Sadly, it's not uncommon for people to die without a "safety net" to offset their final expenses. Since funerals can cost anywhere from $3,000 to $20,000, this is not a trifling matter. Unfortunately, many people don't prepare to die suddenly or can't afford to make arrangements for such an eventuality. With the cost of life insurance rising at nearly double the rate of inflation, this problem may get worse with the passage of time.
If you know someone who's near death and can't afford to cover the cost of his or her final expenses, you may be able to assist him or her in a few different ways. Although it seems insensitive, it might make sense to compile a list of "affordable" post-death options. For instance, cremation is typically more affordable than a full burial. Likewise, conduct some research on the funeral homes in your area to get a sense of the potential cost of your loved one's memorial service. These two steps might save several thousand dollars.
Next, contact the funeral homes that you've selected to determine whether their pricing schemes are negotiable. In many cases, you'll be able to work out a payment plan that can spread the cost of your loved one's funeral over a period of five to 10 years. If the funeral directors in your area seem reticent to do this, you may wish to contact the church at which you're planning on holding the funeral. In many cases, this institution will be able to pay off the funeral director and shoulder most of the additional expenses. In return, it may expect some type of bequest or ongoing gift.
Alternatively, certain charities in your area may be able to help shoulder the costs associated with your loved one's burial. Most religious charities offer such support for members of specific denominations. Interdenominational charities like the Salvation Army might be able to provide some support as well. It's entirely possible that you'll have to contact an array of charities and secure funding from multiple sources.
While the nonprofit sector provides the most realistic option for covering the funeral costs of someone who dies without life insurance, savings or financially-comfortable family members, the government might be able to help as well. If you can't secure funding for your loved one's funeral by other means, contact the Social Security Administration. If your loved one drew Social Security benefits before his or her death, this agency might be willing to provide some limited financial assistance.