What Happens When You Die Without Life Insurance?

Written by Kim Wilhelm

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Last Updated 01 Mar 2024

It goes without saying that most families and friends want to host a funeral or remembrance service when they lose a loved one, but funeral and burial expenses can quickly add up. 

None of us want to leave our loved ones with added financial burdens when we pass away, which may leave you wondering if there is a way to cover funeral costs when you don't have a life insurance policy in place.

What happens if I die without life insuranc

What Happens to Your Body If You Die Without Life Insurance?

If you die without life insurance or any available funds to cover your final expenses, the responsibility for handling your body and related costs will typically fall on your family or next of kin. 

Your family or next of kin will need to make arrangements for the disposition of your body.

They may be required to coordinate with a funeral home, crematorium, or cemetery to handle the necessary procedures, which can be costly if your death was not expected. 

In cases where there are no available funds, and your family is unable to cover the costs, the local government or municipality may provide assistance through what is often referred to as an indigent or pauper's burial program.

These programs are typically designed to ensure that individuals receive a basic, dignified burial or cremation at no or minimal cost. 

The burial may take place in a designated section of a cemetery reserved for indigent burials or in a communal grave.

In some cases, your remains may be cremated, and the ashes may be interred or scattered in a designated area.

If you are worried about the potential financial burden on your family in the event of your passing, it is best to look at options such as final expense insurance or pre-planning your funeral arrangements to ensure that your wishes are known and potential costs are covered.

The Impact On Family Members

The unfortunate reality is that your family members will face a significant financial burden when you pass away, including funeral and burial costs that can be upwards of $6,500 to $8,000 or more.

There are also additional impacts to consider.

The Financial Impact

One of the immediate costs that the family will have to bear is the funeral and burial expenses.

These costs can vary widely depending on factors such as the location, type of service, and personal preferences.

The cost of professional services, embalming, casket, funeral home facilities, transportation, permits, and other related expenses can quickly add up, even if you try to keep your funeral costs as low as possible.

There are also other factors to consider, including the cost of the funeral service, cemetery fees, headstone or grave marker costs, floral arrangements, obituary notices, and catering services...not to mention the costs of traveling to the funeral and accommodating family members and guests coming to pay their respects.

Without life insurance proceeds, the burden of these expenses falls entirely on the family.

The emotional and psychological impact

The financial strain resulting from the absence of life insurance, or a final expense plan, can amplify the emotional and psychological impact of the loss.

Dealing with grief and mourning the loss of a loved one is already challenging, and the added stress of financial burdens related to funeral expenses can further complicate the healing process for the family.

Your family may not want your body to be interned in a communal grave and might take on debt to avoid that possibility. 

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How to pay for a funeral without life insurance

There are charities and some forms of government assistance that families can apply for to cover funeral expenses.

Not all of these methods may be successful, and very specific conditions have to be met.

Let's look at the various options.

Note:  According to a Penn State University study, 99 percent of all term policies never pay out a claim. Contact us to insure your family receives your life insurance money. 

Churches and other religious organizations

Some churches will help members of the congregation cover funeral expenses using a benevolence fund.

The Catholic Charities USA may also provide financial assistance to Catholic families.

Government Assistance

The federal government provides a small lump sum payment of $255 to families that meet a specific set of criteria.

This payment is a drop in the bucket when you have to pay for a funeral, but it does offer a little relief.

Medicare & Medicaid

While Medicare and Medicaid don't offer funeral assistance, you can set aside $3,000 to cover funeral expenses for you and your spouse. 

You can use a medical savings account from a private insurance company and designate a beneficiary or ask an attorney to set up a tax-free funeral trust for you.

Social Security Administration

If your spouse or parent was receiving Social Security, they may be able to claim the one-time $255 death benefits.

You can call them at 800-772-1213 or visit your local office to apply.

Military & Veteran Assistance

Military veterans are provided with certain benefits to assist with funeral costs.

