Choosing a funeral home can be the easiest part of making funeral arrangements, especially if you’ve already had experience with one or have been given a recommendation from somebody you trust. It can also be one of the toughest decisions to make in times of high stress and grief, as not knowing where to turn can really make things worse. However, like with any other service provider you may hire, funeral homes can vary greatly in price and in quality of service, and going with a trusted option won’t always ensure satisfaction. Fortunately, there are certain laws in place and rights you hold that can make the shopping process easier and allow you to better make arrangements as necessary.
Knowing Your Rights
As of 1984, the Federal Trade Commission passed the Funeral Rule, which entitles buyers to certain rights and privileges while they go about making funeral arrangements. For instance, the Rule affirms your right to get price information over the telephone. This can make calling funeral homes to compare them and shop properly more productive and efficient than any other strategy, as you can get accurate measures of what to expect financially upfront if you just ask.
Funeral Homes are required to provide a full written itemized price list after choices have been made but before you have to pay, so you can again receive full transparency toward what you’ll be purchasing. They cannot try to upsell you using bundles and packages, as you’re not required to accept any of them or purchase anything from funeral homes that you do not want. You also have the flexibility of choosing not to be embalmed if you prefer, as no state laws are in place that require you to do so. If you would like to purchase a casket or other alternative container separate from the funeral home, you can do so without worry, as homes are required to accommodate your request without any extra fees. All in all, the Rule is in place to help make the process of planning a funeral with servicers as transparent, painless, and simple as possible.
Budgeting and Priorities
If you’re planning a funeral for a loved one or looking ahead toward your own, one of the very first steps should be agreeing on a budget with your family. It’s important to accurately assess how much you and your family are able to afford to spend on arrangements, and then see how much you’re willing to spend without hardship. One of the most common mistakes made when planning funerals is accepting a local funeral home’s price as-is and subsequently scrambling to get the money together. Planning ahead with either prepaid arrangement plans, a delineated budget, or any other written instructions will help minimize the complications that can be involved with making funeral arrangements and reduce the stress for you and your family later.
Part of coming to a reasonable conclusion on a budget is weighing your priorities in terms of these arrangements. Is your burial location important to you? If so, you’ll have to prioritize accounting for that specific wish in your plans, and that may come at a higher cost than the alternative. Do you have any specific cultural or religious requirements in your wishes? This could mean the difference between a traditional cemetery or a burial at a place of worship, which can have varying costs as well. With so many ways to personalize your funeral — and explicitly delineate that in your wishes — it’s critical to thoroughly understand one’s own preferences and priorities when it comes to making arrangements in context of what is affordable, realistic, and least emotionally taxing.
Shopping for Your Funeral Home
Once you know the budget you have to work with and what parts of the arrangements you’ll be prioritizing as specific needs, you can treat shopping for a funeral home the same way you’d treat any other big and important purchase. Check with your local Funeral Consumers Alliance to see if they can provide a survey of prices in your area — you may find a big discrepancy in costs between two different funeral homes for the same services, so you can save yourself thousands of dollars just by keeping your options open. Visiting various funeral homes around you and getting quotes from them will be helpful, as you can get an accurate and fully itemized statement from each and compare options directly.
Once you’ve compared your options and weighed all considerations in the balance, you’ll be much better prepared to make an informed decision on funeral arrangements and save yourself a great deal of uncertainty, confusion, stress, and hopefully, money. Your or your loved one’s arrangements deserve the utmost attention to detail. Therefore, either planning ahead or assessing the situation when it occurs is the best way to ensure your funeral home choice is as fitting as possible.