Choosing a funeral home is a decision that many families face at some point — for their own pre-arrangements or on behalf of deceased family members and funeral order of service. It can be a very emotional process because choosing a funeral home often provides the final closure for those left behind. When loved ones are in a state of shock and grieving, the task can become even more challenging.
To save heartache and headache, and to make more financially sound vs. emotionally driven decisions, it is smart to learn about processes and options before you or your family actually needs to research and choose a funeral home. Armed with the right knowledge, the experience can actually be a positive one.
Laws That Protect Consumers
A funeral is one of the most expensive purchases a consumer will make. They cost an average of $6,000 according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Add extras such as flowers, obituaries and limousines and the cost can easily approach more than $10,000.
The funeral home industry is highly regulated by federal, state, and local laws in order to keep consumers safe. Overall, consumers are protected by The Funeral Rule —
funeral order of service which is enforced by the FTC. It requires, among other things, that providers clearly itemize prices. They must also furnish written price lists to customers inquiring about services in person or over the phone.
Many providers offer package deals, but it is important to note that you have the right to buy individual services. When choosing a provider, request an itemized list and choose the individual services that you need.
Before You Arrive At The Funeral Home
It is important to follow a few steps before making your decision and funeral order of service:
1) Check to see whether pre-arrangements were made. Many people pay for services in advance — especially in cases of chronic illness. This takes the burden off of families and will potentially make your job of planning the funeral easier. If you are researching options for a loved one and arrangements have already been made, all you need to do is follow through.
2) Get everything in writing. Making final arrangements for loved ones happens at a time when families are most vulnerable. Make sure that the home you select gives a detailed and itemized list of their services and costs in writing. This way there will be no surprises when it comes to payment.
3) Make sure the provider is sympathetic to your needs. Choosing a funeral home is a decision that you shouldn’t take lightly — and you deserve for the provider to respect you and your decisions. Make sure the provider is professional, caring and sympathetic. Sometimes choosing the right home is as easy as going with your gut.
The Bottom Line: Money
In order to avoid costly financial surprises, it is important to find out ahead of time what the basic fees are going to be. Basic fees typically include planning, permits and death certificates, sheltering, burial and crematory plans. Once that is established, it is time to determine the add-on costs. Expect additional costs such as transporting remains, embalming, and viewings. Also, consumers are usually required to pay in advance for third party services such as flowers, obituaries, and musicians. All extra fees must be disclosed in writing or come with good faith estimates.
Another large cost consideration is the casket. Casket prices range from $500 to more than $10,000. You are not required to purchase a casket from the funeral home where you are holding the service. Funeral homes cannot refuse to handle or charge extra fees for caskets purchased elsewhere. Compare casket prices from several sources and shop wisely.
Doing thorough research ahead of time will ease the burden of choosing a funeral home when the time comes. Tracking costs, comparing services, and planning ahead can help to ease the stress and heartache of this already emotional event.