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10 Facts Funeral Directors Don't Want You to Know

Funerals are among the most expensive purchases many consumers will ever make, ranking only behind the purchase of a home and an automobile. A traditional funeral, including a casket and vault, costs about $6,000, although "extras" like flowers, obituary notices, acknowledgment cards or limousines can add thousands of dollars to the bottom line. Many funerals run well over $10,000.

But it's possible to spend much less if you don't let funeral directors pressure you into buying goods or services you don't want or need. To help consumers resist such pressure and become more informed, the Web site Bankrate.com has compiled a list of "10 facts funeral directors don't want you to know." The list is summarized below. For the full list with explanations, visit: www.bankrate.com/brm/news/cheap/20031118a1.asp

  1. Shopping around for funeral services can save you thousands of dollars.
  2. Funeral directors are not clergy. Although consumers tend to trust them implicitly and believe everything they say, it is well to remember that funeral homes are in business to make money.
  3. Embalming is rarely required when the person will be buried within 24 to 48 hours.
  4. Seeing your loved one prior to burial without the benefit of embalming will not leave you with unresolved grief issues. "If more people knew what embalming entailed, they would not choose to do it," says Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Vermont-based Funeral Consumers Alliance, a not-for-profit consumer information and advocacy group.
  5. Sealed caskets, which add considerable cost, cannot preserve a body.
  6. A funeral provider may not refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.
  7. You don't need to spend more than $400 to $600 for a modest casket.
  8. You do not have to buy the funeral home's entire package of services. You may pick and choose the services you want.
  9. You can plan and carry out many things on your own to honor your loved one without paying for services from a funeral home.
  10. Local funeral and memorial societies can help consumers find ethical establishments and often negotiate discounts for their members. For example, the Funeral Consumers Alliance has 115 chapters in 46 states around the country.

All funeral homes must comply with the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule. The Funeral Rule requires all funeral homes to supply customers with a general price list that details prices for all possible goods or services. The rule also stipulates what kinds of misrepresentations are prohibited and explains what items consumers cannot be required to purchase, among other things. For more on the rule, click here.

For the FTC's Consumer Guide to funerals, click here.

For tips on buying pre-paid funeral plans, click here.