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What happens if you can’t afford cremation

There’s a growing number of families in New Hampshire and Vermont who can’t afford a cremation or funeral and need assistance interring the remains of a loved one. Online searches about low cost cremation or free or no-cost cremation are on the rise.

The Cremation Society of New Hampshire (CSNH) has worked with dozens of indigent families annually who don’t have the funds to give a departed family member a dignified farewell. The growing demand for assistance with cremation and funeral costs for NH and VT residents prompted the creation of the Phaneuf Family Foundation, a nonprofit with the primary mission of providing funds for some or all costs of a cremation or funeral. 

Historically, communities interred the indigent population in “pauper’s graves,” sites donated by the town or church. Funeral directors provided the casket for free or at a nominal fee. Graves went unmarked until the family could afford a headstone. 

Today, Cemetery lots sell for more than $1,000, so in many cases the indigent deceased get cremated instead of buried.

Here are some options to look into for assistance in paying for a cremation or possibly getting a free cremation:

Welfare benefit from city or town

In New Hampshire, many cities and towns provide a welfare benefit of $750 to the funeral home for handling the final disposition of an indigent person. The family of the deceased applies for the benefit and must prove there are no other financial means to pay for a funeral or cremation. The welfare department researches the claim to ensure all other financial options are exhausted. This process sometimes happens on the same day of filing or may take up to a week.

Low-cost cremation option

CSNH offers a direct cremation for $1,295 (member cost) or $1,695 (non-member cost). The direct cremation is for those who simply want cremation but no service or other enhancements. You may have heard direct cremation referred to as no-ceremony cremation, basic cremation or simple cremation. It is the final disposition of a body performed shortly after a death. It includes the transportation of the body to the crematorium and the body is typically cremated in a simple container, not a casket (bodies must be cremated in a chamber, ranging from a cardboard box to a traditional casket).

While it contains everything that is needed for a cremation, an urn is not included. The direct cremation package includes the transfer of the deceased into our care, transport and use of refrigeration. CSNH files all necessary paperwork and pays the medical examiner fee.

CSNH also offers a discounted cremation for indigent families for $1,000, one of the lowest cost options for cremation in New Hampshire. 

Phaneuf Family Foundation

Some families who receive the welfare benefit may still need additional funds for a direct cremation or simple funeral. Donations from Phaneuf Family Foundation are available for deceased residents of New Hampshire and Vermont, and the donations cover costs ranging from a transportation fee to a complete cremation. Requests for distributions for a cremation or funeral come from a family member, friend, funeral director, social worker, hospice or nursing home employee, or other interested party.

Those who are eligible for the welfare benefit and foundation donation who also work with CSNH could ultimately receive a free cremation.

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