County programs will help you bury your loved one when finances are low.

If you or a loved one is in the process of dying and you are living below the poverty line, you may qualify for an indigent burial. Indigent burials are financed by your county through state programs and are carried out by local funeral homes. Since the funeral arrangements are covered by various agencies, both you and the decedent -- the person who is dying -- must qualify for financial assistance. If you have been contacted as next of kin and are required to bear the cost for funeral services for someone who has already passed away, you can also apply for an indigent burial -- although the decedent must also qualify for indigent burial.

Contact your county and inquire about their indigent burial program. Most counties have a department that handles indigent burials and will tell you everything you need to know to get your application started. For the most part, both the decedent and the next of kin are responsible for making funeral arrangements and will both have to qualify for the indigent burial program. You will need to provide basic information about yourself and the decedent, such as names, addresses, Social Security numbers and dates of birth.

Schedule an interview with the coroner's office and have proof of financial status. Every county requires different financial information, so ask before your appointment what information you will need to bring. You may have to provide bank account information, disclose information about any property or vehicles you own, prove your income through paycheck stubs and tax returns or disclose whether you or the decedent qualify for veteran's assistance. You may be required to submit to a credit check as well. Remember, you will need all of this information for yourself and for the decedent.

Get approved. Once your application is approved the county will take care of the final arrangements and burial or cremation. You will not be able to choose the funeral home as indigent burial services are provided to the county on a rotating basis. You may not be able to view the body. You will be notified as to where the decedent is located and the grave will be marked with a plain marker indicating the decedent's name and dates of birth and death. There will not be a funeral service. You may be able to claim cremated remains.


  • Determine who is responsible for the funeral arrangements before applying for an indigent burial. Usually the order of responsibility goes to the durable power of attorney, then to the spouse, then to any adult children, then to the parents, then to any adult siblings and finally to a public administrator. If the decedent served honorably in the military, contact the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. They may be able to help bear the costs of funeral arrangements for veterans, even if the funeral has already taken place.


  • In some counties, it is a criminal misdemeanor to neglect arrangements for remains in a timely manner, and you could be required to pay the county as much as three times the cost of the funeral arrangements. Indigent burial programs do not cover the cost of burials that have already taken place. You must apply for the program before funeral arrangements have been made.