Funeral Service Shopping: Planning Tips Part 3 of 7

This is Part 3 of my series on Funerals, a subject we don’t like or want to think about.  But, a very important one.


Funeral costs include basic services fee for the funeral director and staff, charges for other services and merchandise, and cash advances.

Funeral Fees

The Funeral Rule allows funeral providers to charge a basic services fee that include services common to all funerals, regardless of the specific arrangement. These include funeral planning, securing the necessary permits and copies of death certificates, preparing the notices, sheltering the remains, and coordinating the arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third parties. The fee does not include charges for optional services or merchandise.

Charges for other services and merchandise, include costs for optional goods and services such as transporting the remains; embalming and other preparation; use of the funeral home for the viewing, ceremony or memorial service; use of equipment and staff for a graveside service; use of a hearse or limousine; a casket, outer burial container or alternate container; and cremation or interment.

Cash advances are fees charged by the funeral home for goods and services it buys from outside vendors on your behalf, including flowers, obituary notices, pallbearers, officiating clergy, and organists and soloists. Some funeral providers charge you their cost for the items they buy on your behalf. Others add a service fee to the cost. The Funeral Rule requires those who charge an extra fee to disclose that fact in writing, although it doesn’t require them to specify the amount of their markup. The Rule also requires funeral providers to tell you if there are refunds, discounts, or rebates from the supplier on any cash advance item.

Calculating the Actual Cost of a Funeral

As stated earlier, the funeral provider must give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the funeral goods and services you have selected when you are making the arrangements. If the funeral provider doesn’t know the cost of the cash advance items at the time, a written “good faith estimate” is required. This statement also must disclose any legal cemetery or crematory requirements that you purchase specific funeral goods or services.  Here is a list of services and products which may be included in the cost of a funeral:

  • EMBALMING – Many funeral homes require embalming if you’re planning a viewing or visitation. But embalming generally is not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death. Embalming is a large expense. Under the Funeral Rule, a funeral provider must obtain permission to embalm a deceased person cannot falsely state the embalming is required by law and must disclose that is it not required by law but for certain circumstances, must disclose in writing that you have the right to choose direct cremation or immediate burial which do not require embalming and must disclose when embalming is a practical necessity and if so, a required purchase.
  • CASKETS are often the most expensive item you will buy if you plan a traditional service.  Caskets come in a variety of styles and prices and are primarily sold for their look.  Typically, they’re constructed of metal, wood, fiberboard, fiberglass or plastic. An average casket costs a few thousand dollars while some mahogany, bronze or copper caskets can sell for $10,000 or more.

Part 4 will provide more information on burial vessels and their differences. 


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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 Fiduciary 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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