When a loved one dies, grieving family and friends are often faced with having to make funeral decisions quickly. Not many of us have prior experience planning funerals. This, combined with the emotional duress of our loved one’s death, make it easy for consumers to purchase unnecessary or unwanted services, and pay more than necessary.
If you find yourself making funeral arrangements, keep in mind:
- It is important to compare prices between funeral homes. The cost for the same items and services can vary significantly.
- You have the right to know what the funeral home will charge before you agree to purchase any products or services.
In 1984, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) published the Funeral Rule which regulates the information funeral providers must provide consumers. Here are some basic provisions of the Funeral Rule:
- You have the right to compare prices between funeral homes.
- Many funeral homes sell funeral packages which combine several items in one price. You are not required to purchase a package. You can buy products and services separately.
- You have the right to get prices over the telephone if you request them.
- If you visit a funeral home in person, you must be given a “General Price List,” which lists everything the funeral home offers and the price of each item and service.
- Some funeral homes may mail you a price list upon request or post them on line, but they are not required to do so.
- You have the right to receive a written statement immediately after making arrangements. The statement should include a list of all the items and services you are purchasing, the cost of each, and the total cost.
- You can request a casket price list before you view caskets. This lets you know there may be less expensive models available in addition to what is on display.
- You are not required to purchase a casket or urn from the funeral home. The funeral home cannot refuse or charge you a fee to handle a casket or urn you purchased elsewhere such as from a casket store or online.
- Caskets are not required for cremation. Funeral providers offering cremation services are required to inform you about alternative containers made from materials such as card board or unfinished wood, and they must make the containers available.
- According to the FTC, “no state law requires routine embalming for every death.” State laws vary on whether embalming or refrigeration is required when a body won’t be buried or cremated within a certain amount of time.
- If the body needs to be preserved for practical reasons, ask the funeral home whether refrigeration is an option.
Outer Burial Containers
- According to the FTC, outer burial containers “are not required by state law anywhere in the U.S., but many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in.”
- If you need to purchase an outer burial container, you have the right to see a price list before you view them.
- If you are told you must purchase certain items or services to meet any legal cemetery or crematory requirements, you can get an explanation of that requirement included in the funeral home’s written price statement.
Funerals can quickly become expensive. It is easy to spend more than we intend. You do not need to buy the most expensive things to honor a loved one. Contact at least two funeral homes to learn what they offer and their prices. Give yourself some time to think through the options and to research any required purchases.
Consider planning your own funeral and remove this burden from your loved ones. You can take the time you need to compare prices and make decisions.
For more detailed information on your rights under the FTC Funeral Rule, click here. Another great resource is the Funeral Consumer Alliance which has a wealth of information for consumers and links to its state chapters.
This blog is published to provide you with general information only, and is not intended to provide specific or comprehensive advice. Money Care, LLC encourages individuals to seek advice from competent professionals when appropriate.