With funeral costs on the rise, what happens if you can’t pay?


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WOWK)- No one likes to think about their death but it’s inevitable and if you don’t plan your family could be looking at a big bill.

Funeral costs have been on the rise for decades and it’s forcing people across the nation to plan ahead for the big purchase.

“Wanting something and having the ability to pay for it sometimes don’t go hand and hand,” said Rob Kimes, Executive Director of the WV Funeral Directors Association.

The National Funeral Directors Association has compiled the median cost of a funeral (not including flowers or cemetery cost) and in just the past few years, the cost has continued to rise as they show in the graph below:

Princeton Funeral Director Chris Ellis says the rising cost comes from suppliers but also the cost of keeping the business running.

“There’s also a lot of behind the scenes that many people don’t see as our operating and overhead cost has dramatically increased over the years, even down to our utilities,” said Ellis, Roselawn Funeral Home and Cemetery.

Ellis recommends that people take advantage of advance planning to keep stress off of families.

“We hear so many people say I have life insurance, I have life insurance.
That’s great but the advance planning is designed specifically to pay
for funerals. Life insurance is meant to sustain your family after your death,” said Ellis.

For some people planning ahead simply is not an option but West Virginia does have options for those people. The Indigent Burial Program allows families to apply for help in burying their loved ones if they don’t have the means.

However, a couple of years ago the WVFDA found people were taking advantage of the program. Funeral homes from out of state were using loopholes to get money from the state but it also took a hit from the opioid epidemic. This caused the fund to run out halfway through the year, leaving funeral homes having to cover the cost and try to get the state to pay later.

“A lot of people were overdosing on the drugs and those individuals definitely aren’t planning on a funeral,” said Kimes.

An example of yet another by-product of the opioid crisis. We’ve heard of the problems of the lack of rehabilitation services, the impacts of opioids on premature births – first responders trying to cope with responses to one overdose after another and even grandparents raising the children of their children who are currently in jail or rehab due to addiction and the repercussions of that addiction.

“Their parents may have gone broke trying to save their child so if something happens to them they have no money,” said Kimes.

However, with overdose deaths declining and big changes made by the program by the legislature, it is now thriving and has lasted the entire fiscal year.

“When somebody passes the state will pay 1,000 dollars but they go through a more stringent vetting process now,” said Kimes.

Kimes credits funeral directors like Ellis for the program’s success because they do these burials and memorials as a public service to their community.

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