Funeral planning and funeral costs, especially if it is unexpected, can be overwhelming for a family. When we seek out the help of a funeral home, the last thing we anticipate is that we will be taken advantage of in our most vulnerable state of grief. Unfortunately, funeral service is a multi-billion dollar industry, and funeral home personnel are salesmen, not clergymen. So, as compassionate as they may seem, it is their job to upsell whenever possible.
The tactics of the funeral home sales staff are not the only pitfalls to avoid, however. Here are a few things to look out for related to hidden costs associated with planning a funeral.
Common Hidden Funeral Costs
Believe it or not, the opening of the burial plot is not necessarily included in the price of the plot itself. Often, cemeteries charge extra for this necessary service. Make sure that, when you are quoted the price for the burial plot, the fee includes the opening of the plot, too. Otherwise your bill could be hundreds of dollars higher for this one service.
Some cemeteries require that a burial vault is purchased in order to prevent the dirt from caving in around the casket once it’s been buried. This is to help preserve the aesthetic of the cemeteries ground surface. This price is above and beyond anything else, including the burial plot and the casket. Knowing in advance whether or not the cemetery requires a burial plot will help you determine which cemetery to use. A burial vault, sometimes called an outer burial container, can cost up to an additional $1,000. Note that, even though some cemeteries require them, there are no legal requirements in most states.
When selecting a casket, one of the often hidden features associated with the casket is what is called a casket seal. The talking point on this is that the seal will delay the casket from being penetrated by water or dirt. This is an unnecessary addition to the casket that adds hundreds of dollars to its price.
Temporary Grave Marker
Since a headstone can take up to six weeks to engrave and be delivered, cemeteries charge for temporary grave markers to be placed at the grave until the headstone arrives. These temporary markers can cost up to $200.
Funeral home representatives often try to promote their in house limousine services to transfer the bereaved to and from the funeral home and gravesite. However, this fee, which they sometimes try to hide in their package services is neither necessary nor required. Most people will feel comfortable driving themselves anyway, so if you are considering a funeral package, scour it for this service, and ask that it be removed from the total cost. This alone will save hundreds of dollars.
The best way to avoid hidden fees is to get everything in writing, and read it all carefully. That way you will have a complete understanding of where the money is going, and what to expect. Always have a friend or family member with you when negotiating as well. This will not only give you moral support, but they may think of questions or services that had not yet crossed your mind.
As always, be an informed consumer. Understand your rights, including which goods and services are required by law, and which are simply promoted by the funeral home. If it is something that is not required by law, but the funeral home is pushing or promoting it, you do have a choice to take your business elsewhere.