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Saturday October 22, 2016

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

How much does an average funeral and body burial cost? I need to make funeral arrangements for my aunt, who's terminally ill. I would like to have a cost idea going in so I can plan and budget appropriately.

It definitely pays to know what charges to expect when pre-planning a funeral. Most people don't have a clue and can often be upsold thousands of dollars worth of extra services they may not want or need. Here's a breakdown of what to expect.

Funeral Prices

The first thing you need to be aware of is that funeral costs will vary considerably depending on your geographic location, the funeral home you choose and the funeral choices you make. With that said, here's what an average funeral costs nationwide according to recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association.

Professional services fee: This is a basic non-declinable fee that covers the funeral provider's time, expertise and overhead. Estimated cost: $2,000.

Transfer of the remains: This is for picking up the body and taking it to the funeral home. Estimated cost: $310.

Embalming and body preparation: Embalming is usually mandatory for open-casket viewing, otherwise it's not required unless the body is going to be transported across state lines. Estimated cost: $695. Other body preparations, which include hairdressing and cosmetics can cost $250.

Funeral viewing and ceremony: If the viewing and funeral ceremony is at the funeral home, you'll be charged for use of the chapel and any necessary staff. Estimated cost: $420 for viewing and $495 for funeral ceremony.

Metal casket: This is a big money maker for funeral homes, with markups of up to 300% over the wholesale price. Estimated cost: $2,395.

Funeral transportation: The use of hearse and driver to transport the body to the cemetery can cost $318. Use of a service car/van can cost $143.

Memorial printed package: This includes printed programs and memorial guest book. Estimated cost: $155.

In addition to these costs, there are a number of other related expenses such as flowers for the funeral (around $200 to $400), the newspaper obituary fee ($100 to $600 or more), the clergy honorarium ($200 to $300) and extra copies of the death certificate ($5 to $35 per copy depending on the state).

Also don't forget a number of large cemetery costs like the plot or mausoleum fee, the vault or grave liner that's required by most cemeteries and the opening and closing of the grave—all of these can average between $2,000 and $4,000. The gravestone can typically cost between $1,000 and $3,000.

All told, the average total cost of a funeral today can be $11,000 or more.

Ways to Save

If your aunt's estate can't afford this, there are ways to save. For starters, you should know that prices can vary significantly by funeral provider, so it's wise to shop around.

If you need some help finding an affordable provider, your area funeral consumers alliance program may be able to refer one to you. See Funerals.org/local-fca or call 802-865-8300 for contact information.

There are also free websites you can turn to, like Parting.com that lets you compare prices, and FuneralDecisions.com that will provide estimates from local funeral homes based on what you want.

When evaluating funeral providers, be sure you get an itemized price list of services and products so you can accurately compare and choose what you want.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living” book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization’s official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published October 14, 2016

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