeral claim or monthly income is determined to be at or below the Federal Poverty Guidelines. The county will pay a maximum of $400 toward funeral expenses. Assistance may be available for the burial of nonresident indigent transients with a payment, not to exceed $250.
Illinois Department of Human Services This government-run department pays the funeral and burial expenses of a person with limited income and assets. Limits include up to $1,103 for funeral costs and/or $552 for burial costs. The amount of money spent, including family contribution and state assistance, may not exceed $2,000 for cemetery costs and $2,000 in funeral expenses/bills.
Indiana – The maximum allowable burial assistance payments are $1,200 for the funeral director's expenses and $800 for cemetery expenses, for a total of $2,000. Payment is made by the Local Office of the Division of Family Resources. A recipient is eligible for Burial Assistance regardless of where their death occurs or whether the funeral and interment takes place in Indiana or elsewhere.
Iowa – The state General Assistance funds provides temporary cash as well as grant assistance with basic and special needs, such as funeral services or any related expenses.
Kentucky – In the event family or friends cannot meet the financial requirements to dispense with the remains of a loved one, some counties may offer assistance on behalf of an Indigent Cremation Assistance Program. Family members or friends of the deceased who accept financial responsibility for disposing of with the remains may apply for financial assistance of up to $500 towards the cremation bill.
Louisiana – The coroner shall arrange for the burial of paupers, preferably by a Louisiana licensed funeral home. The burial expenses shall not exceed the actual cost of the service and shall be paid by the parish or municipality in which the death occurred. Although the burden of indigent and non-indigent deaths and burials must be handled by the coroner, the costs for non-indigents are taxed against the estate.
Maine – The state general assistance fund can pay for cremations and burial services. This depends of funding levels as well as qualification of the applicant. Local towns and municipalities are responsible for paying the direct cremation or burial bills of anyone who dies leaving no assets or money to pay those expenses. The applicant also can’t have a livable relative who is financially able to pay the bills.
Maryland Department of Human Resources runs the Burial Assistance Program. This resource is available to help with funeral expenses of deceased recipients and people who are currently enrolled in the Family Investment programs. Aid is only available when the family of the deceased cannot afford funeral costs on their own. The deceased must receive aid from Maryland; whether it is Temporary Cash Assistance, SSI, General Assistance, etc. They will not help pay for the funeral if the total cost of the funeral exceeds $2,500.
Massachusetts – The Department of Transitional Assistance is responsible for funeral and burial expenses for those with no other options or means available to them.
Michigan – Offers a program known as Home & Burial Services. This is offered when the descendant's estate, mandatory copayments, etc., are not sufficient to pay the bills. Burial payment assistance may be available to pay for expenses such as cremation fees, burial fees, church service, or even the costs associated with the donation of a body to a medical school. The maximum amount paid is $555.
Minnesota – Some counties in the state, such as Hennepin, offer Funeral Assistance programs. Most are administered by the Public Health Department and/or Human Services. In some cases, certain counties may pay funds (even up to $2,100) directly to the funeral home or providers. All aid depends on county funding and the individual’s needs. There may be restrictions put on the goods and services available when using county assistance for a funeral. Minnesota law allows a county to use cremation in lieu of burial when there are no objections by the next-of-kin. County expenses covered vary. All assets must be applied to the county maximum payment of $2,600. Total costs of burial must not exceed $4,000.
Mississippi – The County Administrator is authorized to make an initial inquiry and determination of any person on whose behalf a pauper's burial is requested, and will consider whether the said person has relatives liable and able to pay burial expenses.
Missouri – Any assistance will vary or be offered at the county level. Eligibility depends on the burden to cover the cost of the unclaimed body. When family members relinquish rights of the deceased, the remains will not be released to the family. The current reimbursement rate is $400.
Montana – The county coroner negotiates and pays the negotiated amount due to the funeral home or mortician for an indigent burial. Assistance provided varies. Many city and county governments across Montana, including Missoula County, don’t pay for indigent burials.
Nebraska – Some regions, such as Douglas County, will consider providing financial assistance to pay for the cremation of remains of any person who dies within the county. The spouse of the deceased can earn no more than the federal poverty level, $903 a month for one person. And the deceased, if there is no spouse, can have no more than $800 in his or her estate. If the decedent’s body is unclaimed by next of kin or a responsible party, then the County may authorize the body to be cremated or buried. A fee of $800 will be paid for cremation services and $2,150 will be paid for county burial of an adult. A fee of $1,147 will be paid for the burial of a minor child. Amount of assistance varies by county and funding available for General Assistance.
