Pre-planning a funeral is a wise thing to do. Whether you are considering it for yourself or for a loved one, it can alleviate much stress during the time the death occurs. The first step in pre-planning a funeral is to select a funeral home and associated funeral director that you feel comfortable with. Get recommendations from friends or visit a few local homes in your neighborhood.
Once you select several funeral homes to consider, arrange to meet with the funeral director to discuss the preneed arrangements. This is typically done at the funeral home location but it can also take place in your home. It is advisable to meet in person but some funeral homes may be able to discuss the arrangements over the phone, if that is your desire.
During the meeting, you will be given a price list detailing the cost associated with each point in the arrangement process. This price list should include, but is not limited to caskets, burial expenses, funeral services, and all other services the funeral home will provide. After you have made your selections, you will be given an itemized statement, which usually will include contractual language.
Do not sign any papers that will legally bind you to pay for the cost of the funeral unless you have made the final decision to do so. You may want to shop around and visit other funeral homes and compare prices.
You should keep in mind that part of your decision making process for preplanning a funeral will include your estate's financial ability to pay for the costs. If you do not have the financial resources to pay for the entire funeral costs in advance, many funeral homes may allow a down payment or deposit. It's best to discuss this matter with them at the time of the initial meeting.
You may also be able to take advantage of discounts provided by the funeral home for pre-purchase service arrangements. Pre-planning and payment can lift much of the financial burden of the surviving family members and allow you to be able to select the type of service and arrangements you personally would like.
Keep in mind that if you select and funeral home and provide a deposit for the pre-purchase of funeral services and then change your mind or end up being buried in a different place altogether, the down payment may not be refundable. Make certain you are clear on the language about refunds and that it is clearly indicated on the itemized price list or agreement.
Since you are paying for the funeral in advance, you do have certain rights. Find out what your rights are in regards to the pre-planning process which may differ from state to state. Feel free to ask as many questions as you may have and if necessary, bring someone along with you to help in the decision or inquiry process.
Anyone in a family can make funeral arrangements for a deceased. You should designate a main point of contact within the family for the funeral director after death. The person who is designated will ultimately be resonsible for the final invoice unless the funeral has already been paid for in advance.
In most states, you must work with a funeral director who is a licensed and registered mortician in order to make final arrangements concerning the care, moving, preparation, and burial or cremation of a deceased person. At the very least, funeral directors will file the death certificate, transfer the body, coordinate with the cemetery and representatives, make necessary preparations, and move the body to the final resting place.
In many states, a casket is not necessary for burial but most cemeteries do require the use of a suitable container for a traditional burial. The container can be as ornate and elaborate as you'd like or can be constructed of pressed wood, cardboard, or other materials. There may be other items required by the cemetery relating to the casket such as vaults and grave liners. They may also require embalming if there is an open casket viewing. These fees should all be stated in the price list given to you by the funeral home.
The final cost will vary depending on many factors– the funeral home and the type of services and materials you choose. The cost revolving around the casket ranges greatly. Most states do not regulate the prices charged by funeral homes, what is regulated is that they must be clear in their pricing and follow strict guidelines in their business practices.
Here are a list of things to understand that the funeral homes must abide by according to the Funeral Rule within each state:
- Pressure their customer to select certain services or merchandises
- Charge additional fees for filing the death certificate or getting it medically certified
- Charge a handling fee for paying third parties on your behalf
- Charge a fee for handling a casket provided by the customer
- Charge for any service or merchandise not selected by the customer previously
- Charge interest on any outstanding balance unless this charge is noted at the time of pre-planning
- No person other than the licensed funeral director can prepare the body or supervise burial
- Misrepresent laws and regulations relating to funeral directing
- Change any arrangements prior to your approval