What determines the cost of a funeral?
Because of our discomfort with the subject of death, making funeral arrangements is difficult, even when arrangements are made well in advance of any need. And when a funeral must be arranged for someone who has died or is near death, the emotional impact may be even stronger.
If you're charged with arranging a loved one's funeral, either in advance or at the time of death, you'll be asked to make decisions about one of the biggest purchases many of us will ever make, third only to buying a home or a car.
Remember to investigate your options
According to the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the average cost of a funeral in the United States is $6,500 – and some funerals cost well over $10,000. Most of us would never consider making such a sizeable purchase in an emotional moment, without investigating our options; yet every day, thousands of people who make funeral arrangements do just that.
Before you go to a funeral home to make arrangements, ask someone to accompany you, such as a trusted friend, family member, or pastor. In addition to providing emotional support, this person can help you to make sound, practical decisions during an emotionally difficult time.
Remember that funeral costs are controllable. With just a little forethought and planning, you can reduce costs and avoid paying fees for goods or services you don't want.
The Funeral Rule
The Funeral Rule is a consumer-protection regulation, enforced by the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which allows you to compare prices among funeral homes and to choose and pay for only those goods and services you want or need. The following are just some of the rights guaranteed under the Funeral Rule:
- The right to choose the merchandise and services you want.
- The right to receive price information on the telephone.
- The right to obtain an itemized price list from a funeral home.
- The right to use an alternative container for cremation.
- The right to use a casket or urn you purchased elsewhere.
To learn more about the Funeral Rule, visit the FTC's website.
Funeral cost components
Having a basic understanding of funeral costs and what is and is not required will help you to make informed, sound decisions rather than choices based on emotion and misunderstanding.
- Basic professional services. The Funeral Rule allows funeral directors to charge a basic fee for those services that are common to all funerals. These include funeral consultation and planning, securing required permits and copies of death certificates, housing the remains, and coordinating arrangements with the cemetery, crematory or other third party. The basic professional services fee does not include any optional merchandise or services.
- Optional merchandise. The single most expensive item included in funeral costs is the casket. For detailed information on selecting a casket, see How to choose a burial casket or coffin. Other merchandise options include a grave liner or vault, or an alternative container for cremation.
- Optional services. Optional services include embalming and preparation of the body for viewing; use of a hearse or other funeral car; use of funeral home facilities for the viewing, wake or other ceremony or service; use of equipment and staff for a graveside service; and cremation or burial.
- Cash payments. If you wish, the funeral home may purchase goods and services from outside vendors on your behalf, such as funeral flowers, obituary notices, and stipends for clergy, musicians, and soloists. In such a case, the funeral director will bill you for the actual charges incurred. If the funeral director should include a service fee in addition to the actual charges, that fact must be stated in writing, although the amount of the fee need not be disclosed.
Remember not to let anyone pressure you into making a hasty decision. If you have the time, consider your options carefully.
Further sources of information
You may find our other articles in the Funerals: everything you need to know section helpful too.
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