topic | make funeral arrangements

Step 4: understand funeral costs

A funeral director helps make arrangements, files appropriate paperwork, deals with doctors, ministers, florists, and newspapers, and attends to necessary details. When selectiong a funeral home, consider individual requirements such as transportation of the body, embalming, viewing rooms, chapels, limosines, and hearses.

In most cases, funeral directors do their best to take your needs and desires into consideration. When budgeting for a funeral and working with a funeral home, it is helpful to know the laws that affect funeral decisions and costs.

Know how much a typical, full-service funeral costs.
Funerals can be expensive. Traditional arrangements, including a casket and a vault, can exceed $6,000. With extra costs such as flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgement cards, and limousines, the total can increase significantly. The cost for many funerals exceeds $10,000. Funeral Cost highlights the expenditures traditionally made for an adult funeral in 2006. Current costs may be even higher.

Obtain basic service costs.
A basic service fee covers services that are common to all funeral homes such as funeral planning, preparation and filing of authorizations and permits, coordination with the cemetery or crematory, and the overhead of running the funeral home facilities. Customers are required to pay the basic fee in addition to whatever additional goods and services they request.

Goods and services may be purchased individually or as a package.
Regulations by the Federal Trade Commission, the "Funeral Rule", allow consumers to purchase items and services individually versus buying a package that may include unwanted items or services. Funeral homes have General Price Lists (GPLs) that itemize goods and services and will provide a copy to customers. Some funeral homes publish their GPLs online.

Ask to see all options.
Industry studies show that the average customer buys one of the first three casket models presented - usually the middle-priced of the three. Funeral directors understand that consumers should be presented with all available selections and prices as required by Federal law. A casket or urn from a third party retailer may be purchased and shipped directly to the funeral home. The funeral home may not charge a fee for using these items.

Ask for itemized prices and an estimate for services.
Funeral directors provide itemized prices in person and over the phone. Additionally, if asked about funeral arrangements in person, the funeral director should provide a written price list showing available goods, services, and prices.

Review embalmment options.
If a viewing or visitation is planned, most funeral homes require that the body be embalmed. However, embalming is generally not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death. Eliminating this service may save hundreds of dollars. In compliance with the Funeral Rule, your funeral provider should not provide or charge for embalming services without permission. They should also disclose in writing that:

  • consumers have the option to decline embalming services;
  • embalming is not required by law, except in certain special cases;
  • consumers may choose a disposition, such as direct cremation or immediate burial, that does not require embalming; and
  • some funeral arrangements, such as a funeral with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, if so, a required purchase.

Best Practices

There is a wide range of products and services available. Take time to understand your options. If expenses are a concern, consider limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral. Consider dressing the deceased in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.

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