The financial burden of burying a loved one

By Kelly McCarthy

April 23, 2014 Updated Apr 24, 2014 at 11:25 AM EDT

Hallstead, Pa. (WBNG Binghamton) Paying for a funeral is among the biggest expenses for people and their families. Over the past decade, the average cost of a funeral has gone up more than 35 percent nationwide.

When 28-year-old Tanya Williams died last August unexpectedly, her family didn't know what to do. Williams was a divorced mother of two and had no life insurance.

"Really, you're never prepared for something like this," said her mother, Melody Williams, "It was just a total shock."

The Williams found out the average cost of a funeral is thousands of dollars more than what they had in savings.

The National Funeral Directors Association reports the average cost of a funeral has gone up 35 percent in the past decade.

In 2012, the average cost was $7,000.

"In the Greater Binghamton area I would say around $9,000 is an average cost," said owner Bill Scheider of Chopyak-Scheider Funeral Home, Inc.

Even choosing the low-cost options left the Williams family in debt.

"Total cost, between the funeral home and paying my girlfriend back is $7,600," Williams said.

And nine months later, the cost is still a financial burden for the family.

"At the funeral home itself we owe $1,772.10."

Many funeral homes offer monthly payment options for families who can't take out loans or have bad credit.

"I know a lot of the cemeteries you have to pay up front," Scheider said, "And that has to be paid for by the day of the funeral. Some funeral homes also have that requirement. Some have 30 days, some have 60 days, or some just don't have any requirements and as for a payment so much a month."

The Federal Trade Commission oversees what it calls The Funeral Rule, which means a family planning a funeral must receive a full list services and prices from each funeral home the family is interested in using.

"So the FTC says no, you're going to provide families with a price list and a menu of everything you do," Scheider said.

The law helps families understand the cost, but Williams said the only way to avoid the debt is to plan ahead.

"I know a lot of people don't like to talk about it, but it's something that you really, really need to do," Williams said, "We went and put insurance on all of our grand children and my three adult kids also."

Williams can soon forget the financial stress, and be at peace with her loved ones. Williams said community fundraisers and donations have been helping the family make their monthly payments.

Their next fundraiser is a basket raffle at the Great Bend American Legion. The bazaar is this Saturday, April 26, from 8:00 a.m - 2 p.m.

"From this last fundraiser that we're doing I don't know where we'll go from there," Williams said, "I'm hoping it's going to cover most of it at the funeral home."

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