Written by attorney Tracy Alan Pounders

One Lawyer's Notes on the Cost of Dying: How Much Does a Funeral Cost?

When reviewing your estate plan you may also want to consider pre-planned final arrangements for yourself and your loved ones when life ends. For most of my clients this usually involves a funeral or memorial service with burial or cremation. Making your personal preferences known to your family and loved ones is important, and lessens the burdens of decision–making during the difficult time immediately following the death. Likewise, it is also important to lessen their financial burdens by providing for the costs associated with your wishes. Thoughtful advanced planning can also be invaluable information for a hospital should you need critical or terminal care.

According to the cost of a funeral followed by a burial will cost around $7,000; if followed by a cremation, $5,000; and immediate cremation prior to a funeral, around $1,000. The associated costs of a funeral followed by burial are broken down, item by item, by the National Funeral Directors Association (“NFDA") at I’ve received comments that these costs may be lower than the costs you should expect to have in the Dallas/Ft Worth metropolitan area market, but they do represent the types of expenses you should expect and their part in the total cost.

2009 Funeral Costs

Cost of regular adult funeral including following basic items. Does not include cemetery, monument/marker costs or miscellaneous cash advance charges such as for flowers or obituaries.


*Non-declinable basic services fee $1,817

Removal/transfer of remains to funeral home $250

Embalming $628

Other preparation of the body $200

Use of facilities/staff for viewing $395

Use of facilities/staff for funeral ceremony $450

Use of a hearse $275

Use of a service car/van $125

Basic memorial printed package $125

Subtotal without Casket:$4,265

Metal Casket $2,295

AVERAGE COST OF A FUNERAL$6,560 Vault$1,195 Total Cost of a Funeral with Vault$7,755

According to the NFDA the costs of a funeral followed by a burial has increased significantly over the years:

Cost of an Adult Funeral: 1960 – Present

Year Cost of an Adult Funeral

1960 $708

1965 $790

1971 $983

1975 $1285

1980 $1809

1985 $2737

1991 $3742

1995 $4626

2000 $5180

2006 $6195

2009 $6,560

Source: 2010 NFDA General Price List Survey.

Some of my clients consider cremation to be a more practical, cost effective option to a traditional burial. In 2010, approximately 39% of all death services were by cremation, and just under 60% of death services are expected to be by cremation by 2025. [see] If you are considering cremation, or have questions about it, a very good FAQ about Texas cremations is at

Some of my clients have also decided to provide for anatomical gifts for medical research at the time of death. If you are considering this there are several options. Your local medical examiner can provide you with information on this, as well as locally endorsed medical, chiropractic or dental research colleges that you may be familiar with. They may require you to complete paperwork in advance, although there are exceptions in certain cases of hardship or need. Another option is the Life Legacy Foundation ( Their website provides a great deal of information about their programs and benefits. If you pre-register with Life Legacy, or your family consents at the time of your death, the Life Legacy Foundation will, within 24 hours of death, at no cost to your estate or family, provide the following benefits:

  • Transportation of the donor from anywhere in the continental U.S.
  • Filing of a legally required death certificate.
  • Family assistance through the aftercare process.
  • A summary packet for the family, outlining the benefits of their loved one’s gift.
  • Return of cremated remains to the family within 4-6 weeks of donation. [You may also elect for the cremated remains to not be returned to the family, if that is your wish]
  • Treat all donors and donor families with the utmost care, dignity, and respect.

Another cremation option is burial at sea. The Neptune Society is one of several pre-paid services that perform both the cremation and the scattering of cremains at sea. See And anoter service will scatter your cremains into outer space and even the Moon (starting 2012/13) – see

These are just a few considerations to ponder, and I am not endorsing Life Legacy, the Neptune Society, Celestis or any other organization listed in this post. I am providing this information to you for discussion and educational purposes. But I would be pleased to discusss these options and others with you in more detail during your estate planning.

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