A guide to various aspects of funeral expenses
According to most sources, the cost of a funeral is one of the three or four most expensive consumer purchases. Traditional Funerals can cost upwards of $15000. They definitely don't have to be so expensive, and there's no reason (other than stubborn sentimentalism) to believe that paying so much for a funeral is somehow a sign of love for the departed.
Many morticians or funeral homes will shy away from telling you that you can have a perfectly legitimate funeral, complete with a fine casket, for under $2500. A number of places advertise 'low cost funerals' for under $2000, and these funerals provide the same sense of memorial as the more expensive ones. They may even be seen as a more appropriate way to honor sensible or more frugal minded decedents.
Cost Facts: Funeral Rule Provisions
In accordance with The Funeral Rule set out by the FTC, funeral providers must give you a statement of all costs of the funeral goods and services that you select. This is called a General Price List (GPL). If the funeral director doesn't know the costs, you must be given a written 'good faith estimate'. This statement doesn't have to be in a specific format, though providing the list up front is a sign of good business practices. The Funeral Rule covers American funerals only, but many Canadian provinces also make it mandatory to disclose all costs ahead of time.
Funeral costs can be divided into three basic categories:
- The basic service fee: Funeral providers are allowed to charge this, and it can't be declined by consumers. This fee covers services common to all funerals including the use of the home, the services of the funeral director and funeral home attendants, burial arrangement coordination (with a cemetery or other), securing permits, etc.
- Optional service charges: Some optional services include transporting the body, embalming, times for viewing (or wakes), use of a hearse or limousine, burial container, cremation and interment.
- Cash disbursements: This covers goods and services that the funeral home buys on your behalf, with your consent. It may include the purchase of flowers, clergy services, obituary notices, pallbearers and other service providers such as soloists or musicians.
When it comes to funeral expenses you should definitely shop around and find the best prices. You might want to find a trusted funeral home to help you with your decisions, but you have to remember that they'll have their own interests in your purchases and might not lead you to the best values. The most important thing to remember is that the cost of the funeral isn't related to how much you cared for or respected the deceased. You shouldn't deal with anyone who tries to guilt you into overspending in this way.