What Are Your Rights When It Comes to Funeral Costs?

Senior Caucasian woman wearing stripes holding middle-aged daughter's hand

When a loved one dies, grieving family members are left with countless decisions about the funeral – all of which need to be made quickly.

These include:

  • What kind of funeral should it be?
  • Which funeral home should we use?
  • How much should we spend?
  • Is there anything we need to buy?

Every year, thousands of Americans struggle with these decisions in the midst of intense emotional stress. It’s common for people to wonder where to start.

A good first step is understanding what your rights are when it comes to funeral costs.

Laws regarding funerals and burials vary from state to state and understanding them can be daunting. Knowing and understanding all of your options will help reduce the stress of funeral planning and protect your rights when interacting with funeral homes.

Below is a quick list of rights and funeral planning tips everyone should know when making funeral arrangements.


“The Funeral Rule”

The Funeral Rule was introduced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to prevent funeral homes from pressuring people into buying goods and services they didn’t want or need, and from charging inflated prices for the items they did want.

The goal of this rule is to help consumers know their rights when it comes to funeral expenses. The Funeral Rule gives consumers the right to:

  • Buy only the goods and services you want. Some funeral home providers offer package deals that may include goods and services you don’t want or need. You are not obligated to purchase any funeral package that contains items you don’t want.
  • Receive pricing information by telephone. By law, funeral homes must provide pricing information for their products and services if you request it. You are not obligated to give them any personal information to obtain this information.
  • Receive an itemized statement of goods and services. The funeral provider must give what’s called a General Price List (GPL) that is yours to keep. It lists the individual costs of all the items and services they offer.
  • See a casket price list. Funeral homes are required to show a dated, printed list that includes containers not displayed. Often, only certain caskets are put on display in funeral showrooms (usually the best they have to offer). The printed list is intended to show you selections that may not be on display.
  • See a written price list for outer burial containers. Outer burial containers (also called grave liners) surround a casket once it’s been placed in the ground. There are no state laws requiring burial containers, but many cemeteries require them to prevent graves from caving in. Your funeral home may or may not sell such containers. If they do, it may be listed on their GPL. If it is not listed, you have the right to request a separate price list for the container.
  • Receive a written statement after you’ve decided what you want and before you pay. The statement should provide a detailed overview of what is being purchased and the exact cost of each service. It should itemize each cost and provide a total. It must also inform you of any cemetery or crematory requirements that may cost additional money.
  • Use an alternative container for cremation. No law requires you to use a casket for cremation. If a funeral home offers cremation services, they are required to inform you that alternative containers are available.
  • Provide your own casket or urn. A funeral provider can’t refuse a casket or urn bought from an outside source. They also can’t charge a handling fee. You are not required to be present when the casket or urn is delivered to the funeral home.
  • Make funeral arrangements without embalming. No state law requires embalming for every death. Some may require embalming or refrigeration of the body if it is not buried or cremated within a certain period of time. Refrigeration is often an acceptable alternative to embalming. Services such as direct cremation and immediate burial don’t require embalming. A funeral home can’t embalm a body without your consent.


Veterans’ rights when it comes to funeral costs

All military veterans are entitled to a free burial in a national cemetery and a grave marker. Spouses and dependent children of veterans are also entitled to a plot and marker in a national cemetery.

There are no costs for opening and closing the grave, for a vault liner, or for setting the grave marker. The family is usually responsible for other funeral expenses such as transportation.

Many states have established veteran cemeteries, but some commercial cemeteries offer discounts for veterans. These cemeteries sometimes offer a free plot for the veteran, but charge high fees to open and close the grave. It’s important to evaluate all of your options before choosing a commercial cemetery.

For more information, you can visit the National Cemetery Administration or call the regional VA office in your area by dialing 1-800-827-1000.


Funeral costs and final expense insurance

When it comes down to it, funerals are like any big purchase – there are smart decisions, and… not-so-smart ones.  The problem is unprepared family members have many stressful choices to make, often in a very short period of time.

The average cost of a funeral is over $9,000. Most families don’t realize funerals can cost this much let alone have this much saved. How will your family pay for your funeral? Will they be left with a financial burden?

Final expense life insurance – commonly known as “burial insurance” or “funeral insurance” – was created to help protect families from rising funeral costs and other end-of-life expenses, such as medical bills. Because the face amounts are typically smaller than traditional insurance policies, final expense plans are easy to qualify for. In some cases, coverage can be issued based on answers to health questions on the application – no medical exams are needed.

While final expense insurance can provide your family the money they need, most won’t help them navigate the funeral industry. Who will protect your family’s rights? Who will help them understand the options available to them?

We created the Funeral Advantage™ program with these specific questions in mind. We want to give your family the money they need and help them understand their funeral options. Funeral Advantage gives the support your family needs during such an emotional time.

To learn more about the Funeral Advantage program and how it helped save policyholder families millions on funeral costs last year alone, click here.

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