Information and Resources
Note: No funds are available from us or any FCA affiliates to pay for funerals or memorials. We are simply sharing information here about some possible sources of financial aid. We can also provide advice about ways to keep costs low if arrangements have not yet been made. Josh Slocum, FCA executive director, has written an article, "What To Do When You Can't Afford a Funeral."
The Funeral Ethics Organization has compiled a chart (linked in Josh's article above) indicating which states offer modest amounts of money to pay for the funeral expenses of persons who die without adequate financial resources to pay such expenses. Massachusetts offers up to $1100 paid directly to the funeral home, for arrangements that cost up to $3500, if the deceased person was eligible for MassHealth. Under state law, payment of funeral and burial expenses for indigent persons is the responsibility of the Department of Transitional Assistance (DTA).
Social Security Death Benefits. There is a one-time $255 Social Security death benefit that may be available to the spouse or dependent children of the deceased. See Social Security brochure on Survivor Benefits.
Veteran Death Benefits. 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. See the FCA brochure Veterans' Funeral and Burial Benefits. If the veteran or the veteran's surviving spouse is incapacitated and needs special care, there is an Aid and Attendance Pension program.
The Estate of the Deceased. Look for checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, payable-on-death bank accounts, investments. Locate insurance policies. Seek receipts from a cemetery or funeral home in case the decedent has pre-purchased property or a funeral trust or insurance.
Churches and Ethnic Heritage Organizations. Those who were attached to a church, a heritage group, or a beneficial association may receive some financial relief from these sources. Some 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; they offer experienced advice and helping hands.
Unions, Fraternal or Membership Organizations. Check if there are death benefits or insurance policies from these sources.
Anatomical Gift Programs, also known as Willed Body Programs. (Note: the deceased must already have made arrangements for body donation in order for this to be an option). Medical schools may accept the body and cover all costs of disposal after use in research and/or teaching. In some cases there may be a fee to a funeral home for arranging transport of the body.
Victims of Crime. If the deceased died as a result of a criminal action, the family may be entitled to reimbursement of the funeral and some other expenses. Ask the medical examiner or your county’s District Attorney if you think you qualify. For example, see Berkshire District Attorney's webpage on Victim of Violent Crimes Compensation. Or see the Attorney General of the Commonwealth's webpage about Massachusetts Victims of Violent Crime Compensation and the Victim Compensation Application form. Librarians at MA Trial Court Law Libraries have posted information on Massachusetts Law About Victims and Witnesses of Crimes.