Wallingford, CT – February 9, 2012 – Families generally do not plan ahead for funerals, and related decisions are often made under stress. While Americans spend billions of dollars a year on funerals, consumers should understand their options and do their research before making decisions about a final resting place.
By educating themselves about the process, taking time to ask questions and comparing costs, families can avoid overspending and are more likely to get the kind of service they want.
A funeral can be a simple internment or an elaborate affair with music, speakers, customized caskets and refreshments for mourners. Family, religious or personal preferences are important, but cost and convenience should be considered as well.
The Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule
gives consumers a number of rights, including the right to receive written price lists, explanations of cemetery or legal requirements and the choice of using a container other than a casket for cremation. Some cemeteries have their own requirements, which must be explained fully before you make a purchase.
Better Business Bureau offers the following tips for making wise decisions after the loss of a loved one, or when planning for the future:Be an informed consumer
- Funeral homes are required to provide detailed price lists over the phone or in writing. Ask if lower priced items are included in those lists. Contact BBB for a business review of any funeral home, cremation service, cemetery or other provider you may be considering
- Check whether the funeral services director or embalmer is licensed. Reviews are available at www.bbb.org
or by calling 203-269-2700.Be wary of unsupported claims
- Sellers who claim to have a product or service that will preserve human remains over the long term are misleading you. Funeral providers cannot determine how long a casket will preserve a body, so keep that in mind when deciding whether to purchase a more expensive “sealed” or “protective” casket. In addition, Embalming is not required if you choose direct cremation or immediate burial, and a casket is not legally required for a direct cremation. Cemetery plots or niches in a mausoleum are sold more like a perpetual lease than a real estate deed
- The rights of use should be spelled out in the contract. Ask if there are additional fees for vaults, opening the grave or perpetual care and whether the cemetery has an endowment to provide for upkeep over time.Research funeral home service fees
- The Federal Trade Commission’s website at www.ftc.gov
has information on charges that are prohibited under its Funeral Rule.
Resist high-priced sales pitches from funeral industry vendors - They should treat you with compassion; not pressure you. Consult a friend or family member
- Take along a friend or relative when you visit the funeral home to assist with difficult decisions.
Insist that details of all proposals and purchases be put in writing - Compare the posted prices and any verbal promises with those listed in the contract. The contract should itemize all prices and specify any future costs. Check the document for any restrictions. Prepaying for a funeral has advantages as well as risks
- If you choose to prepay, carefully research your options and know your rights. You can always make plans in advance without prepaying, and you may be better off putting money for a funeral in a savings account.
Be sure to share your specific wishes with those close to you.