Funeral Planning Warnings
As is the case with any major life purchase, funeral planning comes with its own red flags and warnings. Although the death care industry is regulated at both the federal and the state levels, there will always be dishonest practices by a select few organizations that care more about making money than providing you with the comfort and services you need.
If you or a loved one is preparing to plan a funeral, here are a few issues to keep in mind before you sign a contract or open your wallet.
Almost everyone these days knows that caskets purchased through a funeral home come with a heavy markup. That’s why the Funeral Rule allows you to legally purchase a casket from any outside provider—and why the funeral home of your choosing is required to use that casket, no additional fees allowed.
The casket you choose (regardless of where it is purchased) can cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to $10,000, so know what you’re paying for. In some cases, expensive materials like titanium or premium hardwoods are the culprit. In other cases, you might be paying for the service more than the casket itself, especially if the casket is purchased as part of a package plan offered by a funeral home to streamline your decision-making needs during this difficult time. In still others, it could be primarily markup. Know what you’re willing to pay and why—and consult the Funeral Rule for additional information.
Excessive Preservation Efforts
Things like embalming, sealed caskets, burial vaults, and other extraordinary measures are often sold as a way to preserve the deceased’s remains for as long as possible. Although in some cases, this can be legally required (if you are transporting the body across state lines or via air, for example) or used for an open casket showing, preservation efforts are at best temporary fixes for something no one can control. Bodies will decay and decompose, and no amount of money on superior sealants will stop that.
(Note: Some cemeteries do require burial vaults or grave liners as a way to preserve the aesthetics of their grounds, usually to avoid the appearance of sinking at the site of the grave. Ask what their rules are regarding burial vaults before you decide on a cemetery.)
These days, most people mark the graves of a loved one with a simple rectangle plaque that rests at the head of the grave. More elaborate tombstones may be purchased depending on personal preference, but any upgrades will come with additional costs.
As is the case with caskets, you aren’t legally required to purchase these from the cemetery. If you want to buy a grave marker from a third-party provider, you can. Know, though, that most cemeteries have rules about the size, scope, and materials of these grave markers that you must adhere to, regardless of where the headstone is purchased.
Making Smart Decisions
The best way to ensure that you don’t get taken advantage of during funeral planning is to do your research in advance (as part of a funeral pre-plan package) or to bring someone along who isn’t as emotionally invested as you are. When you are faced with fresh grief, it can be hard to see beyond the immediate pain, so having a trusted friend or family member on hand to help guide your decisions can make a huge difference in your total funeral costs.