Funerals are an important celebration of life — but they can also be a financial burden to those in charge of arranging them. The best way to protect your family from financially suffering after your death is to have a robust plan in place before you die.
You can do this by working with a financial advisor to review your options. Ideally you'll have enough saved to cover a funeral out-of-pocket but if not, a life insurance policy is one way to ensure those costs — and any other expenses — are taken care of even if your financial situation changes. Pair that with a will and testament to lay out how you’d like your funeral to be conducted.
On average, funerals cost more than $7,000.
Where you live will affect the cost of your funeral.
Purchasing a life insurance policy can help your loved ones cover your funeral expenses.
What is the average cost of a funeral?
There are an average of 2.4 million funerals a year in the U.S.,  usually costing between $7,000 to $10,000. And it continues to get costlier. According to The Consumer Price Index, funeral costs have risen by a whopping 227.1% in the last 30 years. 
The chart below displays the median funeral costs in 2022 according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA): 
|Basic services fee||$2,300|
|Funeral home fees||$1,150|
|Embalming and body preparation||$1,050|
This doesn’t include end-of-life expenses, such as final medical bills that your family might have to cover after you die.
Funeral costs calculator: How much do I need to save?
Below is a sample calculation based on the average cost of a funeral with a burial, a viewing, and memorial services.
|Basic services fee||$2,300|
|Transfer of remains to funeral home||$350|
|Facilities/staff for viewing||$450|
|Facilities/staff for funeral||$515|
The calculation does not include additional costs, such as gravestones, flowers, guest transportation, or additional preparation of the body. How much the average funeral costs will also vary depending on where you live.
Average funeral costs by state
The table below can give you an idea of what costs would look like for the state you’re in.  You’ll notice that in some states where the cost of living is high, like New York and California, a funeral can end up costing several thousands of dollars above the average.
Funeral expenses often come as a shock to grieving families and can compound grief when financial insecurity is added into the mix. Many people don’t have funds readily accessible and may have to dip into retirement savings, 401k funds, or even take out a small funeral loan if they have no assets.
Planning your funeral arrangements
When your family is already coping with the loss of a loved one, a threat to their financial security is only going to intensify their grief. Funeral arrangements can be laid out in your will and testament or left behind as written instructions with someone who manages your affairs, like a financial planner or lawyer.
“Having an open and transparent conversation around end-of-life planning, albeit difficult, is critically important,” says Priya Malani, founder of Stash Wealth. “While never a fun conversation, it can save everyone a lot of stress in the long run. Having to guess or assume what a loved one might have wanted may end up costing you more than they would have preferred to have spent on them.”.
You can make this process less burdensome for your loved ones by putting your wishes into writing. Instead of a traditional funeral, you may prefer cremation or a green burial. If you don't lay out these wishes for your loved ones, they will never know.
“It's a really thoughtful [and] caring thing to do — to at least leave a plan,” says Rick Paskin, founder of Funeralwise. If you can put financial arrangements in place with insurance, that's great, but at a minimum, leave a plan. [It] doesn't cost you anything to leave behind the plan.”
Cost of cremation vs. burial
Cremation costs less on average than a burial, but not by much. A study by the NFDA put median costs for a funeral with a viewing and burial at $7,848, versus $6,970 for a viewing and cremation. Some states require you to include a burial vault to protect the casket, which will make a burial more expensive: approximately $9,420.
The cost of a viewing and/or memorial service increases the costs of both burial and cremation. If you opt for a direct burial or direct cremation, which doesn’t include any events or memorial services, you’ll spend much less. A direct cremation, for example, costs about $2,500.
Cost of visitation or wake
A visitation and a wake are similar in function — each gives family and friends a chance to gather and pay their respects. But a wake is more likely to cost more because the body of the deceased is typically present. If the body is present and the casket is open, there are additional costs associated with preparing the body for viewing and transporting the body if the wake happens outside of the funeral home.
In contrast it’s less common for the deceased’s body to be present during a visitation, or if it is, the casket is often closed. Visitation is also often conducted at the funeral home, lowering transportation costs.
Using life insurance to pay for a funeral
The best way to make sure that your family doesn’t end up dipping into their savings or going into debt to arrange your funeral is to set up some financial protection with a life insurance policy.
