There are many government and private programs designed to help families pay for funerals. As you plan a funeral, make sure you and your family know what benefits are available. (Find planning help here.)
A surviving spouse or child can apply to receive a lump-sum payment of $255, if they meet certain requirements, and can use this benefit to help pay for the funeral and other expenses. To receive the Social Security death benefit, you’ll need to submit an application. Contact your local Social Security office or call 1-800-772-1213 (TTY1-800-325-0778).
Whether or not you’re applying for the death benefit, let Social Security know about the death as soon as possible. Usually, the funeral home will report the death to the Social Security Administration, so make sure the funeral director has the deceased’s Social Security number.
If you’re the legally recognized spouse or legally designated family member of a veteran who has died, you may be eligible to receive a set amount for burial and funeral costs.
The Veterans Administration pays an allowance up to $2,000 for a service-connected death (not including those who die in active military service). For deaths unrelated to the veteran’s military service, the VA will pay $300 for burial expenses and up to $762 for a burial plot (somewhat more if the deceased was hospitalized at a VA facility at the time of death). You can apply by mail to your regional VA benefit office. If you have questions, call your regional benefit office or 1-800-827-1000. TDD number for the hearing-impaired is 711.
Many states and counties also have benefits available to deceased veterans and their survivors. Check with your county or state veterans’ affairs office for more information.
If you are the beneficiary of a life insurance policy or annuity held by the deceased, contact the insurance company as soon as possible to find out how to claim your benefits. You likely will need a death certificate or other proof of death.
If the deceased was insured through work, be sure to check with their employer about benefits.
Auto insurance sometimes includes a death benefit. If the deceased died in a vehicular accident, check with their insurance company.
Other Funeral Assistance Programs
Many states and counties provide burial and funeral benefits for people receiving public assistance. Check with the human services agency in your county and/or state for more info.
Places of Worship
Your church, synagogue, or mosque may have a benevolent program that can assist with burial costs. Check with places of worship in the area where the deceased resided.
A death benefit may be available through the deceased’s employer. It may be worth reaching out to their manager or the company’s human resources department.
Did the deceased belong to a union? If so, they may be entitled to receive a death benefit that could be used to help cover funeral expenses.
Infant or Child
Many areas have funeral assistance programs specific to infant or child burial. One example is the nonprofit Children’s Burial Assistance which provides donated burial plots throughout the United States to help off-set the cost of burial fees.
Families of homicide victims can apply for crime victims’ compensation to help cover the cost of the funeral and burial, as well as grief counseling. Compensation can be paid even when no one is arrested or convicted for the crime, says the National Center for Victims of Crime. Every state has a crime victims’ compensation program; you should apply in the state where the crime occurred.
Start a Fundraiser
Crowdfunding has become an increasingly popular way to share funeral costs across communities. If you’ve exhausted other options, raising funds from family and friends may be something to consider. Many websites make it easy to raise money for a funeral. Before you begin a fundraising campaign, find out how much the website charges for this service. Many companies charge a fee of 5 percent or more per transaction. YouCaring.com offers its funeral crowdfunding service for free.