Skip to main content
Plan Well, Retire Well

Paying for a funeral – the options, costs and decisions you need to make.

Most people don't know this but I had to help plan, put together, and pay for both of my parent's funerals. I write this post to help you get ideas about what you'd like for your funeral/burial and to get you moving to get things planned for yourself.

Now in the past we've covered some great estate planning topics such as Powers of Attorney, Wills and Named Beneficiaries, as well as Guardianship, so if you're looking for those resources, please click the links.

Let's talk about the options of funerals today.

  • Traditional Burial with casket and vault -- According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median traditional funeral cost is $7,181 in 2017; this includes a viewing and burial, embalming, hearse, transfer of remains, service fee and more. Most financial educators would suggest that you round this number up to $10,000 (or even slightly more) depending on where you live. This traditional burial does not include the cost of floral arrangements, cost of the burial plot (and other fees), or possible luncheon. The National Funeral Director's Association projects that by 2030, traditional burials will only represent 23.2 percent of total burials.
  • Traditional Cremation ­– According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cremation funeral with a viewing is $6,260, including the casket and urn for the remains. Most individuals who are cremated forgo a service. If you're wanting a cremation without a service, I've seen the cost be as low as $1,000 up to $3,000, depending on where you live. If you're unsure of what cremation is, or would like to Theknow more about it, Stuff You Should Know recently did an excellent podcast on the topic.
  • Water Cremation – Illinois is one of the few states that allows water cremation to be prepared for human remains; it sometimes is also called alkaline hydrolysis. Instead of being put inside of a kiln, the body is heated through a mixture of water and lye. The cost of water cremation isn't clear, as many states do not have it available but a good bet would be to be around the same cost of a cremation without a viewing, between $1,000 - $3,000.
  • Green Burial ­– Another option available is a green burial this also is known as natural burial. This one is the most eco-friendly and considered cheaper than traditional burials. One big note here: you must find a cemetery that allows for natural burial. Currently there are very few options in Illinois for natural burials. The remains are buried either in a cotton shroud or willow casket, then buried directly into the ground. This allows the remains to decompose naturally. The cost can range from as little as $500 to upwards of $10,000 or more depending on the land you bury the remains.

Whatever you decide as your burial plan, please let your loved ones know what your wishes are. Write them down and make them clear. Estate planning is difficult, but leaving your family without your desires known can leave them in emotional and financial distress. Plan in advance and take that burden off your loved ones.