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More families relying on crowdfunding for funeral costs amid COVID-19 pandemic

Posted at 6:54 AM, Oct 11, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-11 06:57:01-04

(WXYZ) — Planning for the unexpected is not something many people do, especially when it comes to losing a loved one.

A growing number of people are now turning to crowdfund platforms like GoFundMe to cover costs associated with medical bills and funeral services.

For some, it's a gamble and it can often end in disappointment if a person doesn't collect enough donations.

The CEO of GoFundMe said 1/3 of donations to the site will have gone toward health care or funeral costs. That's over 250,000 campaigns totaling $650 million. Those numbers keep climbing since the coronavirus pandemic hit.

If you type in Detroit on the website, you can find dozens, if not hundreds of campaigns aimed at covering funeral costs. Families left vulnerable are depending on strangers so they can bury their loved ones. Often though, they can't raise enough.

"There is a fair share of the crowdfunding especially in the past year because we lost more than expected," Michelle O'Hara, an advanced funeral planner for Sullivan and Son Funeral Home, said.

She said each year, only about 35% of their funeral services are pre-planned.

"A lot of folks don't realize that if the person prepays or makes payments, it actually locks it into the current general price list. So if the person passes away 20 years from now, we are honoring the general price list from the year that they pre-planned," she said.

The average funeral service costs between $7,000 and $10,000.

O'Hara said there are 125 decisions to be made at the time of someone's passing – from as small as picking the flower arrangements to as big as choosing what kind of burial you want.

"All of these details can be really overwhelming when mom has just passed away. You're just not in the right frame of mind I hear so many times, 'I just don't remember that day, don't remember making those decisions. It was just all a blur,'" she said.

The financial strain on top of the decision-making process can sometimes be too much to bear. Doug Ware, an insurance agent, said that's where life insurance comes in.

"I just say you can't afford to not have this do you want to have a proper burial, a proper funeral," he said.

If you don't, your body will be donated to science by default, a troubling end for most families looking for closure.

Ware said the pandemic is making a lot more people think twice.

"It's caused people to wake up and says this day will come and actually this day is here," he said.

"I always tell folks, you can talk about & plan for it and then put it away," O'Hara added.