Question: My father is terminally ill and we can't afford funeral expenses. What are our options?
Answer: Worrying about funeral expenses can add extra worry and stress to an already difficult and challenging time. However, many families find it much easier to explore options before their loved one dies to reduce the stress once they pass away. You are smart to be exploring options now because it may also ease your father's mind to know you are not left with the financial burden. While it may take some legwork, there are several ways you may be able to get some assistance with funeral expenses.
Here are four possible solutions to affording funeral expenses:
If your dad or his wife is a veteran meeting certain criteria, he may be eligible for free burial in one of the 131 national cemeteries. While the program does not include funeral home or cremation costs, it would eliminate your expenses for a headstone and burial plot. You will need a copy of his or his spouse’s discharge papers to prove eligibility and the VA encourages families to begin the process before the veteran passes.
Research to see if your state or town has Burial Assistance.
Many areas, including Maryland and Washington, D.C. have programs providing reimbursement for some funeral costs for residents meeting certain criteria. Also, many towns also provide burial assistance for low-income residents. Typically the requirements are being below the poverty limit and/or receiving government assistance.
Talk with local funeral homes, cremation centers and local churches.
Some local funeral homes also help residents unable to pay for expenses. Contact funeral homes in your area and ask about assistance programs that your father may qualify for. Since cremation is often more affordable, speak with your father to consider this option instead of burial. Churches will often waive fees as well for low-income members.
Ask for donations.
After your father passes, consider setting up a fund for funeral expenses. In the obituary, state that you are asking for burial donations in lieu of flowers and include the fund information. You may not receive enough to cover the entire expenses, but every little bit helps.