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January 13, 2018 Beyond The Dash

Unexpected Funeral Costs

The most surprising expenses families face when a loved one has died

Unexpected Funeral Costs
Urns, photos, flowers and burial costs add to the total cost of a funeral. (Shutterstock)

Funerals are expensive. Respectfully and safely handling remains is costly, as is hosting any kind of formal gathering. However, there are many other unexpected expenses that can drastically increase the total cost of putting your loved one to rest. If you've never hosted a funeral before, some of these funeral costs might surprise you. 

On average, a traditional funeral package cost ranges from $7,500 to $10,000. There is no limit to how much a funeral can cost. Some celebrity and royal funerals have run into the millions. It is also possible to cut costs to below $7,000, if your family prefers a more basic service and cremation. 

Before you start arranging the funeral, there are few costs that you should expect to pay for a traditional service with full burial. The prices below are average costs. Keep in mind these are general, and could fall outside the range depending on where the funeral is being held, and the type of services required.

Funeral fees

  • Funeral home fees: $500–$3,000

  • Funeral ceremony: $200–$1,700+

  • Reception: $200–$2,000+

Traditional burial

  • Basic casket: $50–$500

  • Wood or metal casket: $400–$12,000

  • Embalming: $200–$1,200

  • Grave plot: $500–$10,000

  • Gravesite fees (opening, closing and set-up): $450–$1,200

  • Transportation: $500–$1,200

  • Visitation ceremony: $200–$1,200


  • With a funeral home: $2,000–$4,000

  • With a crematorium: $1,100

  • Low-cost: $500–$1,000

What are the most surprising additional charges? 

Unless you are familiar with the death care industry, you might not know that death incurs costs well beyond just the funeral service. 

  • Burial clothes: $100–$500

  • Burial shroud: $200–$1,100

  • Clergy or celebrant: $50–$400

  • Death certificates: $10–$20 per copy

  • Embalming: $200–$1,200

  • Flowers: $100–$650

  • Musician services:$100–$200

  • Obituary: $0–$1000

  • Printed funeral programs: $40–$200

  • Register book: $20–$50

  • Urn: $80–$2,000

What is a 'estate tax'

An estate tax (also known as the 'death tax' by opponents) is charged when assets transfer from the estate of a deceased person to beneficiaries as stated in their will. This tax generally doesn't apply when assets are transferred to the spouse of the deceased person, or to a registered charity.

There is good news: most residents of the United States will never have to pay the estate tax. The threshold for paying this tax varies by year, but it only affects the wealthiest Americans. In 2016, the threshold for estate tax was $5 million. Unless the deceased was a millionaire, you don't have to worry about a tax being charged on the estate. 

How to avoid paying too much for a funeral

Some expenses are non-negotiable. Copies of death certificates, and mortician's services will be necessary expenses. 

However, knowing how much a funeral typically costs can guide you when making decisions about funeral arrangements. You have control over the price to some extent. Choosing cremation over burial, a home reception over a catered reception in a rented venue, and opting for less lavish details will help cut costs. 

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