These benefits include a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker.

Spouses and dependent children of veterans are also entitled to a plot and marker in a national cemetery.

While several states have established veteran cemeteries, some commercial cemeteries offer discounts to veterans.

Although these cemeteries may offer a free plot for the veteran, they might charge high fees for opening and closing the grave.

Therefore, it is important to carefully evaluate all available options before selecting a commercial cemetery.

In the case of non-service-related deaths, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will provide burial expense assistance.

If the deceased was hospitalized by the VA at the time of death, the VA would pay up to $780.

In the absence of VA hospitalization, the VA offers $300 towards the expenses.

If the decision is made not to bury the loved one in a national cemetery, an additional plot-interment allowance of $780 could be received.

For service-related deaths, the VA provides a maximum of $2,000 towards burial expenses.

Certain requirements must be met to qualify for reimbursement, such as being the person who paid for the veteran's funeral, not receiving reimbursement from another government agency, the veteran having an honorable discharge, and the veteran receiving a VA pension or compensation, among other conditions.

To receive payment, documentation including proof of death, funeral expense receipts, and a statement from the funeral director or cemetery must be submitted.

Applications for benefits can be made online, through mail or local offices, or with the assistance of a representative.

Disaster Relief

In the event of a natural disaster, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers assistance with funeral costs for immediate family members if the expenses are uninsured.

This assistance is only available when the cause of death is attributed directly to a declared emergency or major disaster.

They will provide products and services, including a casket or urn, mortuary services, transportation, interment or cremation, and a marker or headstone.

State Support

Many states in the United States offer assistance programs to help families who cannot afford funeral expenses for their loved ones.

These programs vary in terms of eligibility criteria, benefit amounts, and application processes.

In most cases, assistance is provided at the local level, and applicants need to apply and be approved to receive benefits.

Some examples include:

  • Alabama: The state of Alabama does not provide assistance for funeral costs. However, counties may offer up to $400 in assistance based on the family's income. To apply for help, individuals can contact the Department of Human Resources in the county where their loved one lived.

  • Alaska: Assistance of up to $2,500 is available in Alaska, but only for tribal members who have no other resources. The General Relief Assistance (GRA) program's availability depends on the county or town of residency. To apply, individuals can contact the Department of Health and Social Services, Division of Public Assistance.

  • Arizona: The state of Arizona does not provide funds for funeral costs. However, counties in Arizona may offer up to $500 based on financial need. To apply for assistance, individuals can reach out to the local county government.

  • Arkansas: Arkansas does not offer state-level assistance for funeral costs. However, county judges in Arkansas can use a "Pauper's Fund" to help with expenses. To apply for assistance, individuals can contact their county office.

  • California: In California, the state may help with funeral expenses for victims of crime or natural disasters. Additionally, counties in California may offer modest assistance to cover basic funeral or cremation services for low-income residents. To apply, individuals can contact the California Department of Health office in their county of residence.

  • Colorado: In Colorado, funds for funeral assistance are available at the county level. Medicaid recipients can receive up to $1,500, and Social Security recipients can receive up to $1,000. To apply, individuals can contact the county Department of Human Services.

  • Connecticut: Connecticut provides assistance for funeral costs up to $1,000 for individuals covered under Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) and Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD). To apply, individuals must contact the Connecticut Department of Social Services.

  • Delaware: Indigent individuals in Delaware may receive between $400 and $1,500 for burial in a state pauper cemetery. To apply for benefits, individuals can reach out to the Delaware Division of Social Services.

  • Florida: The state of Florida requires the Department of Health and Human Services to provide burial assistance for poverty-stricken individuals. To apply for burial assistance, individuals must contact the county health department in the county where the deceased person was a resident.

  • Georgia: Georgia does not provide government assistance for funeral costs. However, at the county level, the Department of Human Services may offer eligible parties between $350 and $1,200 in funds. To apply, individuals can contact their local Division of Family and Children Services.

