The cost of living seems to be the highest it’s ever been. As it turns out, the cost of dying is pretty high, too.
The National Funeral Directors Association released a price list of average funeral costs in 2021. In Florida, the median cost of an adult funeral with a viewing, ceremony, and burial was $7,800. Meanwhile, the median price of an adult funeral with a viewing and cremation was $7,070.
Jump ahead to these sections:
- Places or Programs That Offer Free Cremation in Florida
- Tips for Saving Money on Cremation in Florida
The unfortunate truth is, many people cannot afford these services. Luckily, some charities that help with funeral costs. In Florida specifically, several programs help make cremation a lot more accessible. We’ll break these programs down for you below.
Places or Programs That Offer Free Cremation in Florida
The best way to get free cremation in Florida is by donating your body to science. Several reputable anatomical donation programs in the state deal specifically with a whole-body donation. Whole-body donation is hugely beneficial in the fields of physician education and surgical training.
Human tissues acquired through donation can also assist in research and development for medications and medical devices. Donating your body to science can improve the quality of life for countless people in the future.
It is important to note that during Covid-19, some of these programs may be more limited than they would be otherwise. As always, be sure to do your due diligence and visit their websites for the most up-to-date information.
1. United Tissue Network
The United Tissue Network (UTN) is a nonprofit whole-body donation company that has been accredited by the American Association of Tissue Banks (AATB). Their goal is to improve medical research and care by overcoming the worldwide shortage of human tissue through whole-body donations.
UTN covers the cost to remove the deceased's body from the place of their passing and transport it to one of their facilities. Once they're ready to release the remains back to the family, they fully cover the cost of cremation. The family also receives two certified copies of the death certificate and cremation for no cost. The cremated remains are returned to their families within 4 to 6 weeks.
To learn more about UTN's services in Florida, reach out to their Florida office in St. Petersburg.
2. Science Care
Like the United Tissue Network, Science Care is an AATB-accredited whole-body donation program. They only work with researchers and educators that meet their extremely high qualification standards. Since its founding in 2000, they’ve become a leading body donation authority globally.
Science Care takes care of the following expenses:
- Transportation from the location of passing
- Cremation costs
- The costs associated with returning cremated remains to the next of kin
- Filing the death certificate
Science Care serves every city and county of Florida, making it a very accessible program. Cremains will be returned to families within 3 to 5 weeks.
3. Sunshine Donation Services
While UTN and Science Care both have an international presence, Sunshine Donation Services is a Florida-based company. When you contact them, you’ll be paired with a donor services coordinator who will guide you throughout the process.
Sunshine Donation offers a No-Cost Cremation program. In addition to covering cremation costs, they will arrange for the removal and transportation of the body. They also provide an option for cremains to be returned to the family. Because they are part of a licensed funeral establishment, they can also provide funeral services before transporting the body for donation.
Tips for Saving Money on Cremation in Florida
The criteria for free cremation services in Florida are unfortunately relatively narrow. But even if your late loved one doesn’t qualify for free cremation, there are still plenty of ways you can cut costs. Here are our best tips for saving money on cremation in Florida.
Look into direct cremation
With standard cremation, families typically hold a funeral service and viewing before cremating the body. Because funerals take time to prepare, this usually means that the deceased is embalmed or otherwise treated to preserve it for viewing.
With viewings, there are also costs associated with mortuary cosmetologists. These specialized service providers use their skills to make sure the deceased look the way they did in life. They can apply makeup, style hair, and cover scrapes or bruises. Some mortuary cosmetologists can even do reconstructions in the case of disfigurement.
With direct cremation, there is no viewing. Instead, the body is cremated almost immediately after death, which means that you don’t have to spend the money on embalming or mortuary cosmetology. Families can still opt to have a memorial service or celebration of life. In place of the traditional viewing, they may display a photograph of the deceased.
Choose a low-cost urn
Cremation urns are containers specially designed to store ashes securely. They range widely in price and style. People may try to convince you that you need to spend thousands of dollars on a top-of-the-line urn. But the truth is, you can get a beautiful and well-made urn for $200 or less.
If you’re planning to scatter your loved one’s ashes, you can also get inexpensive temporary urns. They’re typically made from cardboard and are available for under $20 in some cases.
It’s also important to remember that acquiring an urn from a funeral home can inflate the cost. Because funeral homes acquire urns from manufacturers, they often increase the price to cover their costs. You can usually get excellent deals by ordering cremation urns online directly from the makers.
Create your own memorial
Sometimes when people choose cremation, they have their loved one’s ashes interred in a cemetery or a columbarium. They might make this choice because they feel like they need a destination where they can go to mourn their loved ones. But while this is less expensive than a traditional burial, it can still cost hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
Consider setting up a memorial display in your home or backyard for a lower-cost alternative. Indoors, you can display the cremation urn and a photo of your loved one on a shelf. Outdoors, you can get a personalized memorial garden stone and place it in a quiet, peaceful spot. Both of these options give you an affordable and accessible place to remember your loved one.
Take advantage of veteran benefits (if applicable)
If you’ve served in the United States military, you know that it comes with certain benefits, including educational programs, home loans, and more. Among them are veteran death benefits. Chief among them is a no-cost burial in any National Cemetery. This includes cremated remains. There are nine National Cemeteries in Florida, so there is likely one relatively near you.
The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs provides burial benefits to eligible veterans which can defray funeral and cremation costs. People covered by this program include active duty or honorably discharged military personnel, as well as their spouses and dependents.
The only downside to this program is that the VA doesn’t work directly with funeral providers, which means that families will have to pay burial and cremation costs upfront and submit receipts for what was spent along with a request for reimbursement. It can take up to six months for the VA to issue a check, providing a barrier for families. You can contact your local VA office for more guidance on this process.
Seek out governmental assistance
Florida does not have a statewide program for cremation or burial assistance. However, several counties have programs to help provide dignity in death to people who would otherwise be unable to afford cremation or burial.
These programs are limited to homeless individuals with no family or support system in some cases. But others can provide free or low-cost cremation to low-income families. Typically, these programs will only be available to families at or below the current Federal Poverty Income Guidelines and those with limited assets. Families will need to provide proof of their financial status to receive assistance.
Here is a list of some of the more prominent assistance programs throughout the state of Florida:
- Broward County Indigent Cremation and Disposition Program
- City of Jacksonville Social Services Division Indigent Cremation and Burial Program (available for eligible people who died within Duval County)
- Escambia County Indigent Burial/Cremation Program
- Miami-Dade County Indigent Cremation Services
- Palm Beach County Indigent Cremation Program
- Pinellas County Burial and Cremation Program for Indigent and Unclaimed Persons
- Polk County Burial Cremation Program
- St. Lucie County Indigent Cremation Program
- Volusia County Community Assistance Division Indigent Cremation
If you don’t see anything in your area on this list, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re out of luck. You can also reach out to your local county branch of the Florida Department of Health and see if they offer burial assistance.
Free and Low-Cost Cremation in Florida
Cremation is often more cost-effective than a traditional burial. But even with those savings, the cost of cremation in Florida is out of reach for many people. If you’re struggling to afford the funeral your loved one deserves, many programs can defray or even fully cover the cost. These resources can help relieve some of your financial burdens in an already stressful time.
- “NFDA News Releases.” NFDA.org, National Funeral Directors Association, 4 November 2021, Nfda.org