Thinking about end-of-life planning isn't exactly pleasant but it's better to be prepared, especially from a financial perspective. The National Funeral Directors Association puts the median cost of a funeral in 2014 at $7,181, an increase of 29% over the previous decade. In an effort to stave off those costs, more people are turning to whole body donation as a money-saving measure. (See: Advanced Estate Planning: Funeral Arrangements.)

According to a recent Associated Press report, body donations at medical schools and private donation facilities are up significantly over previous years. The mounting expense associated with paying for a funeral and a decline in the stigma and religious objections associated with organ and body donation are believed to be behind the uptick. 

So what does it cost to donate one's body to science? For the donor, the cost is usually zero. The facility that's receiving the donation normally foots the bill for transporting the body, securing the death certificate, cremating the remains after the necessary organs or tissue have been harvested and returning those remains to the donor's loved ones. Considering that the median cost of a funeral with cremation and a viewing topped $6,000 in 2014, whole body donation certainly begins to look a little more appealing.

There are, however, some things to keep in mind if you're thinking of becoming a body donor. For starters, you may not be able to donate your organs and your body separately. If you want to donate your body to a specific school or organization, you'd have to register in advance and advise your next of kin what your plans are. In most cases, the receiving organization aims to collect the body as quickly as possible and any delays could throw things off-course.

Even more importantly, you need to understand what the guidelines are for donating. Each organization has different rules for accepting body donations. If you die of certain illnesses or your body isn't in an optimal condition when you pass away, the donation could be rejected. If that happens, your loved ones could be left scrambling to come up with the money to pay for a cremation or burial.

Formulating a Plan B can help to cover the gap if you're not able to go through with the donation. Taking out a life insurance or burial insurance policy is a good way to hedge your bets so that your loved ones aren't left in the lurch. If you don't want to purchase separate insurance, designating a certain amount of savings to a Payable on Death account is another option for making sure whoever's left behind has cash on hand to deal with the expense of a funeral if need be. (For more, read: Burial Insurance vs. Life Insurance.)

 

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