What you need to know (and probably don't)
Your Rights under the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule:
9 things you’re entitled to under the Funeral Rule
Request prices over the phone
If you’re not ready to visit a funeral home in person, you don’t have to. Funeral directors are required to provide price information over the phone. And you don’t even have to give them your contact details to obtain the information. But don’t forget to check local websites, as some post their prices online.
Get an itemized list
When you arrive, the funeral home must give you a general price list to keep; it will include a list of at least 16 common items and services, such as embalming, makeup application and hearse services. Many funeral providers also provide this list online.
Receive a casket-price list
If this information isn’t already provided in the general price list, it must be made available on a separate casket price list. You must always receive this information before viewing the caskets. Plus, you can ask about lower-priced products that may not be on display.
See an outer-burial-container price list
Outer burial containers surround a casket in a grave. While not required by state law, reports the FTC, many cemeteries do use them, so the grave doesn’t cave in. If the funeral home sells containers and they aren’t listed on the general price list, you can still request a price sheet before seeing the actual containers.
Decline embalming services
While the average embalming service costs nearly $700, reports the National Funeral Directors Association, there’s actually no state law that requires embalming for every death. However, some may require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not buried or cremated within a certain time frame. (For example, California, Idaho, Kansas and Minnesota require embalming when a body is shipped, the Funeral Consumers Alliance says.)
If you’re planning an immediate burial or cremation, no form of preservation is needed. But if there’s a viewing, many funeral homes have a policy requiring embalming services. To avoid this fee, ask if the funeral home can offer a private family viewing without embalming, and if refrigeration is an acceptable alternative.
Buy only what you want
You have the right to purchase only the items you want and nothing more. For example, you can purchase just separate goods, such as a casket, or separate services, like a makeup application. You don’t have to purchase these items as part of a package deal, which could end up costing more.
Get a billing statement
Immediately after arrangements are made — but before you pay and before the service takes place — the funeral home must give you an itemized bill with the total cost. It should also outline any legal, cemetery or crematory requirements that you need to pay for any particular goods or services. For example, a cemetery’s policy may require that a burial container be used.
Use a different container for cremation
There’s no law requiring consumers to buy a casket for cremation. If the funeral home offers cremation services, they are required to tell you that alternative containers are available and they must make them available. Containers are often made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, cardboard or fiberboard.
Bring your own casket or urn
Occasionally, you’ll see a sale at a big-box retailer offering a great deal on a casket or urn. Don’t let the deal pass you by for fear of your funeral home rejecting it. In fact, the funeral home can’t deny your request to use a casket (or urn) you purchased online, at a store or from another funeral provider. It also can’t charge you a “handling fee” to use it, nor require that you be on site when it’s delivered to the funeral home. But consumer advocacy groups like the Funeral Consumers Alliance recommend that you not prepay for a casket unless you are taking it home to store.