Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Dec 16, 2019

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Funeral costs are an expensive and unanticipated burden for many families. While in the midst of mourning, planning and paying for a funeral can sometimes be just one more straw added to an already heavy load. There are ways that you can ease this burden for your family and remove the stress and strain of funeral costs. The decision to prepare your funeral arrangements and provide for the cost should not be saved for the last minute, but rather added into your overall estate planning portfolio.

Funeral Expenses in a Living Will

Living wills do not only have to deal with medical and financial instructions. This is also an ideal way to provide specific instructions to your loved ones for how you desire your funeral to be arranged. You can instruct the family about a specific account set aside for expenses or request that some assets be sold to pay for the funeral.

You can also use your living will to detail how your funeral will look. You can mention you burial preferences, songs and service details and even who you wish to attend. If you have made arrangements for your body or organs to be donated, this is an excellent place to mention it to your family.

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Body Donation to Avoid Funeral Expenses

For those whose families do not have the means to pay for funeral costs, body donation may be a viable option. Medical schools nationwide are desperate for people willing to donate their bodies for educational purposes. After the semester is complete, universities pay for a full memorial service and burial costs. This option is especially useful for those who are perhaps less sentimental or who desire to make a difference even in death.

Paying Funeral Expenses With Life Insurance Proceeds

Whether it’s term or whole, life insurance provides a viable and realistic means of providing for your funeral costs. Some insurance companies, in fact, even offer plans specifically geared toward funeral costs. Life insurance can be obtained by anyone in reasonable health, so it is always a good idea to set up a life insurance plan while you are young and extend its terms as far as possible.

Prepayment of Funeral Expenses

The final option for those who desire to provide for their own funeral expenses is to pre-plan and pre-pay the expenses before you die. Prepayment can typically be made for caskets, urns, burial sites and occasionally with certain funeral homes for the service expenses.

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Social Security Benefits

Social Security benefits always include a one-time lump sum payment of $255 at the time of death to aid with funeral expenses. While this amount may not seem like much, it can aide the family with the costs of flowers or compensation for the minister.

See an Estate Planning Attorney

If you are in the process of planning for your funeral, consult with an estate planning attorney about plans and arrangement options. Many estate planning attorneys will have connections with certain funeral homes and burial businesses, and can help point you in the right direction. If your desire is to include instructions in your will, an attorney can make sure that your wishes are clearly articulated in the document and followed correctly.