  • Hawaii: Hawaii's Funeral Payments Program offers up to $400 for funeral expenses and $400 for burial for eligible parties. To apply, individuals can contact the Department of Human Services Med-QUEST Division.

  • Idaho: The state of Idaho does not offer assistance for funeral costs. However, each county's Indigent Services Department may provide between $700 and $1,200. To apply, individuals should contact the Indigent Services office in their county before cremation or burial.

  • Illinois: In Illinois, individuals who qualify for specific programs, such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Aid to the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (AABD), and others, may receive between $550 and $1,100 to help with final expenses. To make a claim, individuals can reach out to the county Family Community Resource Center.

  • Indiana: Indiana provides up to $800 for cemetery expenses and $1,200 for funeral expenses for individuals in specific Medicaid categories. Only funeral homes or cemeteries can file on behalf of a deceased person within 90 days of death. Localities may also offer assistance. 

  • North Carolina: There is no statewide program in North Carolina to help with funeral costs, but some counties may offer assistance.

  • North Dakota: The North Dakota General Assistance Program provides between $300 and $3,000 to cover a basic burial or cremation. Contact the North Dakota Department of Human Services at the county level for more information.

  • Ohio: Ohio counties and townships offer help for residents with an income of less than 150% of the federal poverty guidelines. Apply at your local government office.

  • Oklahoma: Some benefits exist at the county level and for members of Native American Nations. Contact your county administrator or the Chickasaw Nation to apply.

  • Oregon: The Oregon Mortuary and Cemetery Board works with licensed funeral homes to bury indigent citizens. Native American Tribes may also offer help.

  • Pennsylvania: The state of Pennsylvania helps with up to $750 in benefits for people already receiving Social Security or cash benefits and nursing home residents who have received assistance since 1973. Apply at your local Department of Human Services office.

  • Rhode Island: Rhode Island will pay up to $900 through their General Assistance Program based on need. Apply within 30 days of death at your local Department of Human Services office.

  • South Carolina: There are no benefits at the state level. County benefits cover only the cost of a basic cremation. Contact the coroner in the county of residence to apply.

  • South Dakota: Law requires counties in South Dakota to provide burial aid to indigent citizens. Amounts vary. Inquire at your local Department of Social Services office.

  • Tennessee: Residents of Nashville and Davidson County are eligible for help through the Metro Social Services office. Some other counties also offer assistance. Contact your county administrator's office to inquire.

  • Texas: Limited assistance is available at the county level, primarily for veterans. Contact your county for details.

  • Utah: Some counties help with basic cremation at an approved cemetery. For benefit information, contact the county administrator where your loved one lived.

  • Vermont: Vermont's General Assistance Program pays up to $1,100 to a funeral provider. Contact the Vermont Department of Children and Families to apply.

  • Virginia: Virginia offers assistance to people enrolled in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Apply through the Virginia Department of Social Services office nearest you.

  • Washington: Washington counties offer help of at least $300, primarily for veterans. Contact either the County Community Services Office or local Veterans Affairs department to apply.

  • West Virginia: West Virginia's Indigent Burial Program will pay up to $1,250 for funeral expenses based on need. Contact the Department of Health and Human Resources for more information.

  • Wisconsin: The Wisconsin Funeral and Cemetery Aids Program (WFCAP) will reimburse up to $1,500 in funeral expenses for people enrolled in assistance programs or Medicaid. Contact the Department of Human Services to apply.

  • Wyoming: The Wyoming Department of Family Services (DFS) offers funeral payment assistance, usually of $500 or less. Veterans may receive more. Contact your local DFS office to apply.

Each state has its own guidelines and eligibility criteria.

It's important to contact the relevant state or local offices for detailed information on how to apply and what benefits are available.

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Why Is It Better to Have Life Insurance?

