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When a loved one passes away, the last thing on your mind should be how you’re going to pay for the funeral. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for many families. Fees vary based on geography and individual choices, but when you add it all up, the average funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. Some examples of individual components you will pay for include:
- Funeral director fees
- A casket or an urn
- Embalming or cremation (how does cremation work?)
- Graveside services
- A headstone or grave marker
- The obituary
In the case of a disabled dependent, planning and paying for a funeral can be even more of a challenge (learn more about pre-paid funeral plans). If the disability is intellectual or developmental, simply communicating end-of-life wishes may be a struggle. Financially speaking, after paying for medical and living expenses each month, people on fixed incomes who are receiving disability benefits from the government typically don’t have a lot left over. In many cases, this means they don’t have enough savings to cover even the most basic funeral services. Furthermore, conditions like chronic illness and disability may mean they are ineligible for life insurance (learn how whole life insurance works).
Since government benefits only provide a $255 death benefit to a spouse or a child, it is not uncommon for friends and family of the deceased to use credit cards, borrow money from lenders, or even turn to online fundraising platforms to make up the difference between what they have and what they need to pay for final expenses.
So, what can you do to avoid going into debt to pay for a loved one’s funeral? According to experts, the best thing you and your loved one can do is plan ahead. Making arrangements before the day comes isn’t easy. Acknowledging a loved one’s death while he or she is still living is hard on the heart. Ultimately, planning helps ease the stress. By pre-selecting services and figuring out how to pay for them in advance (learn more about final expense life insurance), you are able to enjoy your final moments with your loved one and grieve without worry once he or she is gone. Knowing you will be able to provide the end-of-life services your loved one wanted can also help bring you peace of mind both before and after the loss of your loved one.
From service selection to payment plans, the planning process can seem a bit overwhelming. This is especially true if you’ve never been through it before. The good news is that there are resources you can use to help walk you through the process.
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The Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Funeral Rule regulates what services funeral homes offer and how they charge for them. According to the FTC website, this rule gives you and your loved one the right to:
- Purchase only the funeral arrangements you want, with the exception of a basic fee to cover planning, permits, copies of death certificates, and other basic services.
- Receive an itemized price list in writing at the funeral home.
- View a printed casket price list before viewing the caskets.
- Review a printed outer burial container price list.
- Receive a written overview of your selection before you pay for any goods and services.
- Receive a written explanation of any legal cemetery or crematory requirement that requires you to buy any additional funeral goods or services.
- Choose an “alternative container” for cremation.
- Provide a casket or an urn from a retailer or service provider other than the funeral home.
- Decline embalming services depending on the state and arrangements selected.
In addition to information regarding your rights, the FTC website features a series of articles entitled, “Shopping for Funeral Services,” where they provide information on a variety of topics, including:
- Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist
- Types of Funerals
- Choosing a Funeral Provider
- Buying a Cemetery Site
- Planning Your Own Funeral
- Funeral Terms and Contact Information
Thinking ahead matters
In the event your loved one has an intellectual or developmental disability, communication surrounding the already-difficult subject of death can be even more challenging. People with disabilities deserve the same opportunities to make choices for themselves as those without disabilities. Moreover, the same pre-planning benefits apply in regards to preventing additional worry in times of loss and grief.
That’s why the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California (CCCC) created Thinking Ahead Matters, an advance care planning program that encourage self-determination and pre-planning for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. You can download the PDF and videos or order hard copies free of charge from the CCCC website.
The interactive workbook and videos are designed specifically for people with disabilities. They use easy-to-understand language, symbols, and graphics to lead a guided discussion regarding end-of-life and after-death preferences, including plans for personal belongings, funeral and burial, and how the person wants to be remembered. The guide also includes a list of additional online resources that address basic end-of-life planning, as well as issues specific to self-direction and personal choice.
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Funeral consumer programs
In addition to all of the information available online, there are also people who will walk you through the funeral-planning process step by step. Independent organizations like the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society are not affiliated with any specific service provider. Instead, they serve as consumer advocates during pre-planning and while making arrangements upon death. There is typically a fee associated with their services.
In addition to helping a client decide upon and carry out their funeral proceedings, consumer programs can also save clients money. Representatives work with your pre-established budget and requests to help you shop local funeral homes, cemeteries, and other providers, something most people don’t have the time or know-how to do themselves. In many cases, they can also help price shop items to reduce the overall expense.
At the end of the planning process, your loved one will walk away with a funeral plan. The consumer organization you choose will keep the plan on file for your loved one until the time comes to use it. He or she can call at any time to speak with a representative regarding the plan, ask questions, or make changes. And when the death occurs, a representative will notify the correct people and set the plan in motion without added financial or emotional stress for family members.
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The fact of the matter is that no amount of planning ahead will take away all of the worry associated with a loved one’s funeral when they pass away. There will always be decisions to make, boxes to check, and forms to sign. With that in mind, if even a small emotional or financial weight can be lifted from the shoulders of the caregiver, family member, or friend responsible for carrying out their loved one’s arrangements, it’s well worth it.< Back to Consumer Resources