The amount you spend on a funeral should not be equated with the level of love or respect you have for the decedent. Some funeral homes will try to equate these things. They will say things like: “Do the right thing” which is just a phrase employed to make you spend more money. We encourage you to remember that money which is not spent on funeral services can be used for long-term memorial purposes. Do not tell the funeral director your method of payment or budget until you are ready to pay. If you intend to use life insurance proceeds to pay for funeral arrangements, do not assign the whole insurance policy to the funeral home. Only assign the specific amount needed to pay for the services.
Funeral home personnel are required to give you itemized prices as soon as you begin to discuss arrangements during a personal visit. You can also call ahead and request that a copy of the itemized price list be sent to you.
- The funeral provider may not refuse to accept, or charge a fee to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.
- Embalming is generally not necessary for 3 or 4 days. Refrigeration is a more cost-effective alternative.
- Refrigeration service should included in “Staff Services” line items, not added as an extra charge, especially if you refuse embalming.
- Vault installation, gravesite tent & chair setup, and “dirt removal fee” is all part of the “Opening/closing Fee”, and should not be charged separately.
- Funeral homes can have any casket delivered the next day for no extra cost.
- “Unbundling” or segregating related costs on a quote or a bill is unethical and generally illegal.
- Funeral providers who offer cremation must make alternative containers available.
- Embalming is generally not required for 3 or 4 days and refrigeration can be used alternatively.
- Refrigeration is to be included in “Staff Services”, nor added as an extra fee, especially if you refuse embalming
- In most cases in which cremation is chosen, embalming is not required.
- If cremation is chosen, a casket is not required though a small container may be required. Note: The quoted price for cremation is required by law to include the crematory fee and the cremation container (box).
- If cremation or shroud burial are selected, generally a casket can be rented rather than purchased for the duration of the services.
Vault or Grave Liner
- Vault installation, gravesite tent & chair setup, and “dirt removal fee” is part of opening/closing fee, and should not be charged separately. This is called “unbundling” and is unethical or illegal.
- The funeral home must not promise a “sealer” for caskets or a vault will keep out air or water.
- Ask to see documentation that the cemetery requires a vault or grave liner.
Embalming & Refrigeration
- Embalming is generally not required even if the body must be stored for 3-4 days. Embalming is generally required for interstate transportation and/or air travel.
- Most states do not require embalming, refrigeration is the natural alternative to embalming. If you choose to embalm charge of refrigeration should not be necessary.
The Federal Trade Commission
Funeral Home Services
- Funeral homes cannot increase the price of their services or deny existing “discounts” when you purchase products such as caskets or urns elsewhere.
- It is illegal for the funeral home to “hold the body hostage” or attempt to charge a fee to release the body.
- The funeral home cannot require the entire family to agree upon specific plans.
- If the family wishes to have a “private visitation,” this alone does not warrant or require embalming.
- You have the right to choose funeral goods and services without being forced to buy them through a specific funeral home.
- You have the right to choose individual products, and to know the price for the item.