The Untold Cost Of Uninsured Death
A Cold Look Into The Cost Of Dying Now and Why Having Burial Insurance Will Help

            Death is something that all of us have to think about seriously.  Planning for your death is necessary because of the simple reason that all of us are going to die eventually.  In this article, we will be giving you an idea of how much it costs to die in the U.S. right now.  This article aims to give readers a clearer view of the impact of death related to how much it costs.  I am not used to writing painful articles but it is prudent to stare this issue in the face. Because in the end, it is better to plan for it to protect ourselves and our loved ones if death comes unexpectedly.

              If numbers are the only judge, the average cost of burial in the U.S. is around $10,000 today.  In fact, the cost of burial has been growing faster than the Overall Consumer Price Index from the last 30 years.  If it is going to be a difficult and costly matter to spend on burial today, it will be more difficult and costly in the future.  Funeral prices, like everything else, will increase with inflation after all.

              However, the cost of dying does not just involve burial.  Medical bills need to be settled after death.  Insurance usually covers most or all of the medical cost of the deceased.  But in the case of the uninsured, these medical bills have to be paid somehow. COVID-19 medical cost for instance ranges between $51,000 and $78,000.  If critical care is involved like in most of the cases that led to death then the cost is on the higher side.  The cost of settling medical bills due to accidental death is lower.  This is because usually a third party can be sought to settle most of these.  The average cost of medical treatment due to a car accident, for instance, is around $21,000. 

The Cost of Settling Medical Bills After Death:

              If you die in a hospital or after a long illness there is a good chance you will leave unpaid medical expenses that you will need to settle.  For the uninsured, the family will have to find a way to settle these medical debts.  The responsibility of your family to repay medical debt depends on state laws and how much your estate can cover the debt. 

              An estate is another way of calling the assets that you leave once you die.  Under the best of circumstances, which is not always the case, you will have some cash leftover.  If it is enough to pay for your medical debts then that will settle the issue.  Especially if you left a will and named an executor, then that person can use the money from your estate to pay your outstanding debts.  However, in the case of an unexpected death, if you didn’t have a will, then a judge will select an administrator to carry out the judge’s decision on how to manage your estate.  This means that the administrator will take charge of chopping down your estate and distributing that to pay your outstanding debts.

              What will be left for the heirs?  All debts must be paid before the heirs receive any money from your estate.  The estate is called “solvent” if the liquidized sum of your estate is more than the amount of the outstanding debts you need to pay.  However, there are cases when your estate is “insolvent”, meaning, the sum of your expenses is not enough to pay for your outstanding debt.  In this case, it becomes more complicated.

              If your estate is insolvent usually the creditors write your medical debts off.  However, there are cases where your heirs will need to settle your medical debts.  One of them if you have left consigned medical bills.  These are terms you agreed on with the hospital to promise to take responsibility for any bills your insurance doesn’t pay when you sought treatment.  If someone else signed for you then they will be responsible to settle your medical bills.  Filial responsibility laws in some states hold adult children responsible for financially supporting their parents if the parents can’t afford to support themselves.  In the case of community property states, surviving spouses will have to carry the outstanding debts of the deceased (regardless if they incurred the debts themselves). 

The Cost of Burial:

             The figure of $10,000 is just for the cost of burial itself.  This price range includes services at the funeral home, casket price, burial in a cemetery, installation of a headstone.  This may not include other “optional” funeral arrangements such as in instances when the funeral wake has to be extended for some unforeseen reason.  The option to cremate is more affordable because the casket will just need to be rented instead of bought all together.   Moreover, the price of the gravesite need not be considered as storage of the urn where the ashes are to be placed will be substantially lower. 

What we will be presenting below are just the “cold” numbers that make up for the $10,000 price tag.  But the cost overruns during the process from taking the deceased from the hospital to the burial itself could run up to double if costs were not reviewed thoroughly.  Emotions will stand in the way of making prudent and sound decisions.     

