Will the State Bury You for Free?

Published July 20, 2020
Mother and two children at a funeral

Dealing with burial, cremation, and funeral costs can feel very stressful after a loved one has passed away. If you cannot afford to pay for a burial or cremation, there are several programs that can assist you. All programs will require certain documentation to verify whether you qualify.

Will the State Bury You For Free When You Pass?

If you have proof that you cannot come up with the money for a burial or cremation, and meet the specific standards of the state or county program, the state or county will bury or cremate the deceased individual for a lower fee or for free.

State Help With Funeral Costs

Many states offer burial and cremation assistance programs if you cannot afford to pay for these services. The states that weren't included do not have a state-wide program, but offer various county programs. To see what your county's funeral assistance program is, go to your county's Department of Human Services, Department of Public Health, or Welfare Department's website or office to find out more information. The states that have a state-wide program include:

Who Qualifies for Public Assistance for a Funeral?

Qualifications will vary based on the specific program you are applying to. Some programs aim to assist veterans, military personnel, as well as their families, while others assist those living below a specified income. Other programs were set up to assist the families of those who passed away due to natural disasters.

White Tombstones In Military Graveyard

How Can I Get Help With Funeral Expenses?

If you do not qualify for a certain program, know that you have other options to help with funeral expenses.

Know Your Rights Under the Funeral Rule

Under the funeral rule, when working with a funeral home, you are entitled to:

  • Receive pricing on the phone
  • Receive an itemized bill of goods and services provided
  • Buy only services and goods you wish to purchase
  • Not encounter a misrepresentation of services
  • Receive a general price list for anyone who asks for one

Emergency Funeral Funds and Organizations That Can Help With Funeral Costs

Other funeral assistance options include:

County Coroner's Office

If your state doesn't have a state-wide program available to assist with funeral costs, you can sign a release at your county coroner's office stating that you can't afford a funeral or cremation. Documents, such as proof of income, death certificate, as well as other documentation depending on your specific county's guidelines, may be required. You may be able to claim the ashes, if your loved one was cremated, for a fee.

Who Pays for the Funeral if the Deceased Individual Doesn't Have Any Money?

Loved ones typically pay for the funeral if there wasn't money set aside by the deceased individual to cover the costs. If you can't afford cremation or burial, you can consider:

  • No cost cremation: This occurs when the body is donated to science and later is cremated.
  • Green burials or biourns.
  • Crowdsourcing for funds.
  • Checking the life insurance policy to see if any costs may be covered.
  • Public health funerals, formerly known as pauper's graves, occur in the United Kingdom when an individual passes away without any friends or family to organize the burial or cremation.
Mourner holding urn

How Much Does it Cost to Bury Someone?

Burials, without other services, can cost up to $2,000. Funerals, including the burial, can cost around $8,000. Cremation can cost about $1,000, but prices will vary depending on location, and other services selected.

What Happens if You Don't Pay a Funeral Bill?

Legally, the person who signed the contract with the funeral home is required to pay the bill. No other family member or friend of the deceased individual can be forced to pay the funeral bill if they have not signed the contract with the funeral home. The payment is usually obtained from the deceased individual's estate. However, if there aren't assets, the named or appointed executor is in charge of dealing with funeral payment. If the funeral home isn't paid and the services were provided, they may:

  • Send a letter requesting payment
  • Turn over the case to the collections agency
  • Take the case to trial

Getting State Assistance for a Funeral or Burial

Whether you use a state or county program, opt for a less expensive funeral, crowdsource the funds, or apply for assistance through another organization, there are many options available for seeking funeral assistance. If your state doesn't offer a state-wide program, check with your county's Department of Human Services, Department of Public Health, or Welfare Department to see if you qualify for any assistance.

Will the State Bury You for Free?