Planning a Funeral and/or making funeral arrangements at the last minute can be stressful, expensive, and disappointing in terms of services received. Planning ahead can provide the following benefits:

  • Large cost savings, quite possibly cutting funeral costs by half.• Funeral service items you really value and want.
  • Peace of mind because when funeral services are needed, you will have far fewer complex decisions to make quickly.
  • Here are five tips to allow you to take control of your funeral choices.

Talk it Out Ahead of Time

A frank conversation can make your choices clearer and ensure your family’s needs are met.

What services are important to you and which are not?

What will the people who survive you find meaningful and affordable? Some options to talk about:

  • Cremation or whole-body burial?
  • Viewing/calling hours or a closed casket?
  • Funeral ceremony at the funeral home, or a family-led memorial service at another location?

Know Your Rights

The Federal Trade Commission’s “Funeral Rule” gives grieving families specific rights when arranging a funeral. They include:

  • The right to receive an itemized price list (called a “General Price List”) at the beginning of any funeral arrangements discussion with a funeral home
  • The right to price quotes over the phone The right to buy goods and services item by item. Funeral homes may not require you to buy a package.
  • In most cases, the right to decline embalming
  • The right to a written, itemized estimate before the funeral takes place
  • The right to supply your own casket—from a third-party casket-seller, for example—without paying a “handling fee” at the funeral home

Shop Around

In the same town or region, some funeral homes may charge twice as much as other homes for the same services. The choice of funeral home is the single biggest factor affecting how much you pay.

  • When planning a funeral, consider a Funeral Consumers Alliance group in your area. The fact that you are reading this on the San Diego Memorial Society’s website means you have found one! We offer cost-comparisons based on 6 plans. You can easily see which funeral homes are most affordable.
  • Pick several funeral homes and ask them for a “General Price List”. While the Funeral Rule doesn’t require funeral homes to mail or provide price lists electronically, pro-consumer funeral homes will do so. Consider doing business with a funeral home that will mail or email their price list on request.

When Planning a Funeral, Keep it Simple

All funeral homes have to offer two simple services: Direct Cremation and Immediate/Direct Burial. These services do not include embalming or any ceremonies, and they’re usually the most affordable choices.

  • A reasonable price range on Direct Cremation is between $800 and $1,200.
  • For Immediate/Direct Burial, a reasonable price range is $1,000 to $1,500 (usually the casket is extra).
  • Body donation to a medical school may be free. Check with the medical schools in your area. Some require you to hire a funeral home to transport the body,
  • our family can arrange a memorial service later at home, church, or at a venue like a restaurant banquet room.

Avoid Expensive Extras

Some funeral homes will try to sell you goods or services that may offer little benefit but do drive up costs.

  • Sealed or “protective” caskets cost more than the non-sealed but don’t “protect” the body from decay. All bodies will eventually decompose, and no special or costly casket will prevent that.
  • If the cemetery requires a rigid outer container to surround the casket, choose a simple concrete grave liner. More expensive sealing vaults, like caskets, don’t do anything extra yet cost more.
  • Pay close attention to the items included in any package funeral you are offered. Packages may include items you don’t want or need. You have the right to choose goods and services item by item.

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