There are public assistance programs available, based on specific eligibility requirements that are designed to help with funeral and burial expenses. These programs include: Social Security, Supplemental Security Income and Work First NJ (Medicaid).
Learn about options that may be available to you below.
In certain circumstances and based on eligibility requirements, the State of New Jersey offers public assistance funds to help pay for some or all of the funeral expenses of those in need.
Public assistance funeral funds are available through the Department of Human Services (DHS) and are administered by the board of social services (county welfare authority) in the county in which the individual lived at the time of their death.
Arranging a Public Assistance Funeral
To arrange a public assistance funeral, contact a funeral home to notify them of the death and inform the funeral director that the decedent may be eligible for a public assistance funeral.
- The funeral director will require the decedent’s full name, Social Security number and home address at the time of their death.
- The funeral home will contact the county board of social services to see if the decedent qualifies and will seek “conditional” approval for public assistance funeral funds.
- The funeral director will proceed to make arrangements using public assistance planning guidelines.
- Please note that some funeral homes do not handle public assistance funerals and may refer you to a funeral home that does.
For a list of county boards of social services visit www.state.nj.us/humanservices/dfd/programs/njsnap/cwa/.
Public Assistance Funeral Funds Limits
New Jersey public assistance funeral/burial reimbursement rates are listed in the chart below.
- Funeral: The maximum amount the state will pay for the funeral home portion.
- Cemetery/Crematory: The maximum amount the state will pay for the cemetery/crematory portion.
- Combined Funeral/Cemetery: The maximum amount the state will pay for the complete funeral (funeral and cemetery/crematory portions). The cemeteries may not accept the state maximum (see chart above) as payment in full. Talk to your funeral director about options if this occurs.
- Supplementation Allowed: The maximum dollar amount that family and friends can contribute in addition to what the state pays the funeral home or cemetery/crematory for funeral expenses.
- Maximum Permitted: The maximum amount the state will pay for a public assistance funeral combined with the maximum amount the state will allow family and friends to contribute.
A decedent’s assets cannot be used to supplement his or her funeral costs. These assets will be collected by the State of New Jersey. Assets are considered:
- Cash on hand, in a bank account, or nursing home personal needs account (PNA);
- Securities, real estate, antique furniture and automobiles;
- Life insurance or death or funeral benefits regardless of the beneficiary (refunded premiums are exempt);
- Money paid and/or owed to the deceased before or after death.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) pays a one-time death benefit of $255 upon the death of a person who has worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, even if the deceased was not receiving benefits at the time of death. SSA will only pay the benefit to an eligible spouse or child.
For more information, or to file for benefits, call 1.800.772.1213. You can also visit www.socialsecurity.gov.
N.J.S.A. 40A:9-49.1 states “…when an indigent person dies in his resident county without a surviving spouse, parent or emancipated child or in a county other than his resident county, the resident county of the indigent decedent is responsible for the necessary and reasonable expenses for the burial.” Accordingly, each individual county sets its own funeral reimbursement rate for indigents. As a result, reimbursement rates vary from county to county.
New Jersey law defines an indigent decedent as a person who is unclaimed or unidentified and dies without leaving an ascertainable estate sufficient to pay part or all of the person’s burial expenses and whose burial expenses are not payable by a state or federal program. (See Public Assistance section above for more information.)
The local medical examiner, hospital or nursing home usually contacts the county’s burial coordinator to make the arrangements for indigent burials.
Deceased New Jersey indigent veterans with no next-of-kin or insufficient resources may be entitled to burial funds provided by their resident county and the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs. If it is determined that the indigent decedent was an honorably discharged veteran, New Jersey law requires either the supervisor of veterans’ interment or the county medical examiner to see that the burial or cremation occurs within 72 hours of notification of the veteran’s status.
Additionally, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, National Cemetery Administration may provide reimbursement for certain merchandise for indigent veterans based on eligibility. To apply for reimbursement, VA Form 40-10088 must be submitted with the required supporting documentation.
See Veterans section for more information.
Crime Victims Compensation
The New Jersey Victims of Crime Compensation Office (VCCO) is a state-run support system for crime victims and their families. The VCCO provides financial compensation for certain expenses that victims and their families incur as a result of a violent crime.
To be considered for benefits, individuals must have reported the crime to the police within nine months after it occurred or from the time the crime was known, and file a claim with the VCCO within three years of the crime. To submit a claim, individuals need to file a completed claim form with the VCCO along with copies of as much related information as possible (police report, copies of bills and receipts of all related financial losses, etc.)
For more information on eligibility requirements, benefits offered and submitting a claim, visit the VCCO website or call 877.658.2221.
Public Safety Officers
The Public Safety Officers' Benefits (PSOB) Program provides death and education benefits to eligible survivors of fallen public safety officers who were catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
For more information, visit the PSOB website.
Places of Worship or Local Charities
Meet with a religious leader from the decedent’s place of worship, the clergy of your choice or a local charity. Sometimes they can help facilitate a monetary donation to assist with funeral and burial expenses.
If the decedent was a member of a benevolent society, trade union or other such organization, there may be some type of death or burial benefit. An organization representative will be able discuss with you or your funeral director whether financial assistance is available. Be sure to also ask about survivor benefits. Some organizations offer benefits to spouses and children. (Note, the NJSFDA is a nonprofit trade association and does not offer death benefits to its members.)
For foreign-born decedents, it may be beneficial to contact the consulate of the decedent’s home country. The consulate may have additional information that could help in the arrangements for a local burial or with shipping remains back to the country of origin. Speak with your funeral director to assist in this process.