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 often under great emotional duress. Most funeral providers are professionals who strive to serve their clients’ needs and best interests. Unfortunately, a few bad apples take advantage of clients through inflated prices, overcharges, double charges, or unnecessary services.
How Do I Avoid Problems?
Fortunately, there is a federal law that makes it easier for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay for only those you select, whether you are making funeral arrangements pre-need or at need.
The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person and, if you ask, over the phone. This rule also requires funeral directors to give you other information about their goods and services.
For example, if you ask about funeral arrangements in person, the funeral home must give you a written price list to keep that shows the goods and services the home offers. If you want to buy a casket or outer burial container, the funeral provider must show you the descriptions of the available selections and the prices before actually showing you the caskets.
Must I Buy a Funeral “Package”?
Many funeral providers offer various “packages” of commonly selected goods and services that make up a funeral. But when you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy individual goods and services. That is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.
What Are My Rights?
According to the Funeral Rule:
- you have the right to choose the funeral goods and services you want (with some exceptions);
- the funeral provider must state this right in writing on the general price list;
- if state or local law requires you to buy 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 you bought elsewhere;
- a funeral provider who offers cremations must make alternative containers available.
Planning For a Funeral
- Shop around in advance. Compare prices from at least two funeral homes. Remember that you can supply your own casket or urn.
- Ask for a price list. The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.
- Resist pressure to buy goods and services you don’t really want or need.
- Avoid emotional overspending. It’s not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral property to honor a loved one.
- Recognize your rights. It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional. Contact the Texas Funeral Service Commission at (888)667-4881.
- Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases. You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit instead of costly burial clothes.
- Plan ahead. This allows you to comparison shop without time constraints, creates an opportunity for family discussion, and lifts some of the burden from your family. It is usually cheaper to save money for a funeral yourself than it is to purchase a prepaid funeral contract.