When a family member dies, we are often left to make many big financial decisions surrounding the funeral arrangements in a short period of time while dealing with the emotions of our loss. If this is the first funeral that is being arranged by the family it can be particularly challenging, and this heightens the level of emotional duress as most of us don’t know how to plan a funeral.
There are a number of things to keep in mind when planning the funeral that should help you avoid the known pitfalls. The information will also assist in making the process as easy as possible under the circumstances.
How to Plan a Funeral – Tips
Contact at least two funeral homes for pricing, and ask for their pricing information on the phone. You are not required to give them any personal information, such as your name or telephone number. If they persist in trying to get the information from you before they give you their pricing information, then the funeral home is not where you want to do business because they will be in direct violation of the FTC Funeral Rule. Here are a few specific tips that will empower you when shopping for funeral-related goods and services:
- If you plan on meeting the funeral directors in person, advise them to have everything prepared in writing for you so that when you arrive to discuss the arrangements, their upselling tactics will be at a minimum. Of course, it is also a legal requirement that funeral homes have their fees for goods and services available in writing.
- Never go alone to the meeting. At least two family representatives should attend the discussion with the funeral director. The funeral director is not the family’s enemy, but he is a salesman. Do not consider him to be clergymen, or even quasi clergy. His job is to make money for his business.
- Ask the funeral director for a detailed invoice, or written statement, of the pricing once you have finalized with him what goods and services you wish to purchase. Do this before you pay, as this is the law. Also, ask him to explain in detail every item on the list one more time. He will understand the emotions of the situation, and you should feel confident in knowing what you are paying for.
- Before you see the sample burial containers, ask to see the funeral homes burial container price list. This list will provide detailed casket pricing that will include the lower-priced caskets not typically on display. This tactic will help you in your decision, as you will be less likely to be swayed by the ornate, higher-priced caskets that will be on display.
- Remember that you are in no way obligated to purchase the casket from the funeral home. They mark-up caskets by as much as 300%, so you can save thousands of dollars (if you require an elaborate casket) by shopping at a specialty bricks-and-mortar store or online. Big box stores, such as Costco and Walmart sell caskets online, as well. The funeral home cannot legally refuse to handle a casket or urn you purchased elsewhere, and they cannot legally charge you a fee to do it, or require you to be there when it is delivered to them.
- No law requires embalming of the body unless it is to be moved across state lines, or unless there will be an abnormal delay in the timing of the funeral. In most cases, refrigeration of the body will suffice, and since the body will require refrigeration anyway, it is worth asking about.
It is not a requirement to hold a funeral at a funeral home. In fact, in recent years the trend has been to move away from services being held in traditional funeral homes and toward holding the services in churches or at the graveside. This step literally saves families thousands of dollars.
If the decedent, or the family, is connected to a local church, consider contacting the clergy staff to make the funeral arrangements. They will be glad to assist in your time of need, and, though you will pay a nominal fee for their services, it will save your family thousands of dollars in total costs.
If you are simply at a loss, and don’t know where to begin, contact the Funeral Consumer’s Alliance. This is a nonprofit organization that objectively assists families in navigating through funeral arrangements. Available in all 50 states, their services and information are available online at www.funerals.org, and they offer advice on funeral service laws, how to save money on a funeral, and they provide publications to assist in decision making.
Above all, it is important to remember that, whether you plan a simple or elaborate funeral for your loved one, it does not reflect at all on how much you loved him or her, or how deeply you feel the loss.