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What To Do At This Stressful Time
|Each year, Americans arrange more than 2 million
funerals, often costing often $10,000 or more. What are your options? What is required by
law? What information are you entitled to? This Guide provides the answers to these and
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Arranging A Funeral
How The Funeral Rule Protects You
Statement of Funeral Goods and Services Selected
How To Make A Complaint
Benefits For Widows/Widowers
Most decisions about purchasing funeral goods and services are made by people who are
grieving and under time constraints. Thinking ahead may help you make informed and
thoughtful decisions about funeral arrangements. Moreover, it will relieve some of the
stress. If you plan ahead, you can carefully choose the specific items you want and need
and can compare prices offered by one or more funeral providers.
There are federal regulations aimed at protecting purchase vs. funeral arrangements and
services. This Financial Guide explains how to take advantage of these regulations to
arrange for a funeral in the most cost-effective way.
When the time comes to make funeral arrangements, first decide how much you want to
spend for the funeral. Funerals generally range from $4,000 to $6,000, and often
much more, depending on location and style. Knowing how much you want to
spend will help you to plan the funeral, and to keep costs within reason.
|TIP: A cost-saving alternative for
some people is a memorial society. Members of these non-profit groups, located in 40
states, have access to less expensive funeral alternatives, and may save you hundreds or
even thousands of dollars on funeral arrangements.
If you decide to make advance plans about funeral arrangements, either for yourself or
a loved one, youll have choices of several types of dispositions and ceremonies.
Unless a deceased person has indicated his or her desires, you will have to choose how the
remains will be disposed of: burial, entombment, or cremation. You may wish to consult
with your religious leader. The type of disposition you choose will affect the cost.
|TIP: To help ensure that your own
wishes are carried out, you may want to write down your preferences. It also may be
helpful to tell relatives and other responsible persons what you have decided.
When pre-planning funeral arrangements, here are some of the services and options you
|TIP: Bring a friend or relative with
you, someone who is not emotionally involved, when making funeral arrangements,
whether or not you are pre-planning them. This can help you keep the proper perspective on
costs and elaborateness.
- Filing of the death certificate and provision of copies
- Moving the deceaseds remains to the funeral home
- Preparing the body
- Whether the service is to be indoors, at graveside, or both
- Location of the serviceat funeral home or at church or temple
- Content of the service, who will conduct it, and other speakers
- The hearse to be used and limousines for family members
- Transportation of the body to the cemetery
- Whether casket will be open or closed
- Viewing the body
- Chairs and tents for guests at the cemetery
- Guest book to be signed
The Funeral Rule
- The FTC's trade regulation rule concerning funeral industry practices has
been in effect since April 30, 1984. This rule, called the Funeral Rule,
enables you to get price and other
information about funeral arrangements both over the telephone and in person.
It makes it easier for you to select only those goods and services you
want or need and to pay for
only those you select.
The Funeral Rule requires that the funeral provider give you a Statement of
Funerals and Services Selected after you select the funeral goods and services you
would like. The statement shows the prices of the individual items you are considering for
purchase, as well as the total price. It also requires providers to give you the cost of
individual items over the telephone or, if when you inquire in person about funeral
arrangements, the funeral home will give you a written price list of the goods and
When arranging a funeral, you can purchase individual items or buy an entire package of
goods and services. If you want to purchase a casket and/or vault, the funeral provider
will supply lists that describe all the available selections and their prices. As
described in greater detail in the following section, the Funeral Rule helps you obtain
information about the cost and availability of individual funeral goods and services.
When you call a funeral provider and ask them about terms, conditions, or prices of
funeral goods and services, the funeral provider will:
- Give you prices and any other information from the price lists to reasonably answer your
- Give you any other information about prices or offerings that is readily available and
reasonably answers your questions.
|TIP: By using the telephone, you can compare prices among
funeral providers. Getting price information over the telephone may help you select a
funeral home and the arrangements you want.
