Financial Assistance for Funerals:
Information and Resources
BA-FCA cannot provide direct financial assistance for funerals or death care, but we can help you find the best prices in the Bay Area for simple funeral arrangements, and we can direct you to some sources of financial help, listed below.
Social Security Death Benefits.
There is a one-time $255 Social Security death benefit available to the spouse or dependent children of the deceased. Social Security also provides 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, 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.
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. 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.
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.
Free Cremation Urns:
Memorial Gallery in Seattle is a husband-and-wife company that sells urns and cremation/remembrance jewelry. They’ve worked with Peoples Memorial Association, our oldest and largest supporting member organization, for years. They’ve offered to send free, slightly blemished urns to families without the money to buy a decorative urn if they find Memorial Gallery through Funeral Consumers Alliance or are an FCA member. Details on the bottom of the page on this link: http://www.funerals.org/frequently-asked-questions/2620-cantafford
Sudden Infant Death Assistance
SIDS Alliance of Northern California
1547 Palos Verdes Mall, #301, Walnut Creek, CA 94597
Toll Free (California): 877.938.7437
The SIDS Alliance of Northern California has a burial expense assistance program available for Northern California families who have had an infant die from Sudden Infant Death. For more information, please contact email@example.com.
Willed Body Programs.
See our information 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.
BA-FCA’s cooperating mortuaries offer discounts to members to help lower costs.
Victims of Crime
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. See San Mateo County DA and click on Victim Services, or Santa Clara County DA. The State of California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board states: “The Board, under most circumstances, may pay up to $7,500 for the funeral, burial or memorial service of a deceased victim after other available sources of payment, if any, have been applied.” A general outline is provided of what they can and cannot pay for on their website: http://www.boc.ca.gov/providers/funeral.aspx