Part of estate planning involves preparing for your funeral, including making decisions about whether you want to be buried or cremated. While few look forward to planning for this macabre event, it is a necessary part of planning for the end of life.
Unfortunately, many people—or their families—find themselves the victims of funeral scams. It is a tragic fact that, often, funeral directors and others take advantage of people in their time of grief. Unethical funeral directors try to guilt families into paying for unnecessary, more expensive caskets or charge a fee for bringing in a casket bought elsewhere. Some even fail to inform families that the funeral has been prepaid, leading them to pay for the funeral twice.
Under the Funeral Rule, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, consumers have certain rights. These include the right to:
Purchase only the funeral arrangements you want. You don’t have to purchase a package funeral arrangement that includes expensive goods or services that you don’t need. You can purchase a casket and memorial service separately.
Get price information over the phone. Funeral directors are required to give you their price list over the phone if you ask for it. You are not required to give them your name, address, or phone number before they give it to you.
Get price information in writing when you visit a funeral home. This list must list all of the goods and services that a funeral home offers and include the price of each one.
Receive a written invoice before you pay. After you make arrangements with a funeral home, you should receive an itemized list of each product or service you are purchasing as well as the cost.
Use a casket or urn you purchased somewhere else. A funeral home cannot require you to purchase a burial container from them in order to utilize other goods or services. The funeral home cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online or somewhere else. And it cannot order you to be present when the burial container is delivered.
Forego embalming. Contrary to popular belief, embalming is not a legal requirement for every death in many states. And in most cases, refrigeration can be an alternative to embalming.
Make sure that you remember your rights when making your funeral arrangements. In addition, inform your family of your funeral preferences, including whether or not the funeral is prepaid. Doing so can protect your family from funeral scams and save them needless heartache.