The assistance available to pay for funeral expenses in California is largely for specific groups of people, such as disaster victims and crime victims. Family members who meet low-income levels may be able to get some financial assistance through their local coroner's office. However, that assistance will likely only cover the burial costs of a deceased relative.
California residents can get help paying for the funeral of someone who dies due to an event that the president declares as a disaster. In such cases, funeral funds are available through the state's Individuals and Households Program. Through the program, the Federal Emergency Management Agency may provide funds for funeral expenses. However, the California Department of Social Services indicates that FEMA's financial assistance covers basic needs, so the money provided likely won't cover all costs for more elaborate funerals.
California's Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board provides funeral assistance in cases where crime victims die. The board helps pay for the funeral and burial of a deceased victim after the victim's family uses any other available funding sources to pay those expenses. However, the board could pay as much as $7,500 if the family has few funding sources available for a funeral and burial. The board won't pay some expenses, including what it calls hospitality costs for wakes or family dinners for people who attend a victim's funeral.
A deceased person who served in the military may qualify for death benefits available to veterans in California and throughout the nation. The Funeral Consumers Alliance in Palo Alto, California indicates that no more than $200 is available to help a deceased veteran's surviving family members pay for funeral and burial costs. However, the alliance notes that a reimbursement of $15,000 is available to relatives of service members who die in connection with their military service. Burial also can be provided in a national cemetery if family members request such a burial for a veteran.
Most states and local governments make funds available to cover at least the burial expenses for families in need. For example, the Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner accepts applications for burial assistance from a deceased person's family members if the family has insufficient funds for a burial. The deceased person and applicants must meet the department's poverty threshold to receive burial assistance. However, people in need have to contact the coroner's department to find out the specific income limits the department follows to determine eligibility for assistance.
- California Department of Social Services: Grant Assistance for Individuals and Families
- Funeral Consumers Alliance: Financial Assistance Information and Resources
- California Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board: Funeral/Burial
- Los Angeles County Department of the Coroner: Frequently Asked Questions