What It Will Cost Me to Die

I’ve been so focused on getting through the day, picking up my prescriptions, keeping up my spirits, and saving money to pay the IRS that it dawned on me recently there was one thing I overlooked: the cost of my death.

Not my final illness and the medical bills it will likely generate, my actual death. Gone are the days when the dead were traditionally prepared for a funeral by loved ones and buried in the family plot on the edge of the back forty. Want a green burial? Just try tumbling that deceased relative in your backyard compost barrel and see what happens when a nosy neighbor discovers it. Best to hit the internet and research what the law will allow first. It varies from state to state.

State laws around death

Sources claim that in the state of Michigan where I live there are no laws that prohibit home burial, but you must check local zoning laws before establishing a home cemetery or burying on private land. It is legally required to hire a funeral director to handle certain parts of the funeral, too. The funeral home industry will get their hands on us one way or another.

It’s not as if I just recently had my face pushed into these facts. I lost my father in 2008 and my mother in 2014, and neither of them had made final arrangements. They were both poor and had no savings. It was a mad scramble, but my siblings and I pulled it together. My father was a Korean War vet so that fact helped. My mother’s arrangements cost more and we all dug deeper into our pockets to cover it. They both had the least expensive, simplest burials. Cremation, no funeral, and burial in a military cemetery for dad and a local cemetery for mom. After that, a tiny voice in my head chimed an oath to pre-arrange and pay the expense of my own death and not lay the burden on my surviving siblings.

An itemization of funeral costs

I called the funeral home that handled my parents and asked for a quote. I knew exactly what I wanted: cremation and burial next to my mother’s ashes. How expensive could it be? Here’s an itemization:

Purchase of death certificate: $22 for the first certificate and $6 for each additional one.

Death notice: $250 per paper.

Merchandise and services performed: $1,750. This includes:

  • Body pickup and refrigeration
  • Container body is in during cremation: $125
  • Cremation: $235
  • Container for cremains (optional)
  • Tax: $7.50
  • Miscellaneous
  • Coroner’s fee for filling out death certificate: $75
  • Fee for opening/closing grave: $250

Total: $2,584

This figure seems reasonable compared to the much higher price tag that comes with a casket, vault, and funeral. But because I’m poor, I’d have to buy a plan on time. The funeral home had a ten-year plan at $42 per month. But wait—that means I’d pay nearly $5,000 for a $2,584 plan! If I took out a 36-month personal loan, my interest rate would be closer to 8.5%, putting the interest charges close to $200, a much less expensive alternative. But right now I can’t take on that personal loan. I’ll have to wait.

I see it as a necessary expense

Although I’m delaying that expense for now, I won’t let it slip through the cracks. I see it as a necessary expense like a car loan. Gotta drive and pay for my own transportation, gotta die and pay for my own disposal. I’m determined not to further burden my loved ones.

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