Etiquette on Who Pays for a Funeral

People at burial plot in cemetery

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Losing a family member is an emotional and difficult time. Adding the pressure of financial responsibilities can add stress to an already challenging situation. Funeral directors don’t work for free, and embalming, cremation and caskets are expensive. Having a game plan for the inevitable can help alleviate making hard decisions about who is financially responsible for your loved one’s funeral when the time comes.

Pre-Paid Funeral Plan

The etiquette regarding who will pay for a funeral is simplified when the deceased had a pre-paid funeral plan, and paid for his funeral in advance. Generally, a pre-paid plan will cover all of the necessary expenses of a funeral, both for the funeral home services and the burial itself. Others who do not have a pre-paid plan purchase cemetery plots and possess enough life insurance to cover the costs of a funeral. Family members simply need to carry out their loved one’s wishes for a funeral service.

The Estate

Without a pre-existing funeral plan, the funeral expenses must be paid out of the estate of the deceased. Apart from a mortgage, the funeral bill ranks as the most important bill for estate distribution. The bank or other financial institution handling the departed’s account, will generally release funds to cover the bill. If there is not any money in the estate, it is the family’s responsibility to request assistance from local social services agencies.

The Family

In most circumstances, the expectation is that family members will come together to pay for a funeral. They may take out a loan until reimbursement is available, chip in money for a deposit to the funeral home or divide the total bill among the participating family members.


Ultimately, the person who arranges the funeral is responsible for paying the final bill. This is usually a spouse or next-of-kin, and is an etiquette issue as well as a legal obligation in most states. Talk with the funeral director about your financial limitations, if any, when making funeral decisions.