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Struggling to Pay for Burial Costs After Death

There is no getting around the fact that certain costs will be incurred near the end of life. Even if you are in great health, live at home until the very end, and require no extra caregiving of any kind, your passing will come with certain financial challenges for your family. Most obviously, there are burial and funeral details to be paid for. Yet, more frequently than many realize, local families are forced to struggle and scrape just to put together enough money for those final arrangements. The challenge can be particularly tough for elderly individuals who have very limited incomes and no means to earn more.

The struggle was highlighted in a sad case discussed this week by KOMO News. The story details an estate sale that an elderly woman is having in order to pay for the burial costs of her recently-passed husband. Her husband of 46 years recently died after living his final two years with Alzheimer’s. As families with relatives facing cognitive mental issues know, the costs associated with this care can be staggering. It doesn’t take much for middle class families to be financially wiped out in short order when dealing with the ancillary costs of Alzheimer’s care.

In this case, the 88-year old widow, Elsie, had only $9 to her name at the time of her husband’s passing. In describing the sad situation the article author explained, “Elsie is alone in this world. At 91, she has outlived all her friends. She has no children, no relatives of any kind, and she is broke.”

That is why the woman is trying to sell literally everything she owns in order to afford to pay for the burial that she believes her husband wanted and deserves. She noted that her husband’s only request be that he not be cremated. Cremation is far less expensive than a traditional burial. Elsie expects the burial costs to reach $3,000. She is not sure if the modest belonging will be able to bring in all those funds, but she explained that she was willing to sell virtually everything she had in order to try to reach the goal.

Unfortunately, this story is not an isolated one. Every day across New York elderly community members are struggling to cover end-of-life costs for cherished loved ones. The last thing one needs to be focused on after losing a partner are financial burdens. But for so many, that is a reality. We urge everyone to be vigilant about this reality and take steps to create a long-term financial and caregiving plan. A New York elder law estate planning attorney can provide tailored advice on how to do what needs to be done.

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