Tax Analysts Blog

Going in Style: The Cost of Rich People's Funerals

Posted on Apr 6, 2009

"Let me tell you about the very rich. They are not like you and me. They possess and enjoy early. . . ." So wrote F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1926. Well it turns out they don't die like you and me either.

In 2007 the average cost of a funeral for 32,960 of America's richest dead people was $10,334. This is according to IRS estate tax return data. Those of the lower class with estates of less than $2 million had to suffer the indignity of a funeral averaging an economical $8,439. Folks who left between $5 and $10 million did somewhat better. They were upgraded to packages of memorial goods and services with an average cost of $11,994. But as usual it was left to the $20 million and over crowd to show how to do it in style. For these select few (there were 907, to be exact) they met their end at the average cost of $23,733. No plywood casket coated with black enamel from the back of funeral director's basement for them.

IRS data also gives us a peek at the value of rich people's houses. The average value of the homes of decedents with estate tax returns in 2007 was about $650,000. Those with less than $2 million managed to eke out their existence in humble abodes valued at $390,000. In the more exclusive neighborhoods people with estates between $5 and $10 million died in houses worth about $820,000. And from the penthouses of Manhattan to the ocean-fronts of Malibu lived and died members of the $20 million-or-more club in homes averaging $2.2 million.

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