Funeral Service Shopping: Planning Tips Part 2 of 7

This is Part 2 of my series on Funerals, a subject we don’t like or want to think about.  But, a very important one.

PART 2 – The FTC Funeral Rule

The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. The Rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes, and makes it possible for you to select the funeral arrangements you want at the home you use.

Rights Under the Funeral Rule

The Funeral Rule gives you the right to:

  • Buy only the funeral arrangements you want. You have the right to buy separate goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming or a memorial service).
  • You can get price information on the telephone. Funeral directors must give you price information on the telephone if you ask for it. You don’t have to give them your name, address, or telephone number first.
  • You should get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home. The funeral home must give you a General Price List (GPL) that is yours to keep. It lists all the items and services the home offers and the cost of each one.
  • See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets. There are times when casket prices are included on the funeral home’s GPL. However, it is usually provided on a separate casket price list. Get the price information before you see the caskets so that you can ask about lower-priced products that may not be on display.
  • See a written outer burial container price list. Outer burial containers are not required by state law anywhere in the U.S. Many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in. These containers or vaults are usually sold by the funeral home.  If the prices are not included on the GPL, you have the right to look at a separate price list.
  • Receive a written statement on the arrangements selected before you pay. It should show exactly what you are buying and the cost of each item. The funeral home must give you a statement listing every good and service you have selected, the price of each, and the total cost immediately after you make the arrangements.
  • 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.
  • Use an “alternative container” instead of a casket for cremation. No state or local law requires the use of a casket for cremation. A funeral home that offers cremations must tell you that alternative containers are available and must make them available. There are many options available and can be purchased on the internet.  The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought elsewhere — or charge you a fee to use it.
  • Make funeral arrangements without embalming. No state law requires routine embalming for every death. Some states require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not buried or cremated within a certain time; some states don’t require it at all. 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. Many funeral homes have a policy requiring embalming if the body is to be publicly viewed, but this is not required by law in most states. Ask if the funeral home offers private family viewing without embalming. If some form of preservation is a practical necessity, ask the funeral home if refrigeration is available.

Part 3 will address fees that will be incurred for funeral services.

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Kay Sowa

About the Author

Kay Sowa is a paralegal in the Trusts and Estates Group at Capehart & Scatchard, P.A. She is an IRS Enrolled Agent, an Accredited Estate Planner®, and a Certified Trust and Financial Advisor. She oversees the trust and estate administration practice for the firm. She is an accomplished author and lecturer who has frequently spoken on behalf of a number of organizations including the National Business Institute and the Institute of Paralegal Education.

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