If you inquire in person about funeral arrangements, the funeral provider will give you
a general price list. This list, which you can keep, contains the cost of each individual
funeral item and service offered. It also discloses important legal rights and
requirements regarding funeral arrangements. It must include information about embalming,
caskets for cremation, and required purchases.
|TIP: Use this
information to help select the funeral provider and funeral items you want, need, and are
able to afford.
The Funeral Rule requires funeral providers to give you information about embalming
that may help you decide whether to purchase this service. Under the Rule, a funeral
- May not falsely state that embalming is required by law.
- Must disclose in writing that, except in certain special cases, embalming is not
required by law.
- May not charge a fee for unauthorized embalming unless it is required by state law.
- Will disclose in writing that you usually have the right to choose a disposition such as
a direct cremation or immediate burial if you do not want embalming.
- Will disclose to you in writing that certain funeral arrangements, such as a funeral
with viewing, may make embalming a practical necessity and, there would be a required
Cash Advance Sales
The Funeral Rule requires providers to disclose to you in writing if they charge a fee
for buying cash advance items. Cash advance items are goods or services that are paid for
by the funeral provider on your behalf. Some examples of cash advance items are flowers,
obituary notices, pallbearers, and clergy honoraria. Some funeral providers charge you
their cost for these items. Others add a service fee to their cost.
The Funeral Rule requires the funeral provider to inform you when a service fee is
added to the price of cash advance items or if the provider gets a refund, discount, or
rebate from the supplier of any cash advance item.
Some people may want to select direct cremation, which is cremation of the deceased
without a viewing or other ceremony at which the body is present. If you choose a direct
cremation, the funeral provider will offer you either an inexpensive alternative container
or an unfinished wood box. An alternative container is a non-metal enclosure used to hold
the deceased. These containers may be of pressboard, cardboard, or canvas.
|TIP: Because any container you buy
will be destroyed during the cremation, you may wish to use an alternative container or an
unfinished wood box for a direct cremation. These could lower your funeral costs since
they are less expensive than traditional burial caskets.
Under the Funeral Rule, funeral directors who offer direct cremations:
- May not tell you that state or local law requires a casket for direct cremations.
- Must disclose in writing your right to buy an unfinished wood box (a type of casket) or
an alternative container for a direct cremation
- Must make an unfinished wood box or alternative container available for direct
You do not have to purchase unwanted goods or services or pay any fees as a condition
to obtaining those products and services you do want, other than one permitted fee for
services of the funeral director and staff and fees for other goods and services selected
by you or required by state law. Under the Funeral Rule:
- You have the right to choose only the funeral goods and services you want, with some
- The funeral provider must disclose this right in writing on the general price list.
- The funeral provider must disclose on your itemized statement of goods and services
selected the specific state law that requires you to purchase any particular item.
- The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket you purchased
Preservative And Protective Claims
Under the Funeral Rule, funeral providers are prohibited from telling you a particular
funeral item or service can indefinitely preserve the body of the deceased in the grave.
The information gathered during the FTC's investigation indicated these claims are not
true. For example, funeral providers may not claim embalming or a particular type of
casket will indefinitely preserve the deceased's body.
The Rule also prohibits funeral providers from making claims that funeral goods, such
as caskets or vaults, will keep out water, dirt, or other gravesite substances when it is
The funeral provider will give you an itemized statement of the total cost of the
funeral goods and services you select.
|TIP: This statement also will
disclose any legal, cemetery, or crematory requirements that require you to purchase any
specific funeral goods or services.
