Can a Funeral Home Hold Remains Until You Can Pay?
You just lost a loved one unexpectedly. You make the funeral arrangements, but have no money to pay for it. Can the funeral home hold the remains for non-payment? I found some answers that will hopefully help.
I saw this recently on social media and it broke my heart. Someone recently lost a family member, but they didn't have funds to pay for a funeral. Even the lowest package offered was not affordable for them. They reached out to see what could be done. Since I'd never heard of this happening, I was intrigued to find out what can be done in this situation. Losing a loved one is hard enough, and now you can't give them a proper send-off. It would be so heartbreaking.
First, be sure to check that there isn't any life or burial insurance available. Check to see if your state has a Burial Assistance Program. Also, check for workplace survivor benefits, social services funds, any victims’ assistance that may be possible in your state, or veterans’ benefits available, when applicable. Most funeral directors will help you through that process. If none of those services are available to you, fundraising would be the next best option. Many who care about you and your family may be willing to pitch in to help, so don't carry the burden alone.
Funerals.org doesn't recommend taking out a loan, "We believe that no one should go into debt to bury or cremate a loved one, and strongly advise against taking out a loan. Borrowing money to pay for funeral costs should be a last resort only after all other avenues have been exhausted."
What if you still can't pay after exhausting all options? Most funeral homes require payment up front before performing any services, but some will offer you a pre-payment plan. You can always donate the body to science, the institution will pay for the cremation and return the ashes back to the family. You could also have the body cremated immediately after death which will sufficiently lower the cost. No funeral, or burial, but the ashes will go to the family. This would be the more affordable option.
According to FuneralCompanion.com, "If you can’t afford the funeral or for some reason don’t want to take ownership of the body for cremation or burial, you can sign a release form. You would sign this form most likely with your county coroner’s office. It basically states that you can’t afford or are relinquishing of the deceased to local authorities. Remember after you sign this your decision is final, the county and/or state will come up with the funds to either bury or cremate the body. You may have the option to claim the ashes for free or pay a small fee.
In some instances, people will have committed to having a funeral for the deceased. They may have given a down payment or not, they know now for whatever reason that they can’t afford or don’t want to hold the funeral. The funeral home does not have many options here and if you refuse to pay for the service they cannot do anything but let it go or take you to court.
If the body has been cremated a funeral home cannot withhold the cremated remains for collateral against the money that you owe. They have to release them to you. If you cannot pay or refuse to pay, you should still be given these remains. It is against the law if they do not and you have the right to contact local authorities.
Even if you have not paid a funeral home but want to switch to another funeral home, they cannot refuse to transport the body. They legally must release the body and or move it themselves to the location of your choosing, you will be charged for all of this and if you refuse to pay as stated about could result in court issues later."
I hope this information helps, but I pray that none of you will have to go through it.