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Buying Funeral Goods & Services

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 under great emotional duress. What kind of funeral should it be? What funeral provider should be used? Should the body be buried, cremated, or donated to science? What are consumers legally required to buy? What other arrangements should be planned? And what is it going to cost? Under the FTC’s Funeral Rule, consumers have the right to get a general price list from a funeral provider when they ask about funeral arrangements. They also have the right to choose the funeral goods and services they want (with some exceptions), and funeral providers must state this right on the general price list. If state or local law requires purchase of any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law. The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket bought elsewhere, and a provider offering cremations must make alternative containers available. You have the right to buy separate goods, like caskets and separate services like embalming or a memorial service. You don’t have to accept a package with items you don’t want.

Funeral directors must give you price information on the telephone if you ask for it. You don’t have to give them your name, address or telephone number first. Many funeral homes mail their price lists, although they aren’t required to; some post them online. The funeral provider cannot refuse to use a casket or urn you bought online, at a local store or somewhere else, and it can’t charge you a fee to use it! They also cannot require you to be on site when the casket or urn is deliver to them. A funeral home that offers cremations must tell you that alternative containers are available and must make them available. The containers might be made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard or cardboard. You may want to consider a “green burial” without embalming, a metal casket or grave liner.

Typically, the most expensive items in a full-service funeral are the casket and the funeral home’s fee for the basic services of the funeral director and staff. Compare prices before you decide on a casket and funeral home; you may find wide variation in pricing! For example, you may want to look at lower-priced caskets and outer burial containers offered by local providers or online retailers. Some advertisements for caskets or outer burial containers may claim the products will delay decomposition of human remains for a long time. But NO casket or container, regardless of cost, can do that, and the Funeral Rule prohibits any claims that it can!!

Check back tomorrow for more information on what questions to consider when planning funeral arrangements and what exactly is a “green burial.”

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