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Question:


A family member is near death, and I don’t think she has life insurance or much savings. Generally speaking, about how much is a traditional funeral? What other end-of-life costs should I be prepared to cover for her?
-ResponsibleNephew


Answer:


I’m sorry to hear about your situation. The emotional and psychological difficulties that accompany the death of a loved one can complicate decisions related to the funeral, and so relatives often leave the planning to a mortuary. That, combined with grief and perhaps feelings of guilt over things left unsaid or wounds unhealed, can drive up costs.
 
What the industry considers a traditional funeral, with a casket, transportation by hearse to the funeral home, public viewing there and transportation to the cemetery for burial, typically costs about $6,000, not counting the burial plot itself, according to an excellent consumer guide – http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/products/pro19.shtm – on the Federal Trade Commission’s website. The cost can easily run to five figures for a more elaborate service, while something with fewer frills will be cheaper than a traditional funeral. A simple cremation can cost well under $1,000.
 
Much of what you need to know is in the FTC guide, and you should pay particular attention to the section called “The Funeral Rule.” This details the rights and protections available to purchasers of funeral services. As for other costs, a burial plot is the most obvious one. That and the cost of the funeral can be recouped from the assets in your aunt’s estate, if there are any. The law typically gives funeral costs the highest priority when settling an estate, followed by medical costs associated with the disease that led to death. After that, assets are used to pay any other outstanding debts. If your aunt does not have enough in her estate to cover funeral costs, then you can choose to pay them, but you have no obligation to do so.
-Conrad de Aenlle



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