Financial and Legal Concerns Following a Death

This page is intended to provide information and support for the death of an adult in the hospital. To view a summary of all the information in this section, visit the Grief Support Following the Death of a Loved One page. Please visit the Grief Assistance page on the C.S. Mott Children's Hospital website for information following the death of a child.

Funeral Expense Hardship

Although the prices of funerals can vary greatly, any funeral can be unexpectedly expensive. Many families find that they have some difficulty paying for a funeral. Here are some of our suggestions for ways to approach the cost of a funeral:  

Ask the Funeral Director at the funeral home you select: The funeral home may be able to work out a payment schedule for you. Often the funeral director knows about local resources. However, the funeral homes that cost the least typically do not take payment plans.

Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS): DHHS offers emergency burial money to go towards the expenses of a funeral or cremation, but does not cover the full amount. To see if you qualify, please contact your local county DHHS office before the burial or cremation takes place. Download the application here.

Veteran Administration: If the person who died was ever in the military, contact the VA to see if there are benefits to help with the funeral. Ask to speak with a Service Officer either through the VA or through veteran’s groups such as VFW (Veterans of Foreign Wars), PVA (Paralyzed Veterans of America), VVA (Vietnam Veterans of America). A Service Officer can be helpful in guiding you through the process. You can also visit the VA website to view other burial benefits.

Insurance Policies: Check to see if there are any life insurance policies which might be used to pay for funeral expenses. Sometimes the funeral home will consider this even if the money is not yet available.

Family, Friends, and Community: Contact family and friends, as well as clergy from local religious institutions, co-workers, community groups, or even a medical related support group. Some families utilize online crowdfunding platforms to raise money for a funeral.

Death Certificate

You can obtain copies of the Death Certificate from the County Clerk’s Office in the county in which the decedent died. Michigan Medicine is located in Washtenaw County. The Washtenaw County Clerk/ Register of Deeds Office can be contacted at 734-222-6720 or https://www.washtenaw.org/283/Death-Certificates. There is a cost.

The funeral director of your local county office can assist with the process, and give you an idea of the number of copies you will need. It is the responsibility of the funeral director to have the death certificate filed.

Social Security

Contact Social Security Administration to apply for death benefits as soon as possible. This will help make sure that the family receives all benefits to which they may be entitled. Possible benefits include:

  • A one-time payment of $255 (as of 2019) can be paid to the surviving spouse if he or she was living with the deceased; or if living apart, was receiving certain Social Security Benefits on the decedent’s record. An eligible child may receive this benefit if there is no surviving spouse. Check with SSA to determine eligibility.
  • Certain family members may be eligible to receive monthly benefits, such as:
    • Surviving spouse age 60 or older
    • Surviving spouse age 50 or older, if disabled
    • Surviving spouse at any age who is caring for the decedent’s child under age 16 or disabled (income restrictions)
    • Surviving child younger than age 18, or age 18 or 19 but still a full-time student at an elementary or secondary school
    • Surviving child, age 18 or older with a disability that began before age 22 

Veterans Administration

You may be eligible for limited assistance toward burial costs and funeral expenses for a VA cemetery, if the deceased was an honorably discharged veteran.

If the deceased was receiving monthly payments already, you need to notify VA of the death. The surviving spouse and dependent children of disabled veterans may be entitled to a lump sum of money, monthly payments, and possibly educational and medical assistance.

Families of eligible veterans request funeral honors through their funeral director. The funeral director will contact the appropriate military service to arrange for the funeral honors detail.

If you wish to obtain a flag for use at the funeral, you may apply for the flag by completing VA Form 21-2008, Application for United States Flag for Burial Purposes. You may get a flag at any VA regional office of US Post Office. Generally, the funeral director will help you obtain the flag.

Contact the Office of Decedent Affairs

The Office of Decedent Affairs (ODA) is part of the Michigan Medicine Department of Social Work. The ODA is the centralized point of contact at Michigan Medicine for ongoing questions and concerns before, during, and after the death of a loved one. To contact the Office of Decedent Affairs, call 734-232-4919 between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may also email the ODA office at SocWk-ODA@med.umich.edu