Pre-Plan, Don't Prepay
As with everything in life, there are pro’s and con’s, but in general, we recommend pre-planning but not prepaying. There are often costs that cannot be foreseen and therefore may not be covered in a prepaid plan. In addition, survivors of those who have prepaid often misunderstand the contracts, are unaware of them, or find themselves surprised that there are additional fees to be paid.
On the positive side, prepaying spares your survivors the burden of arranging payment. It also keeps you in control of the costs and ensures that your wishes can and will be carried out. If you decide to take this route, there are a number of ways to pre-pay for a funeral via a life or funeral insurance, a death savings account, or a trust.
Bay Area Funeral Consumers Association Provides Advice, Not Funding
BA-FCA cannot provide direct financial assistance for funerals or end-of-life care, but we can direct you to some sources of financial help, listed below.
The Estate of the Deceased
Look for checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, payable-on-death bank accounts, investments, insurance policies should be located. Seek receipts from a cemetery or funeral home in case the decedent has pre-purchased property or a funeral trust or insurance.
Veteran Death Benefits
Churches & Ethnic Heritage Organizations
An amount not to exceed $200 in burial and funeral expenses is available to survivors of veterans who are receiving a pension or compensation for military service or who died in a veteran’s hospital. Burial is provided for most veterans in a national cemetery, if space is available. In addition, $150 is available for cemetery costs in other than a state or national cemetery. An amount not to exceed $15,000 is reimbursed for a service-connected death. An American flag is given for most veterans. Benefits can be applied for any time within two years after the death. To apply call (800) 827-2013. The national Funeral Consumers Alliance offers an extensive, pre-recorded seminar on Veterans Burial Benefits that can be purchased for $10.00.
Those who were attached to a church, a heritage group, or a beneficial association may receive some financial relief from these sources. Religious cemeteries will furnish plots to poor parishioners with the recommendation of parish priests or rabbis. Some forbid erecting a marker unless the plot is paid for, however. Many churches have pastors or funeral committees who will aid families through this stressful time, offering experienced advice and helping hands
Willed Body Programs
See our brochure about Body and Organ Donation. Usually death certificates are the only thing you pay for when a body is donated to science. Although a person must generally pre-arrange his/her own body donation before death, in some cases the donation can be arranged after the death, if the family are in agreement and if the body has been kept cool or refrigerated while the donation arrangements are being made.
Victims of Crime
Check for assistance through the District Attorney’s office of your county. If the deceased died as a result of criminal action, the family may be entitled to reimbursement of the funeral and some other expenses from the state of California. Ask the coroner or your county’s District Attorney if you think you qualify.
The State of California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board is the payer of last resort. You can learn more and apply at CalVCB.
Unions, Fraternal or Membership Organizations
Check if there are death benefits or insurance policies from these sources.
Indigent Burial in California
The law designates each county’s Public Administrator as the place of last resort for body disposition. Usually the Coroner or the Sheriff’s Department can give instructions. Each county will have its own procedure. California State law requires blood relatives of the deceased to provide for the disposition of the remains (Health and Safety Code sections 7100 and 7103). Failure to act in a timely manner is a criminal misdemeanor violation and result in the next of kin being required to pay up to three times the cost of the disposition.
The general order of priority for the duty of disposition of remains and the liability for reasonable costs is:
- Agent under durable power of attorney
- Adult children
- Adult siblings
- Public Administrator
If the deceased and next of kin are both unable to pay for the disposition, the county will bury or cremate per its procedure. Usually they will verify via paychecks, income taxes, or a credit check. No service or viewing is allowed, and remains will not be returned to the family. If buried, the burial site will be marked with a reference number only. Veterans are usually interred in a military cemetery plot.