Funeral Service Shopping: Planning Tips Part 1 of 7

With what the world has been experiencing in the past several months, many people were not prepared for the loss of loved ones.  It is a traumatic time and one that we would rather not think about.  However, it is a fact of life that most of us will at some point in our lives be forced to visit a funeral home to arrange for the funeral of a loved one.  This series of articles will hopefully provide some insight as to what may be faced when this unfortunate time arrives. 

This may sound like a very morbid topic, but it is one to be familiar with.  Often times someone who has just lost a loved one shares their experience in planning the funeral of their loved one.  When a loved one dies, grieving family members and friends often are confronted with dozens of decisions about the funeral — all of which must be made quickly and often under great emotional duress. What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should you use? Should you bury or cremate the body, or donate it to science? What are you legally required to buy? What about the availability of environmentally friendly or “green” burials? What other arrangements should you plan? And, practically, how much is it all going to cost?

While you may be healthy and “young” and not feel the need to do any advance planning, you are able to pre-arrange your own funeral at any time and save your loved ones the burden when in a time of emotional distress.  Many funeral homes offer you the option of planning and paying now or paying later.  If you make payment in advance, the funds are placed into a pooled fund and earn interest while they are being held.  At the time the funds are needed, the funeral director then can access the funds to pay for services. 

Funeral Planning Tips

Many funeral providers offer various “packages” of goods and services for different kinds of funerals. When you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy goods and services separately. That is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want. Here are some tips to help you shop for funeral services:

  • Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
  • Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
  • Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
  • Recognize your rights. Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.
  • Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothing.

My next writing will address Funerals and the Federal Trade Commission.


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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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