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Burial insurance is a type of whole life insurance policy that can be used to cover your burial and other funeral costs. You can generally purchase one of these policies after you turn 50 to help your family afford your funeral service. But before you do this, you should understand how burial insurance works to assess whether it’s a good fit for you. Bankrate’s insurance editorial team will walk you through what a burial insurance policy usually covers, how it works and alternative options.
What is burial insurance?
If you have your affairs in order, your loved ones already know what will happen when you die. You may have given instructions for how you would like your body to be treated, as well as notes on the organization of your memorial service or what you want written on a tombstone.
But all of these things cost money, sometimes many thousands of dollars. If you do not want your survivors to be stuck paying those costs, you may want to consider a burial policy. This is a small permanent life insurance policy that pays out a death benefit — usually anywhere between $5,000 and $25,000 — intended to cover these costs.
Because the payout for burial insurance is small compared to many regular life insurance policies, the premiums can be quite affordable, too. The policies are generally easy to get and do not require a medical exam, even for those not in the best of health. But a waiting period may apply or the policy may offer only limited benefits in the first two years.
What is covered by burial insurance?
Burial insurance policies cover all the normal costs incurred by someone’s death. Unless you have managed the estate of a loved one, you may not realize the number of costs involved in a death or how quickly they can mount up. According to the Federal Trade Commission, costs may include:
- Embalming or preserving the body
- A casket
- Cremation costs
- A burial plot
- The cost of transporting the body and/or cremains
- A headstone, with customized carving
- Payment to minister or priest
- Rental costs for the venue where the memorial service is held
- Cost to open and close the grave
- Grave vault and/or grave liners
In addition, burial insurance can also be used to cover the deceased’s outstanding debt, such as medical bills, credit card debt or even a mortgage. For example, if you’re married and die before your partner and they’re listed as a beneficiary on your policy, they could choose to use some of your policy’s death benefit to pay down the mortgage.
How does burial insurance work?
Burial insurance can be purchased from most regular insurers or, in some U.S. states, through a funeral home, if they are licensed to provide it. To apply for a policy, you will fill out a form that may ask some simple health questions, but you will not be required to undergo an extensive medical exam like you might with a traditional life insurance policy. One type of burial policy, called a guaranteed issue life insurance policy, is available without any medical or health questions and is intended for those who are seriously ill and cannot get a policy any other way.
Sometimes it is possible to purchase a policy online, but usually it will require a phone call to an agent or insurance broker. Working with a broker can be advantageous because they can show you products from different insurers to find the one that is right for you.
Once you have purchased a policy, make sure that the person who is designated to handle your end-of-life matters is aware of the policy and knows the policy number and the agent who sold it to you.
If all the appropriate arrangements have been made, the process of filing a burial insurance claim should be fairly smooth. Imagine that John dies suddenly. His son, Ted, is his executor and beneficiary, and has all the paperwork for John’s burial insurance. Ted notifies the company, which processes a check for the amount specified and hands it off to Ted within days. Ted is then able to make a down payment on a casket and begin making arrangements for a service and burial. He has the money he needs to pay for workers who will handle the details of John’s service and burial.
Who has the best burial insurance?
Although there are companies, such as Lincoln Heritage, that primarily sell burial insurance, many regular life insurance providers also offer it. Here are some options worth looking into.
|Carrier||Best For||Coverage amount|
|AARP||Ease of applying||Up to $25,000|
|Mutual of Omaha||Affordability||$2,000 to $25,000*
*($5,000 – $25,000 in WA)
|State Farm||Cash value||$10,000 to $15,000|
The American Association of Retired Persons has a great deal of experience in meeting the needs of older people. In collaboration with New York Life, they offer burial policies and life insurance specifically geared toward seniors.
There is no health questionnaire; acceptance is guaranteed with just one health question, unless the applicant is terminally ill. One potential downside is that you have to be an AARP member to qualify — a standard membership costs $16 a year.
