What rights do I have in planning a funeral?
When a loved one passes away, you may find yourself confused by the many decisions to make in planning a funeral. In this situation, you should know your rights in terms of funeral planning, which will allow you to make the right decisions, even in a time of great emotional stress.
Under the Funeral Rule, you can choose only those goods and services that you want or need for the funeral, and you must pay for only those goods and services that you choose. While many funeral homes offer package deals that provide various goods and services for a fixed cost, the Rule gives you the right to pick and choose among the goods and services, so you aren’t stuck with more than what you really want or need.
The Rule also allows you to compare the costs of goods and services offered by various funeral homes, and to ultimately choose the home that you want to use, whether you are planning a funeral in advance, or if you are faced with the immediate decision of making arrangements for a loved one. Keep in mind, however, that the Rule does not apply to sellers of caskets or monuments, or to cemeteries that aren’t tied to a funeral home.
You also have a number of rights under the Rule to get information about the goods and services that funeral homes offer. A funeral director must give you pricing information over the phone, without first requiring that you provide identifying information about yourself. When you visit a funeral home, you are entitled to a detailed, itemized price list of all goods and services that a funeral home offers, including the prices of caskets and outer burial containers. Remember, you aren’t limited to the caskets that a funeral home has on display; rather, you may be able to choose a lower-cost casket from the price list, or even an alternate burial container, which a funeral home must offer you in the case of cremation. Plus, you can even purchase a casket or urn elsewhere, and use it at any funeral home; a funeral home cannot require that you purchase caskets or containers from it in order to use its services.
Furthermore, no states require that embalming occur. While some states may require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not cremated or buried within a certain period of time, others do not require it at all. Essentially, you have the right to determine if and when a body is embalmed, and may seek any practical low-cost alternatives such as immediate cremation or burial, or a private family viewing without embalming.
The bottom line is that the Funeral Rule entitles you to make the choices that are best suited to your wants and needs in this difficult and emotional situation. Once you have made those choices, then you have the right to see a written statement of the goods and services that you have chosen, as well as their prices, before you pay for them.
The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Funeral Rule. If you have a complaint about a funeral home or funeral services provider, you can contact the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
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