Funeral costs vary, but can be very high

This was originally published on Monday, September 1, 2014, in the Pacific Daily News.  Click here to subscribe to the PDN.

Question: My best friend’s mother recently passed and although her mother had life insurance, a large amount of it was used to pay for her funeral expenses. My friend gave me a rough estimate of how much the funeral costs and I could not believe how expensive it can be. Do you have some advice that can help me prepare for the cost of a funeral?

Answer: Funeral costs can vary depending on the final wishes of the deceased and what the family members want. Price differences can be quite vast between cremation or burial, flower arrangements, headstones and other services associated with the funeral. There are some costs that you can’t avoid, but there are some that you have more control over. Although we would love to say goodbye to our loved ones in the most memorable way, it essentially comes down to how much you can afford.

Hospital bills

Most of the time the estate of the deceased is responsible for paying the medical bills. The deceased may pass away without assets and medical bills will go unpaid. If you agreed to be responsible or co-signed to pay for treatment, then you are responsible for paying the outstanding medical bills. If the deceased is your dependent, whether a child, spouse or even parent, then you are responsible for the bills incurred at the hospital.

Be sure the deceased’s medical bills are paid before the estate is divided among the survivors. It may be best to contact an estate attorney to help you decided who is responsible for any outstanding medical bills.


Depending on where your loved one passed away you will incur the cost of transporting them. If they passed away at home the deceased will have to be transported to the morgue and later to the funeral home. If they were at the hospital when they passed, they will be transported to a funeral home.

If your loved one passed away off-island and their final wish is to be buried on island, there will be air transportation costs to bring the deceased back to Guam. The same goes in reverse to transport the deceased off-island. If the deceased was transported by ambulance there may be a cost for that service as well.

Permits and certificates

A death certificate must be obtained from Guam Department Public Health and Social Services. You may need to purchase extra copies for other legal purposes. Transporting the deceased on Guam roads, off-island or bringing them to Guam requires permits, which may carry a fee as well.


Many families choose to announce their loved ones passing in the newspaper. Most newspapers offer a free obituary, which includes their name and when services are held. Otherwise, prices for announcements depend on the size of the obituary, whether it is printed in color, and how many times the obituary appears.

Michael Camacho is president and chief executive officer of Personal Finance Center. He has more than 20 years of experience in retail banking and at financial institutions in Guam and Hawaii. If there is a topic you’d like Michael to cover, please email him at and read past columns at the Money Matters blog at


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