“If you haven't planned ahead and made arrangements through insurance or pre-purchasing cemetery or grave space, your family is sort of stuck with it. And the money is due at the time of the funeral,” says Paskin.
The cost of funeral expenses can be high, but there are other associated costs with death that are important to consider, such as end-of-life care or everyday bills and expenses that you covered.
“When somebody dies, that's not the only expense that’s left behind,” says Paskin. There could be medical bills, legal bills, [and] accounting bills. Depending on where they were living, there could still be rent [and] utilities.
When you die, life insurance pays out a death benefit to your designated beneficiaries, which can be used however they please. Extenuating circumstances notwithstanding, the turnaround time to get the death benefit tends to be pretty short, sometimes even within a week of filing a claim.
With the right coverage in place, your family will be able to use the payout to finance your funeral and additional expenses, which will allow them to focus on honoring your legacy.
Other ways to pay for a funeral
Life insurance is an easy and affordable way to cover your funeral expenses, but it’s not the only one. Even providing a small amount of assistance can ease the burden for your family at a difficult time.
“It's a gift. We always describe it as a gift,” says Lisa Kirchenbauer, founder and president of Omega Wealth Management. “Whether you just put your wishes in writing, whether you have a contract with a funeral home [or] you've picked out your casket. Those kinds of details are all really important and somebody's got to decide them and I can tell you, it's not a lot of fun, having to decide it right after having lost your loved one. So it's a real gift.”
Burial insurance, also called final expense insurance, is a type of life insurance typically used to cover funeral costs. Benefits are just enough to cover end-of-life expenses — from $25,000 to $50,000. Burial insurance also requires little medical information to qualify, so approval is fast.
Payable-on-death (POD) account
A payable-on-death (POD) account is a bank account that pays out to a named beneficiary once the account owner passes away. You can set money aside for your funeral in that account and your beneficiary will get it tax-free when you die.
It’s possible to make some or all of your funeral arrangements in advance with a specific funeral home or director and even pre-pay for the services. Some funeral homes treat this like a life insurance policy, in which your premiums go toward paying off your chosen services. Be prepared for the risk that your plans could change if the funeral home closes or changes ownership.
Low cost or low income funerals
Many states offer financial assistance programs for people below a certain income threshold.  Depending on your state and your financial situation, you could qualify for a small amount of state support. While the amount provided is unlikely to cover a full funeral, it could cover a low-cost direct burial or cremation.
Families who have lost a loved one due to COVID-19 may be eligible to get assistance from FEMA of up to $9,000. According to FEMA,  this subsidy can cover:
Transportation of the deceased
Two death certificates
Interment or cremation
Why life insurance is better financial support than your estate
Leaving assets behind to support your family and cover the costs of your funeral isn’t a foolproof strategy. When you die, your estate goes through probate and goes to creditors for any of your unpaid debts first. Then, any remaining amount is split as designated in your will.
A life insurance policy can’t be taken by creditors and isn’t subject to probate as long as your beneficiaries can accept the payout. It’s a surefire way to offer your loved ones financial support and usually provides support faster than money that has to go through probate.
“Once you get the death certificate, the process of getting insurance proceeds — unless there's something odd about the death — can come pretty quickly. So it can really make a difference. It may be a little harder for that executor to get access to resources,” says Kirchenbauer.
The best way to prepare your family for your death is to have a solid plan in place. Work with an insurance agent to find a life insurance policy to cover your funeral costs and an attorney to draft a will and testament that designates your estate and final wishes.
Frequently asked questions
How much does a funeral cost?
In the United States, the average funeral costs anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000.
What is the cheapest funeral cost?
The cheapest funeral option is a direct cremation (approximately $2,500) or a direct burial (approximately $6,600). This removes the added costs of a memorial or viewing.
What is the most expensive state for a funeral?
Hawaii is the most expensive state for funeral costs, costing above the national average at $14,975.
Is $10,000 enough for a funeral?
$10,000 can cover funeral and burial services in most states, but it’s best to save slightly more. Prices vary by state and your plans, and estimates don’t include additional expenses, like flowers.