There are ways and means for your family members to cover your funeral costs when you don't have a life insurance policy in place.

But none of them are guaranteed, simple, or entirely free.

Having insurance in place that will cover your final expenses when you pass away can alleviate those burdens. And there are several other benefits:

Financial Protection for Loved Ones

Life insurance ensures that your loved ones are financially protected in the event of your death.

It provides a death benefit to your beneficiaries, which can help cover various expenses such as funeral costs, outstanding debts, mortgage payments, education expenses, and daily living expenses.

This financial support can help maintain their quality of life and provide stability during a difficult time.

Income Replacement

If you are the primary earner in your family, life insurance can replace lost income and provide financial support to your dependents.

It helps ensure that they can meet their ongoing financial obligations and maintain their standard of living even after you're gone.

Debt and Estate Settlement

Life insurance can be used to pay off any outstanding debts you may have, such as mortgages, personal loans, or credit card debt.

It can also assist in settling your estate, covering expenses like probate fees, estate taxes, or legal costs, and ensuring a smooth transfer of assets to your beneficiaries.

Peace of Mind

Knowing that your loved ones will be taken care of financially can provide peace of mind.

Life insurance allows you to have confidence that your family's financial needs will be met, even if something unexpected were to happen to you.

It offers a sense of security and can alleviate concerns about the financial future of your dependents.

Access to Cash Value

Some life insurance policies, such as whole life or universal life insurance, accumulate cash value over time.

This cash value can be accessed through policy loans or withdrawals and can serve as a source of funds for emergencies, education expenses, or supplement retirement income.

Tax Advantages

Life insurance policies may offer certain tax advantages.

The death benefit is generally received tax-free by the beneficiaries, and the cash value growth within the policy is tax-deferred.

Some policies may provide potential tax-free withdrawals or loans against the cash value.

Taking Care of Your Loved Ones in Life and Death

When you take out a life insurance policy for yourself or a loved one, you are really preparing to give them a final gift.

Start by determining the coverage amount you can afford, who the beneficiaries will be, and where any leftover funds should go after funeral expenses have been covered.

Next, consider different types of policies at your disposal based on your financial resources, age, and health.

There are different policies you can choose from:

  • Term Life Insurance is less expensive but expires after a set time and may be difficult to extend as you age.

  • Whole Life Insurance comes with higher payments but remains active until death, with rates unaffected by health changes.

  • Funeral Insurance specifically covers funeral and burial expenses, with smaller cash benefits and no health exam required.

It can be challenging to compare policies from different insurance companies, so seek advice from a seasoned and impartial insurance professional to ensure you make the best decision for your specific situation.

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Call Final Expense Direct For Peace of Mind

At Final Expense Direct, our focus is on providing affordable life insurance options that provide you with complete peace of mind. We've streamlined the process into four easy steps, ensuring that anyone can obtain life insurance:

  1. Contact us at 1-800-217-0014.

  2. Speak directly with a live agent who is ready to assist you without any automated menus to navigate.

  3. Answer a few questions to help us guide you toward the right plan.

  4. Receive approval over the phone.

That's all it takes! With just one phone call, you can have a life insurance policy in place to cover your funeral costs.

We highly recommend reading our guide on the best final expense insurance companies.

If you opt for a higher coverage amount, such as $25,000 or $50,000, your family can benefit from the remaining funds, providing some financial relief in your absence.

Why let your loved ones suffer over a few dollars in premiums when there's an alternative?

Whether you're in excellent health or have pre-existing conditions, we can find a life insurance policy that suits your budget.

With over 35 years of experience and partnerships with numerous top final expense life insurance companies, Final Expense Direct is well-equipped to assist you.

The best part? You'll never be required to undergo a medical exam, even if you have health concerns.

Simply answer a few questions, and we'll help you secure a life insurance policy.

Allow us to bring peace of mind to your family and friends.

Call us today at 1-800-217-0014 to begin the process.

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