When a loved one passes away, money is often the farthest thing from most peopleís minds. However, according to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average cost of a funeral is over $6,000, which means that a funeral is one of the most expensive purchases that many people will make. Planning ahead, either formally or informally, can help ensure a meaningful farewell without adding undue financial burden to an already difficult time.
Get It In Writing
Any prearrangements you and your loved ones make should be put into writing. This can be as simple as handwriting a document describing the preference for burial or cremation, along with a few service details, or as formal as creating binding contracts and will provisions. In either case, written instructions are the best way to make sure that end-of-life wishes are communicated clearly.
Know Your Rights
Grief can make people vulnerable to unscrupulous and illegal funeral sales techniques. To protect consumers during this difficult time, the Federal Trade Commission created the Funeral Rule. These regulations prevent a funeral home from offering only package deals or misrepresenting laws regarding care of the deceased.
For example, the rule requires funeral directors to provide a price list of all available goods and services upon request, including those that may be required by state or local laws. It also requires funeral homes to use a casket or urn that you purchased elsewhere, and prohibits the home from charging a fee to do so. In short, the Funeral Rule gives families the flexibility to say good-bye in the manner of their choosing, not the funeral home's.
As with other major purchases, shopping around for funeral services can help you find the options you want at a price you can afford. Here are a few things you need to keep in mind as you consider funeral services.
First, you are not legally required to use a commercial funeral home to plan or hold services. Religious groups, veterans groups and other organizations may offer alternatives to the funeral services industry. The Funeral Consumers Alliance can put you in contact with alternate providers in your area.
Second, prices can vary widely for the same services within a given area. Looking outside of your familyís traditional funeral provider can save thousands of dollars. As noted above, the Funeral Rule gives you flexibility in choosing suppliers. For example, a casket purchased online or from another retailer may have a lower mark-up than the same model purchased directly from the funeral home.
Understand Prepayment Options
Prepaying is a popular way to lock in prices for funeral services, but the consumer protections vary greatly by state. To make sure you receive the best value from a prepaid plan, be sure to ask the provider the following questions:
- Which goods and services are included?
- What happens if the funeral home goes out of business?
- Can you cancel the contract? If so, can you get a full or partial refund?
- Can the plan be transferred if you move from the area?
Also, you may want to consider other forms of prepayment, such as creating a bank account or trust dedicated to end-of-life services. Be sure to discuss these options with a qualified financial professional.
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