Nevada – Your local Department of Social Services may be able to provide payment to pay for the cremation, funeral or burial costs for a deceased indigent person. For those on very low income and without income, the local county will cover the costs of a direct cremation.
New Hampshire – Any assistance will vary by county and municipality. The State of New Hampshire and surrounding municipalities set a rate of up to $750 for direct cremation.
New Jersey – The State can help the needy and low income pay for funeral bills through the Department of Human Services, or DHS. People will need to apply for the public assistance funeral funds by calling the welfare agency or board of social-human services in your county. If the deceased is 2 years+ in age then the family will be given $2,246 for a funeral home, $524 for cemetery fees, and their family members/friends will be able to give up to $1,570 as supplementation money. If the deceased is 1 week-2 years old, then the family will be given $1,684 towards a funeral home, $393 towards cemetery fees, and their family members/friends will be able to give up to $1,178 as supplementation money. If the deceased is a stillborn-6 days old, then the family will be given $1,123 towards a funeral home, $262 for cemetery fees, and their family members/friends will be able to give up to $785 as supplementation money.
New Mexico - The cremation or burial expenses may be paid by your local county. The government will make this payment out of the county indigent hospital claims fund or the general fund. In general, qualified families can receive an amount of up to $600 in order to pay for the cremation or burial costs of any adult or minor.
New York – Any funeral assistance varies by county. For example, one county pays up to $1000. The Monroe County Funeral Assistance Program provides benefits for residents who are indigent or who have no assets to pay for their funerals. Currently, the maximum benefit is $1,250. These benefits are subject to approval and an investigation by the County.
New York City - Burial Financial Assistance is provided by the city and all boroughs. They will provide up to $1700 in financial assistance in order to pay for burial costs as well as other funeral expenses for low-income New York City residents. The cost of cremation or grave opening charges is excluded, however, the cost of burying the ashes, after cremation is not excluded in calculating the $1,700 total cost.
North Carolina – Varies by county. Some Department of Social Services may pay up to $1500.
North Dakota – Across the state of ND, individual counties have burial assistance programs available for indigent people and the poor.
Ohio – Assistance varies by county. For deceased individuals claimed by family or friends, for private burial or not, the family must work with a funeral home in order to apply for assistance. Maximum assistance is $750 for all counties.
Oklahoma – Some counties may offer Burial or Cremation monetary assistance. This is a financial assistance program for families or individuals who do not have the resources to pay for the funeral expenses of a loved one.
Pennsylvania – The deceased will not receive burial benefits if they have assets that are over $1,500 worth in value. Also, if the deceased has a relative that can pay for their burial they become liable. The deceased will receive $750 to help cover burial, cremation, or both by a funeral director registered with DHS. If the deceased has more than $750 dollars but less than $1,500 it will be subtracted from $1,500 which is the total amount of money that will be covered for the deceased's burial.
Rhode Island – The Department of Human Services will consider granting assistance to those persons who may be eligible. The state of Rhode Island will pay up to $900 for burial expenses.
South Dakota – Minnehaha County, Davison County, Pennington County, Codington County, Lincoln County and Brown County provide some level of general assistance and welfare, although limited. Minnehaha County: Cremation only. No memorial service: $1,000. Cremation with memorial service, and all others: $2,250. Children under 5": $750. Lincoln County: maximum of $2,500. Contact your local county's Welfare Office for more information and relevant paperwork/forms.
Utah – Cremation services only, are offered through contracted mortuaries for indigent individuals who have passed away in counties that provide assistance.
Virginia – Virginia grants burial benefits depending on the county you are in. Norfolk County will give $500. You can set aside up to $3,500 for a burial fund that will not count as income.
Wisconsin – The Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program (WFCAP) may reimburse service providers for up to $1,500 of unmet funeral/burial expenses and up to $1,000 of unmet cemetery/crematory expenses for certain decedents that were enrolled in public assistance and welfare programs.
West Virginia – The deceased must have been a resident of West Virginia at the time of death in order to be eligible for a burial payment. The maximum allowable payment for burials may not exceed $2,450.
Wyoming – The total cost to the County of non-veteran/veteran indigent burials or cremations shall not exceed $1,800. Contact local municipality for further information and regulations.
This list includes most, if not, all state and country programs offered. These burial assistance programs are designed to help grieving families cover the costs of expensive funerals.
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