DEALING WITH THE death of a loved one can be
both emotionally and financially overwhelming.
While most people in the funeral business are honest, unfortunately there are also those who try to
take economic advantage at a vulnerable time.
These tips will protect and inform you, so you can
make the best decisions for your family.
Choosing a home
In most states you are not legally required to use
a funeral home to plan and conduct a funeral. If you
can, treat it like any other major purchase and get at
least three different price quotes. Compare costs for
goods and services such as transporting and caring
for the body, urns and caskets, arrangement options
and embalming. Many homes have packages that
may be more cost-effective than individual items or
services. Direct burial and cremation can cut costs,
and federal law requires that these options be listed
on a funeral home’s price list.
Funeral homes have lower-priced caskets and
burial containers, so ask to see those alternatives.
You can also find caskets and urns online. Do your
research before you buy. Federal law says that a
funeral provider cannot charge an additional fee if
you buy a casket or urn yourself, or require you to
be there when the casket or urn is delivered.
Also, be aware that your local funeral home may
not have the best prices. You could save money
using a funeral home outside your area.
According to data from the National Funeral
Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral
with viewing and cremation is more than $6,000.
That does not include cemetery and burial services.
But a funeral doesn’t have to cost that much. Funeral
expert Josh Slocum, executive director of the
Funeral Consumers Alliance, says, “You can choose
simple arrangements. You have other options: direct
burial or cremation, or something in between.”
There are drawbacks to prepaying for a funeral.
You do have the option to prearrange without prepaying or to establish a “payable on death” bank
account. This account can be made payable upon
death to a trusted beneficiary. In regard to burial and
pre-need insurance, in most cases you will spend as
much or more in premiums as the policy will pay out
at the time of your death.
Slocum says, “The only time it makes sense to
prepay is if you’re right about to go on Medicaid to
cover your care expenses. Unfortunately, Medicaid
will not accept a simple ‘pay on death’ account. They
require you to prepay through a funeral home. Never
prepay ‘just in case’ you should ever go on Medicaid,
because you must pay for an irrevocable account.”
It is best to plan ahead for a funeral so you are
not making emotional decisions. Bring a trusted
friend or family member to a funeral home to help
you make the best financial decisions.
You have legal rights under the Funeral Rule,
enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (ftc.
gov), the nation’s consumer protection agency.
Under the Funeral Rule, you have the right to:
● Buy only the funeral arrangements you want.
You do not have to accept a funeral home package
that includes items you do not want.
● Buy separate goods (like caskets) and services
● Get prices over the phone.
● Receive an itemized price list in person.
● See a written price list before you see caskets.
● See a written outer burial container price list.
● Receive a detailed written statement after you
decide what you want and before you pay that
includes the total cost.
● Get an explanation in the written statement
from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory requirement that requires you to
buy any funeral goods or services.
● Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn
you buy elsewhere.
● Make funeral arrangements without embalming. In most cases, refrigeration is an acceptable
alternative. In addition, you may choose services
like direct cremation and immediate burial, which
don’t require any form of preservation.
● Funeral Ethics Organization, funeralethics.org
● Funeral Consumers Alliance, funerals.org. C
David Horowitz is a leading
consumer advocate. David’s
daughter Amanda Horowitz
is the CEO of Fight Back! and
co-founder of FightBack.com.
Questions and answers of the
greatest interest to Costco
members will be used in this
column (with the permission
of the contributor) and will be
posted on fightback.com.
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Please note we are not licensed
professionals in any field. If you are
seeking advice you should consult
with your own licensed professional.
We do not assume any liability or
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application or accuracy of any information provided.
L L C Funeral advisory
Advance preparation can help ease a
difficult process at an emotional time