What Can a Funeral Home Legally Refuse You?
Oftentimes, when we talk about rights and responsibilities in the funeral planning industry, it’s about what you, the consumer, can legally expect from a funeral home. Several federal laws exist to protect you from predatory burial practices and to ensure that any investment you make in a per-arranged funeral plan is safe for the future.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that funeral homes don’t have rights, too. As businesses like any other, they are just as susceptible to non-payments, customers who change their minds, and other consumer practices that pose a risk to their bottom line. That’s why they have a few legal rights, as well.
Although most laws do rest on the side of the consumer, here are a few things a funeral home is allowed (and not allowed) to do.
- A funeral home has the right to refuse to accept the deceased’s remains if there is a dispute about the right of disposition. This means that when family members disagree about how to dispose of a loved one’s remains (and when there is no legal document or situation that assigns one person the right to make decisions), the funeral home can opt not to handle the case—even if one person promises to pay for the funeral out-of-pocket.
- A funeral home can ask about payment information up front. This might mean requiring you to fill out loan information, paying a deposit, or covering the costs prior to burial. They can refuse services if you are unable to show proof of ability to pay.
- A funeral home cannot withhold the cremated remains of a loved one as collateral against a debt. If it turns out that you cannot pay for the entire funeral right now, you should still be given these remains. However, the funeral home can use alternate methods to get the money owed for services, including turning to a debt collector.
- A funeral home can refuse to comply with impossible, impractical, or excessively burdensome requests—or requests for which their facilities are not equipped. For example, if they do not provide on-site refrigeration and you want to delay the burial for a week, they may be able to require that you embalm the body in order to meet your request.
- A funeral home cannot refuse to transport a body to another funeral home. If you decide not to use a funeral home’s services, they must release the body or have it moved to the location of your choosing. However, you will be required to pay for services up to that point (possibly including transport costs).
- A funeral home must accept third-party caskets or other burial materials. They cannot require you to buy a casket from their store or refuse to honor an outside purchase. There are also restrictions on what kinds of fees they are allowed to charge for the use of third-party products.
If you have any questions about the Funeral Rule and what you are legally entitled to as a consumer, don’t hesitate to contact the Federal Trade Commission for more information.