The cost of a typical funeral can be over $6,500, based on 2009 data from the National Funeral Director's Association. Not everyone has the money to cover funeral expenses, which leaves some people investigating alternative funeral payment options. In general, insurance companies, friends and family members usually cover funeral costs with an intestate death, but body donation also is an option.
Life insurance policies on the deceased are part of the estate of whoever owns the policy, not in the estate of the deceased, according to the University of Minnesota. Thus, in some cases, insurance companies will pay out benefits to cover some or all of the funeral expenses.
If there is no life insurance and no estate, family members of the deceased end up paying the funeral expenses. Disputes often arise, however, because some family members do not contribute as much as others may consider appropriate. This can cause unnecessary hardship on the family members, particularly if they did not plan ahead for the expenses.
Some individuals die with no immediate family members, such as brothers, sisters or heirs. In these cases, friends may contribute to the funeral. However, there is no guarantee that friends will be in a financial position to cover the funeral costs; you should not assume that friends will be able to handle a funeral in the absence of family.
In instances when there are no friends or family members present, there is no life insurance and the deceased died intestate, the local government often pays for funeral expenses. If this happens, the government will cover only the most basic burial -- that is, no flowers, a basic casket, no formal services and no elaborate grave marker. Some governments pay for cremation only, as cremation tends to be cheaper than burial. Some governments do not offer any "indignant burial" programs. If you aren't sure what agency handles indignant burials, contact your state's Funeral Services Board as well as the Department of Health and Human Services to determine which organization specifically deals with intestate funerals. Typically, you must provide proof that the deceased is intestate and that the incomes of family members are too low to cover expenses.
Some people can avoid funeral expenses altogether by donating their body to science. Not all areas have organizations that will take bodies, which use the body of the deceased for educational purposes. The organization that accepted the body then covers the cost of disposing of any remains. This does not allow others to say goodbye to the deceased in the traditional fashion, but it allows you to prevent insurmountable expense positively.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.