              Funeral or burial costs vary considerably between funeral homes and geographic areas of the country.  For instance, it is much more expensive to finance a funeral in major cities than in rural areas of the country primarily because of the cost of the gravesite.  The breakdown of the funeral expenses are as follows:

a.        Fee for the funeral director’s services: $1,500.  This can range considerably because of the nature of death itself.  Requests made at the behest of the heirs can drive this price even higher.

b.       Cost for a casket: $2,300.  This is the average ballpark price for a casket made of middle gauge steel or a pinewood box.  Oversized versions and lower gauge (meaning thicker) steel will cost more up to double this price.

c.       Embalming:  $500.  This cost is more or less fixed.  Embalming cost does not vary much unless the body is in an advanced state of disfigurement.

d.       Cost for using the funeral home for the actual funeral service:  $500.  This cost is standard for 72 hours of use.  Price incurred after 72 hours varies and it is not usually $200 per excess day of use in some cities.

e.       Cost of a gravesite: $1,000. This is the minimum price for suburban areas around major cities in the U.S.A for privately owned cemeteries. A burial plot in a public cemetery averages $200 to $900 (often including the one-time perpetual care endowment fee) for cemetery district residents. On the other hand, this price can double for non-residents. All these figures can triple if the land is at a premium or if the plot is located near the desired location.

f.        Cost to dig the grave: $600.  This price is more or less fixed.  But it can go lower if you already have a burial vault or a burial niche available (above ground burial space).

g.       Cost of a grave liner or outer burial container: $1,000. Sometimes called a vault, this is required by most cemeteries. Its purpose is to delay the deterioration of the casket for a longer time and avoid an uneven level of the ground over it should the casket deteriorate. The cheapest ones are basic concrete vaults that are sealed at one end (where the casket is placed in). More expensive ones using tougher materials (with a guarantee of usually a hundred years) costs double.

h.       Cost of a headstone: $1,500.  The price varies from a little less than $1,000 for a basic concrete headstone to as much as more than $3,000 for a granite headstone.  You will need to consider investing in this because this marker is meant to last as long as possible as this is the only appendage of your gravesite that is exposed to the elements all the time.

i.         Obituaries: (price varies):  The previous items are the usual inclusions in the $10,000 average for burial expenses.  If you opt to announce someone’s death some amount will have to be set aside for publishing the event through an obituary. 



The “cold” numbers for the cost of death in the U.S. today will add up to $10,000 (the cost of burial) plus the cost of unsettled medical bills and others associated with the process of settling these.  Prudent decisions are rarely made by people caught in unexpected situations as serious as a death of a loved one.  Costs associated with burial can amount to double if it is not planned.  This can be compounded by the fact that many people with an annual household income below $30,000 living in major cities can't afford the $10,000 price tag.   These numbers hit hard only at the point when the unexpected event arrives.  It hits harder if the family of the deceased are not protected in any way due to lack of insurance coverage.

The best-suggested way to mitigate the problems associated with a death in the family is to plan for it.  Owning burial insurance has overwhelming advantages that can mitigate the resulting burden that comes with an unexpected death.  First, getting a burial insurance policy is easy.  Moreover, anybody can be covered and qualification is relatively easy compared to other types of insurance policies.  Second, the price for burial insurance is comparatively affordable. Third, the terms are usually flexible giving you the option of the services you want to avail yourself with.  This can save money for your loved ones in the event of your death which could be enough to help settle some of your medical debts.  Fourth, the process of claiming in the case of burial insurance is much faster than for other types of insurance.  Fifth is that most of the processes leading to burial are taken care of.  This spares the family of the deceased the misery of having to take care of this themselves.

The best advantage that burial insurance can bring to the insured is peace of mind knowing that those that will be left behind will have less burden when the time comes.  Weighing the costs between having burial insurance and not having one will favor getting a burial insurance policy because of the tremendous value this peace of mind can provide.