Learn more: AARP Insurance review
Colonial Penn sells only life insurance, including a guaranteed acceptance life policy that can be used for burial costs. There is no medical exam or health questions to answer to purchase a final expense policy.
You can borrow against the cash value of the policy and there are flexible payment options available. Rates are guaranteed and prices are competitive. A drawback, however, is that Colonial Penn has a higher-than-average NAIC Complaint Index score.
Learn more: Colonial Penn Insurance review
Mutual of Omaha
Mutual of Omaha offers guaranteed acceptance policies for those aged 45-85. There are no health questions to answer.
If you are looking for a smaller policy, coverage amounts start at $2,000 in most states and go up to $25,000. If the insured passes within two years of the policy effective date, 110% of premiums paid replace the death benefit amount. However, a potential drawback is that Mutual of Omaha life insurance isn’t available in all states.
Learn more: Mutual of Omaha Insurance review
State Farm’s policies may allow you to earn dividends, which can be paid to you in cash or used to pay premiums. Cash value also grows within the policy, which is tax-deferred and can be borrowed against the death benefit if needed.
Though there are advantages to its final expense policy, a con is that coverage is capped at $10,000. Policies are available to seniors 50-80 or until age 75 in New York.
Learn more: State Farm Insurance review
How much does burial insurance cost?
Your burial insurance premiums are determined by your gender, age, the size of the policy and other factors, so the amount you pay will be specific to your own situation. The average cost of a funeral ranges from $6.971 to $7,848, according to 2021 data from the National Funeral Directors Association.
According to burial insurance company Lincoln Heritage, here are some standard rates for a $5,000 death benefit policy, both with and without a health questionnaire:
|Man, age 50||$16, or $20 with no health questions|
|Man, age 75||$51, or $63 with no health questions|
|Woman, age 50||$14, or $15 with no health questions|
|Woman, age 75||$38, or $46 with no health questions|
Are burial insurance policies worth it?
A burial insurance policy may play a role in your financial strategy, but it pays to consider your options. Rates increase with age, as is true of all life insurance policies, so the older you are, the less likely you might be to want to spend significant resources on a policy. Burial insurance for seniors is quite popular, but another option would be to accumulate a nest egg of $10,000 or so and keep it in a moderately liquid investment so that your heirs can access it quickly after you die.
Another option to consider is prepaying your funeral expenses. Many funeral homes will allow you to choose a casket and will assist you in choosing and paying for the other expenses associated with a funeral. This allows you to retain control — you get to decide how you would like your end-of-life affairs handled, rather than those who are grieving your loss. By locking in the rates at an earlier time, you may also save money in the long run.
What’s the difference between burial insurance and pre-need insurance?
Burial insurance and pre-need insurance both provide coverage for your burial and funeral costs, but there are some crucial differences. For starters, while burial insurance usually has a minimum age requirement of 50 years old, you may purchase pre-need insurance at a much earlier age.
Another key difference is that unlike burial insurance, pre-need insurance is usually offered by funeral homes, though some insurance companies may offer this type of insurance policy as well. A pre-need policy allows you to pay for specific funeral and burial expenses in advance, like your casket or headstone. By comparison, burial insurance has a death benefit that goes to a designated beneficiary — who decides how to use the funds to cover your funeral expenses and other costs.
Frequently asked questions
It depends. Burial insurance is specifically intended to cover the expenses associated with your death, so it may not be necessary when you’re younger. It’s important to remember that anything can happen, though, and there is nothing wrong with being prepared. If you are young and healthy, a better investment may be to look into other types of whole life or term life insurance policies to find one that meets your specific needs.
Burial insurance is a type of whole life policy, but generally features a smaller death benefit and does not include the in-depth health questioning that goes with most whole life insurance policies.
Funeral insurance is simply another name for burial insurance, but it provides the same benefit. This type of insurance is a whole life policy that exists with the intention to cover the costs associated with burials. Depending on the insurance company that you purchase your policy through, this type of insurance may be called either burial insurance or funeral insurance.