The loss of a loved one can be devastating. Whether the death is sudden or anticipated, planning funeral services can prove to be a daunting task. At a time when emotions run high and family members, along with friends, are mourning the loss, know that you have rights and there is help available to guide you through the process. Business Consumer Alliance offers some helpful tips and resources for anyone planning a funeral.
Finding a Funeral Provider
Most states don’t legally require you to use a funeral home to plan and carry out a funeral. However, many rely on a professional funeral home to guide them. It may seem convenient to choose a provider close to home, one that has been used before, or that is recommended by someone. No matter whom you choose, it is wise to do some research first.
Start by looking up the business online, along with the words “reviews” or “complaints” to see what type of reputation the business may have. Check them out with BCA to see how they are rated and for background information.
Compare more than one funeral home or provider to find the right fit. You want someone that you are comfortable with and that does not pressure you into a purchase. Before visiting a funeral home in person, call around and get information. By law, the provider must give price information on the phone to any person that asks for it. You don’t have to provide any of your information—not even your name—to get the information. Some providers will mail information to your home and others will give you information by email or make it available on their website.
Visiting the Funeral Home and Making Arrangements
If you visit a funeral home in person, the funeral provider is required by law to give you a general price list (GPL) itemizing the cost of the items and services the home offers. If specific prices of caskets or outer burial containers are not listed on the GPL, the funeral director must provide you with the price lists for those items before showing you the items.
Avoid pressure to purchase services and goods you do not really want or need. You have the right to:
- buy only the goods and services that you want, instead of being required to buy a package;
- use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation;
- use a casket or urn purchased elsewhere.
After you decide what you want, and before you make a payment, get a written statement from the funeral provider. It must list every good and service you have selected and their prices, as well as the total cost for the arrangements.
Funeral Fees and Costs
The Funeral Rule allows funeral providers to charge a basic service fee which includes services common to all funerals:
- funeral planning;
- securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates;
- preparing the notices;
- sheltering the remains;
- coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties.
Optional services may be offered at an additional cost for things such as transporting the remains, embalming and preparation, use of funeral home for viewing, memorial services, use of equipment and staff for graveside service, hearse or limousine usage, casket or burial containers, and cremation.
The provider may charge a fee for purchased goods and services from outside vendors on your behalf. They can charge either at cost or they may add a service fee to the cost. The Funeral Rule requires those who charge an extra fee to disclose that fact in writing, although it doesn't require them to specify the amount of their markup. The provider must disclose to you if there are refunds, discounts, or rebates from the supplier on any cash advance item.
It is important to note that the Funeral Rule does not apply to third-party sellers, such as casket and monument dealers, or to cemeteries that don't have a funeral home on site.
Resources for Funeral Planning
The Federal Trade Commission, the agency that enforces the Funeral Rule, has many resources available to guide you through the funeral process. From types of funerals to planning your own service, the information can help make important and costly decisions involved with planning a funeral. One key resource found on the FTC website is their Funeral Pricing Checklist. Use this information to compare providers. You can also download their booklet from the FTC website.