Funeral Planning and Consumer Rights
Due to the highly emotional state associated with burial arrangements and funeral planning, it is all too easy for corrupt businesses to take advantage of families in mourning. While this isn’t a common occurrence, it does happen, and it’s important to safeguard yourself against it. Time constraints, emotional pressure, and a lack of knowledge about the industry allow some funeral homes to charge more or provide only the most expensive options to their consumers, who may then pay considerably more than they have to for services they may not actually need.
The reality is that funeral costs don’t have to be overwhelming. In the past few decades, the Federal Trade Commission has put a focus on consumer rights when it comes to funeral planing. When you follow their guidelines and work with a funeral home you trust, the results are much more likely to leave you and your family with the satisfaction of knowing your loved one has been cared for in the best possible way.
The Funeral Rule
The Funeral Rule is the program enforced by the Federal Trade Commission requiring funeral directors to provide a breakdown of funeral costs in written form. These costs must be offered to you before you make a purchase, and they must itemize each part of the funeral plan. For example, the list must tell you what you will be paying for the casket, for funeral flowers, and for the services of the funeral home. This way, if you choose to go to an outside provider for the casket or flowers (which, by law, the funeral home is required to allow you to do), you can be sure that you don’t end up paying for items you didn’t opt for.
A breakdown of the Funeral Rule includes:
• Your right to choose which funeral items and services you want (as long as you are in accordance with local regulations regarding burial)
• Your right to see a price list before you make a purchase
• Your right to purchase a casket or funeral flowers from an outside provider
• Your right to cremation or burial, as determined by your preference
• Your right not to choose embalming
• Your right to check with the Federal Trade Commission should you feel your rights are in anyway being infringed upon
Funeral Rights and Pre-Need Funeral Planning
Consumer rights aren’t restricted to families planning a funeral after the death of a love one. If you are considering a pre-need funeral plan as a way to save money, time, and added stress on your family, you have similar rights when choosing which funeral pre-plan is right for you.
Some of these rights include:
• Making burial arrangements with the funeral home of your choice (or through a third-party vendor)
• Having any contracts looked over by a lawyer or financial planner before you sign
• Upfront (and often in writing) statements regarding:
• How the money you pay in will be held, and who gets the interest
• Contingencies for the funeral home going out of business or being sold
• Cancellation policies or rules regarding a transfer of the contract
• The same considerations of funeral costs and funeral planning as above
In most cases, you can count on the funeral home to operate in a manner that is fair and has your best interests at heart. However, it is always a good idea to consider all your options when planning a funeral, whether you are doing it in advance or for the recent passing of a loved one. You might also want to include other family members in this process, as well, so that all decisions are fair and in keeping with everyone’s wishes.
For more information on the Federal Trade Commission’s stance, you can visit them online at http://www.ftc.gov/funerals/.
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By Amy Johnson