BBB: Make funerals less stressful by pre-planning

08/08/2014 2:32 PM

08/13/2014 12:34 PM

While you and your family is grieving is not the ideal time for making funeral arrangements.

The many decisions involved can require a degree of concentration that simply may not be possible while dealing with extreme emotional distress. Here is some advice for those navigating through the funeral process.

Pre-plan

Pre-planning funerals can save surviving loved ones the stress of having to make all of the necessary decisions during their bereavement. In that sense, a pre-planned funeral is literally a gift to one’s survivors.

Just as importantly, pre-planning can save them money. Americans can spend between $8,000 and $10,000 on average for a typical funeral.

Emotion and financial decision-making do not go well together, sometimes leading to costly choices being made at the last minute.

Keep these tips in mind when pre-planning funerals:

Have a will. Especially if you have children, it’s important to write a will so that the state will not be making decisions for you after your death. Also remember that if you write your will and then a good deal of time passes, you may want to update it.

Visit multiple funeral homes, get price lists and use the information to create a budget.

Check out the funeral home extensively and be sure they are properly licensed.

Save copies of all documents that list services purchased in advance and be sure they are kept in a safe place that will be available to your loved ones.

The ‘Funeral Rule’

Whether pre-planning a funeral or making emergency last-minute funeral plans, there is an important tool that can be used to assure that your rights are not overlooked.

Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, the “Funeral Rule” states that you have the right to choose the funeral goods and services you want. Funeral providers must state this to you in writing on their general price list.

State laws that may apply have to be disclosed on the list as well. The provider cannot refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket you bought elsewhere. For cremation they must make alternative containers available.

Here are highlights of your rights under the Funeral Rule:

Buy only the funeral arrangements you want. You do not have to accept a package that includes unwanted items.

Price information must be given over the telephone if you desire it, without you giving them your name.

You must be given a General Price List (GPL) that is yours to keep when you visit a funeral home.

Pricing information on caskets must be provided in advance of viewing caskets.

Outer burial container price lists must be provided in the same manner.

You must be given a written itemized statement of what you decide to buy before you make payment.

Inexpensive containers (“alternative containers”) must be available from funeral homes that offer cremation. They can be unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard or cardboard.

Caskets or urns purchased elsewhere or online must be used if that is your preference, without additional fee.

More information regarding the FTC’s Funeral Rule is available at www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule.

It isn’t easy to navigate the complicated world of funeral planning. You can make it a bit less stressful by doing the planning before the need arises.

Denise Groene is the state director of the Better Business Bureau of Kansas. Contact the bureau at 800-856-2417 or bbbinc.org.

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