Funeral Planning: A Consumer’s Guide
- June 22, 2015
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When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral – all of which must be made quickly and often under great emotional duress. What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should you use? Should you bury or cremate the body, or donate it to science? What are you legally required to buy? What other arrangements should you plan? And, as callous as it may sound, how much is it all going to cost?
Pre-Need: Thinking ahead can help you make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements. It allows you to choose the specific items you want and need and compare the prices offered by several funeral providers. It also spares your survivors the stress of making these decisions under the pressure of time and strong emotions.
Put your preferences in writing, give copies to family members and your attorney, and keep a copy in a handy place. Don’t designate your preferences in your will, because a will often is not found or read until after the funeral. And avoid putting the only copy of your preferences in a safe deposit box. That’s because your family may have to make arrangements on a weekend or holiday, before the box can be opened.
If you’re thinking about prepaying for funeral goods and services, it’s important to consider these issues before putting down any money:
- What are you are paying for? Are you buying only merchandise, like a casket and vault, or are you purchasing funeral services as well?
- What happens to the money you’ve prepaid?
- Are you protected if the firm you dealt with goes out of business?
- What happens if you move to a different area or die while away from home?
The Funeral Rule: The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person and, if you ask, over the phone. The Rule also requires funeral directors to give you other information about their goods and services. For example, if you ask about funeral arrangements in person, the funeral home must give you a written price list to keep that shows the goods and services the home offers. If you want to buy a casket or outer burial container, the funeral provider must show you descriptions of the available selections and the prices before actually showing you the caskets.
Cremation Services: Many families that opt to have their loved ones cremated rent a casket from the funeral home for the visitation and funeral, eliminating the cost of buying a casket. Funeral directors who offer direct cremations:
- May tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations, but none do;
- Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container for a direct cremation; and
- Must make an unfinished wood box or other alternative container available for direct cremations.
Cemetery Sites: When you are purchasing a cemetery plot, consider the location of the cemetery and whether it meets the requirements of your family’s religion. Other considerations include what, if any, restrictions the cemetery places on burial vaults purchased elsewhere, the type of monuments or memorials it allows, and whether flowers or other remembrances may be placed on graves.
Veterans cemeteries provide to all Veterans a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker. This eligibility also extends to some civilians who have provided military-related service. Spouses and dependent children also are entitled to a lot and marker when buried in a national cemetery.
Bottom line: Preplanning makes sense. Do it for your loved ones.