Funerals are a meaningful celebration of life — but they can also be a costly burden to those in charge of arranging them. The average expense for a funeral with a viewing and a burial is $7,848. If you opt for a funeral with a cremation, you can expect to pay around $6,970.
Ideally, you’ll have enough saved to cover a funeral out-of-pocket. If not, a life insurance policy is one way to ensure those costs and any other expenses are taken care of, even if your family’s financial situation changes.
Average funeral costs by state
The table below gives you an idea of what funeral and end-of-life costs could look like in your state, based on data from the National Funeral Directors Association, the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and the Missouri Economic Research and Information Center compiled by Go Banking Rates. 
You’ll notice that in states where the cost of living is high — such as New York, California, and especially Hawaii — a funeral can cost thousands of dollars above the nationwide average.
Average cost of funeral
Average cost of end-of-life expenses
Average total costs
Funeral expenses can be a source of financial insecurity for grieving families. Many people don’t have funds readily accessible and may have to dip into retirement savings or take out a small funeral loan if they have no assets to cover the costs.
Breaking down the cost of a funeral
The average funeral costs between $7,000 to $10,000, and it continues to get costlier. According to the Consumer Price Index, funeral costs have risen 227.1% in the last 30 years. 
The list below displays the median funeral costs as of 2021, according to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA): 
Basic service fee: $2,300
Transfer of remains to funeral home: $350
Other preparations of the body: $275
Facilities/staff for viewing: $450
Facilities/staff for funeral ceremony: $515
Service car: $150
Basic memorial package: $183
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. You can do your family an enormous last service by detailing in your will — or in separate written instructions left with your attorney, financial planner, or the executor of your will — how you want your funeral to be arranged.
“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 more than they would have preferred to have spent on them.”
For example, 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’ll 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 the difference isn’t enormous. A 2021 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, can cost 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.
By 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.
Funeral expenses can be high, but there are other costs associated with death that are important to consider when you think ahead about how loved ones would manage after you are gone. Families may be left with bills from end-of-life care. Then, they may need to pay everyday bills and expenses that you had covered for them.
“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.
Life insurance will pay 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. This 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 right after having lost your loved one. So it’s a real gift.”
Final expense insurance
Final expense insurance, also called burial 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
Headstone or marker
Interment or cremation
Although the COVID-10 Public Health Emergency (PHE) declaration ended on May 11, 2023, FEMA will provide funeral assistance to those who qualify until September 30, 2025.
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 generally goes through probate, with funds first paid to creditors for any of your unpaid debts. Then, any remaining amount is distributed 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 with an attorney to draft a will that designates your estate and final wishes. You may also want to investigate living trusts and other options.