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Cost of Living: More Hoosiers turn to cremation to cut funeral costs

Posted at 8:54 PM, Oct 19, 2017

In our Cost of Living series all this week, Call 6 Investigates Kara Kenney is digging into expenses that hit you in the pocket book.

INDIANAPOLIS -- The average funeral now costs more than $7,000, but experts say there are many ways you can cut costs when it comes to burying a loved one.

Call 6 Investigates found dying is not a topic most people want to think about, however, the bottom line is none of us are getting out alive.

Failing to plan for death can end up costing you and your family in the long run, experts say.

Candice Cheek’s dad, Leroy, died on August 11 in her home.

You remember Cheek and her father from our story about the cost of caring for an aging loved one, in which Cheek vowed to never place her father in a nursing home.

Cheek kept her promise to her father until the end.

"That means more to me than anything that we can follow through with that,” said Cheek. “So, it was worth it."

Leroy didn’t pre-plan his funeral, but thankfully had money set aside for it.

"I found prices anywhere from $3,000 to $12,000, even for a cremation service," said Cheek.

Things like flowers and a celebrant to speak at the funeral all added up quick, even for a simple service.

“It was over $5,000,” said Cheek.

Over the past decade, the cost of a funeral has gone up nearly 30 percent, records show.

A funeral with a casket, viewing and burial now averages more than $7,000 and a cremation with a viewing typically costs about $6,000.

But it doesn’t have to cost that much, according to Jennifer Williams, President of ARN Funeral and Cremation Services in Zionsville.

“Simple cremation at our facility is $799,” said Williams.

Williams said it’s easier to keep costs low with cremation, especially if the family keeps the ashes.

"The burial process adds a large chunk of cost to the overall price of whatever you're picking,” said Williams.

For the first time in history, more than half of Americans are now cremated, although the numbers are slightly less in Indiana.

Williams said cremation is becoming a more attractive option for many Hoosiers.

"So something like this is made from recycled paper, and then it can be placed in the water," said Williams as she showed a cremation option.

Of course many cultures and religions, including Judaism, do not support cremation.

Pre-planning a funeral can also cut costs for your family, said Williams, but many people don’t do it.

"I think it's the fear of talking about something that's so upsetting," said Williams.

Perhaps the best way to save money is to talk to your family about your wishes and theirs, that way you’re not spending money on a full casket funeral when your loved one would prefer to be scattered in a garden.

As for Candice Cheek, she started talking to her dad about his wishes back in the 1980’s.

"He said I don't want a funeral where everyone is crying,” said Cheek. “He wanted a beach boy party."

Leroy’s celebration of life was just how he wanted it—  a party—another promise Cheek was happy to keep.

"I wouldn't change it for anything,” said Cheek. “I loved every minute that I got to be with him here."

Cheek became her father’s guardian after his strokes, and therefore, had access to his bank accounts.

Many people are shocked to realize they have no access to their loved ones’ funds after they die.

Experts say you should set up your joint bank accounts with “right of survivorship.”

This way the account automatically becomes the property of the surviving spouse when one dies. 

If you do not set this up, chances are your loved one’s account will be frozen and considered part of the estate.

Also, make sure you name beneficiaries on your retirement and bank accounts.

“If you die without a named beneficiary on your account, the account becomes part of your estate, which could take months to close,” said Nicole Lorch, COO of First Internet Bank. “In the meantime, your loved ones will not have access to the funds. Spend a moment filling out the forms to ensure the proceeds are immediately dispersed at death without having to pass through probate.”