Each year, Americans arrange more than 2 million funerals for family and friends. Because can cost thousands of dollars, you should be aware of federal regulations that can help protect you from overplaying.
The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, makes it easier for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay for only those you select. According to the Rule, you can find out the cost of the individual items whether you shop by telephone or in person.
If you inquire about funeral arrangements in person, the funeral home must give you a written price list of available goods and services. Keep in mind that when you arrange for a funeral, you can buy a package of goods and services or individual items. If you want to buy a casket for example, the funeral provider must supply lists that describe the available selections and their prices.
Telephone Price Disclosures
You can shop by phone to compare prices among funeral providers. Getting price information over the phone may help you select a funeral home and the arrangements you want.
When you call a funeral provider to ask about terms, conditions, or prices of funeral goods and services, the funeral provider must give you prices and other information from the price lists to answer your questions reasonably.
General Price List
If you inquire in person about funeral arrangements, the funeral provider will give you a general price list that contains the cast of each funeral item and service offered. Used this information to help select the funeral provider and funeral item you want, need, and can afford.
The price list also must include information about embalming, caskets for cremation, and required purchases.
The Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to give consumers information about embalming. Under the rule, a funeral provider:
May not falsely state that embalming is required by law.
Must disclose in writing that embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases.
May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless embalming is required by state law.
Will disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition-such as direct cremation if immediate burial if you do not want embalming.
Will disclose to you in writing that certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, so, a required purchase.
Cash Advance Sales
The funeral Rule requires funeral providers to disclose in writing if they charge a fee for buying cash advance items goods or services that funeral providers pay for on your behalf. Examples of cash advance items are flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, and clergy honoraria. Some funeral providers charge you their cost for these items. Others add a service fee to their cost. The Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to tell you when a service fee is added to the price of cash advance items, or if there are refunds, discounts, or rebates from the supplier on any cash advance item.
Caskets for Cremation
Some consumers may want to select direct cremationcremation of the deceased without a viewing or other ceremony where the body is present. If you choose a direct cremation, the funeral provider will offer an inexpensive alternative container or an unfinished wood box. An alternative container is a non-metal enclosurepressboard, cardboard, or canvasto hold the deceased.
Because any container you buy will be destroyed during the cremation, you may wish to use an alternative container or an unfinished wood box. These could lower the funeral cost because they are less expensive than traditional caskets.
Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:
May not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations;
Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished box (a type of casket) or an alternative container for a direct cremation; and
Must make an unfinished wood box or alternative container available for direct cremation
You do not have goods or service you don't want, or pay any fees as a condition to obtaining the products and service you want, except one permitted fee for the service you of the state law requires. Under the Funeral Rue:
the funeral provider may not refuse or change a fee, to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.
Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected
The funeral provider must give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the funeral goods and service you select. This statement also will disclose any legal, cemetery or crematory requirements that require you to purchase any specific funeral goods or services.
The funeral provider must give you this statement after you select the funeral goods and services that you would like. The statement includes the prices of the individual items you are considering for purchase, as well as the total price, in one place. You can decide whether to add or subtract items. If the cost of cash advance items is not known at this time, the funeral provider must write down a "good faith estimate." The Rule does not require any specific form for this information. Funeral providers may include it in any document they give you at the end of your discussion about funeral arrangements.
Preservative and Protective Claims
The Funeral Rule prohibits funeral providers from telling you a particular funeral item or service can preserve the of the deceased indefinitely in the grave. For example, funeral providers may not claim that embalming or a particular type of casket will preserve the deceased's body for an unlimited time.
The Rule also prohibits funeral providers from making claims that funeral goods, such as caskets or vaults, will keep out water, dirt, or other gravesite substances if that's not true.
Most decisions about purchasing funeral goods and service are made bye people when they are grieving and under time constraints. Thinking ahead may help you make informed and thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements, allow you to choose the specific items you want and need and compare prices offered by one or more funeral providers.
IF you decide to make advances plane about funeral arrangements either for yourself or a loved one, you can either choose among several types of dispositions and ceremonies. Your choice will affect the cost. Some people prefer a ceremonial service, religious or secular, with the service both present. Others prefer cremation, which may be performed directly after the ceremony. In addition, the decreased body may be donated to a medical or educational institution. To help ensure that your wishes are carried out, you may want to write down your preferences, and tell relatives and family friends what you decided.