With average funeral and burial costs exceeding $9,000, more families are facing “funeral poverty.” Creighton University School of Law professor Victoria Haneman recently completed research on funeral poverty and is advocating for changes in the death services industry to help reduce funeral poverty and make families more empowered to plan for and manage end-of-life decisions.Her research will soon be published in the University of Richmond Law Review.
Last year was the deadliest in U.S. history due to the coronavirus. Many families already faced with financial hardship due to the pandemic had to take on the added burden of funding the burial of a loved one.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Monday that people who had a loved one pass away last year due to COVID-19 will soon be able to get reimbursed for up to $7,000, for funeral costs. The $2 billion in funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was designated for funeral aid in December’s COVID-19 relief bill.
Haneman is able to comment on:
- The need for changes to existing legal structures, including modernization of consumer protection regulation, change to laws regulating the death service industry and recharacterization of expenses for tax purposes.
- The extraordinary environmental toxicity of traditional funeral and burial practice, and the growing popularity of affordable and ecofriendly green burials.
- Interesting death care services technologies being brought to market in the United States and innovative ideas to reduce costs in the future.
- The emotional toll of end-of-life events – cognitive impairment and its impact on decision-making and reliance on profit-motivated industry guidance.
- The struggle of survivors to shoulder the costs of funerals, burials, or cremation and/or the reliance upon crowdfunding.
- The role lawyers can play in being agents for change when it comes to challenging status quo.