It seems that the recession isn’t satisfied with stressing out the living, but is taking things out on the dead as well.

Due to the extremely poor condition of our economy, an increasing number of families are unable to pay for the funeral and burial of loved ones. Because of this many families do not identify the remains of dead relatives, leaving it to taxpayers to deal with the aftermath. As a result, a larger number of dead bodies are, literally, piling up in crematories.

The Evergreen Crematory in Oakland has had to stack up (not a figure of speech!) an increasing number of unclaimed dead bodies, whose relatives have not claimed their remains because they cannot afford it.

Indigent cremations are worth $267 each. There have been 46 of these cremations in Santa Clara County in 2009 thus far. There were similarly 49 indigent cremations in 2008, but only 37 in 2007.

Another factor in the challenge to pay for proper burial for deceased relatives: poor burial insurance policies that deceased relatives may have purchased years ago, but that barely cover their funeral costs.

For the poor and uneducated, burial policies once seemed like great ways to cover funeral costs without burdening family members. But these policies cost way more than they are worth and give people false comfort in believing that their funeral needs are taken care of.

Such was the case with an African American woman named Lena Arbee, who did not want to burden her family with funeral costs at the time of her death.

As was custom in her Southern upbringing, Arbee purchased burial insurance (which she paid off for years) and assured her children that her funeral needs would be taken care of at the time of her death.

But when Arbee died in 2007, the two burial policies she had purchased 28 years before her death did not even cover half of her funeral costs.

“Don’t ever believe the phrase, ‘Oh, Grandma took care of everything.’ That’s because most people who bought these things didn’t really read the contract,” says the executive director of the national Funeral Consumers Alliance, Joshua Slocum.

“And then when they or their families find out, they feel like it’s too late to do anything.”

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