The funeral provider must give you this statement after you select the funeral goods
and services that you would like. The statement combines in one place the prices of the
individual items you are considering for purchase, as well as the total price. You can
decide whether to add or subtract items to get what you want. If the cost of cash advance
items is not known at this time, the funeral provider must write down a good faith
estimate of their cost.
|TIP: The Funeral Rule does not
require any specific form for this information. Therefore, this information might be
included in any document they give you at the end of your discussion about funeral
If you have a problem concerning funeral matters, you should, of course, first
attempt to resolve it with your funeral director. If you are dissatisfied, contact your
federal, state, or local consumer protection agencies, the Conference of Funeral Examining
Boards, or the Funeral Service Consumer Assistance Program (FSCAP). The addresses for
these organizations are given in the next section.
While the Federal Trade Commission does not resolve individual consumer disputes,
information about your experience may show a pattern of conduct or practices that the
Commission may investigate to determine if any action is warranted.
Many people do not realize that widows and widowers can begin receiving
Social Security benefits at age 60 (or age 50 if disabled) on the deceased
spouse’s account. If you are receiving widows/widowers (including divorced
widows/widowers) benefits, you can switch to your own retirement benefits
(assuming you are eligible and your retirement rate is higher than your
widow/widower's rate) as early as age 62.
In many cases, a widow or widower can begin receiving one benefit at a
reduced rate and then switch to the other benefit at an unreduced rate at age
65. Since the rules vary depending on the situation, talk to a Social Security
representative about the options available to you.
|Shows the due dates for filing tax returns, reporting tax information
and taking certain actions to obtain a tax benefit.
Books and Other Publications
- Most states have a licensing board that regulates the funeral industry. You may contact
the licensing board in your state for information or help.
- The Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards, which represents licensing boards
in 47 states, provides information on laws in various states and accepts and responds to
consumer inquiries or complaints about funeral providers.
The Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards
2404 Washington Boulevard, Suite 1000
Ogden, Utah 84401
AARP publishes Funeral Goods and Services and Pre-Paying for Your Funeral,
as well as other helpful pamphlets and free guides.
American Association of Retired Persons
601 E Street, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20049
- For a free directory of Memorial Societies, which will help you pre-plan your funeral
arrangements, write to Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial
Societies. This is a consumer organization that disseminates information
about alternatives for funeral or non-funeral dispositions. It encourages advance planning
and cost efficiency.
Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Societies
6900 Lost Lake Road
Egg Harbor, Wisconsin 54209
- The Cremation Association of North America is an association of crematories,
cemeteries, and funeral homes that offer cremation. More than 750 members own and operate
crematories and encourage advance planning.
Cremation Association of North America
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, Illinois 60611
- The International Order of the Golden Rule is an international association of
independent funeral homes in which membership is by invitation only. Approximately 1,500
funeral homes are members of OGR.
International Order of the Golden Rule
P.O. Box 3586
Springfield, Illinois 62708
- The National Funeral Directors Association is the largest educational and professional
association of funeral directors. Established in 1882, it has 14,000 members throughout
the United States.
National Funeral Directors Association
11121 West Oklahoma Avenue
Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53227
- The National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association is a national association of
funeral firms in which membership is by invitation only and is conditioned upon the
commitment of each firm to comply with the association's Code of Good Funeral Practice.
Consumers may request a variety of publications through NSM's affiliate, the Consumer
Information Bureau, Inc.
National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association
1800 East Linwood Boulevard
Kansas City, Missouri 64109
- If you have a complaint or question about funeral arrangements or funeral home
National Selected Morticians
5 Revere Drive, Suite 340
Northbrook, Illinois 60062-8009
- FSCAP is a program designed to assist consumers and funeral directors in resolving
disagreements about funeral service contracts. FSCAP is a service of the National Research
and Information Center, an independent, nonprofit organization that researches and
provides consumer information on death, grief, and funeral service. Contact them for a
free brochure on price and other information funeral homes must disclose, request
"Complying with the Funeral Rule" from the FTC:
National Research and Information Center
2250 E. Devon Avenue, Suite 250
Des Plaines, Illinois 60018
FTC Public Reference Branch
Sixth St. & Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Rm. 130
Washington, DC 20580
Federal Trade Commission
Washington, D.C. 20580