Tuesday, May 5, 2015

9 Things You Need to Know About FUNERAL PLANNING

The Funeral Rule of 1984 was written to protect you.

The Funeral Consumer Guardian Society believes it is in the best interest of families everywhere to be aware of their consumer rights, as stated in this important law. The law was enacted in 1984 to stop funeral homes from persuading people to buy goods and services they did not want or need, and charging them highly marked-up prices on the items they did want.

  • General price list (GPL)—Funeral homes must provide a dated price list before arrangement discussions begin.
  • Telephone price disclosure—A funeral home must give accurate prices regarding their GPL, casket price list or outer burial container price list.
  • Casket price list—Funeral homes are required to show a dated, printed casket price list that also lists alternative containers.
  • Itemized statement of goods and services—Once arrangements are made, a funeral home must provide a statement itemizing each service and product chosen, its separate cost, and the total.
  • Embalming—A funeral home must notify you if embalming isn’t required by law in your state. Also, it may not embalm without prior consent.
  • Casket—A funeral home can’t refuse a casket bought from an outside source or charge a handling fee.
  • Preservation and protective claims—A funeral provider can not tell you that embalming, sealer caskets or sealer burial vaults will preserve the body indefinitely in the grave. Similarly, they cannot claim such features will keep out water or dirt if that is not true.

Funeral costs have been growing much faster than the overall Consumer Price Index.

With no funeral plan to guide them, survivors are almost sure to overspend by hundreds of dollars, or even thousands.
  • There is the emotional upheaval of losing someone close to them.
  • There are pressing time constraints to consider.
  • There are many on-the-spot decisions that have to be made.
  • There is no prior experience regarding what’s needed or not needed.
  • There are the funeral homes and cemeteries and other providers trying to make the highest profit they can.

Shopping for the right funeral home could be the difference between paying $2,000 and $10,000 for the same funeral.

Some of the price ranges we found:   Low   High

Transfer of body to funeral home ........ $150    $400
Basic service fee of staff/overhead ...... $295    $2,000
Embalming       ....................................  $300    $695
Other body preparation  ....................... $100    $395
Morning ceremony at funeral home ..... $250    $695
Evening visitation at funeral home ....... $325    $1,000
Hearse rental (half-day)  .......................$275    $500
Casket     ...............................................$450    $16,000
Burial Vault    ........................................$300    $8,000

Source: Susan Fargo, Chicago Tribune

Life insurance is one of the most efficient and trusted ways to finance final expenses.

  • Benefit goes directly to the beneficiary.
  • There’s no federal tax on insurance benefits in most cases.
  • The proceeds are not tied to any particular funeral industry provider—they can be used anywhere in the world.
  • Insurance benefits avoid the possibility of any probate court tie-up.

Small local funeral homes usually have the lowest prices.

According to a recent report by a national consumer reporting organization, small locally-owned funeral homes will often charge as much as $1300–$2000 less than large independent and nationally-owned funeral homes. Nationwide, here are median prices charged by small local chains:

$1,110 Immediate cremation with minimum casket/container.

$1,384 Immediate burial with minimum casket/container.

$3,099 Standard funeral with alternative casket/container.

$4,067 Standard funeral with 20-gauge steel casket.

$4,670 Standard funeral with solid wood casket, (excluding mahogany/walnut/cherry).

$4,845 Standard funeral with 18-gauge steel casket.

$6,125 Standard funeral with stainless steel casket.

$6,997 Standard funeral with mahogany, walnut, cherry casket.

$7,100 Standard funeral with bronze/copper casket

Shipping remains for burial elsewhere in the U.S. can increase funeral costs by as much as $2,000.

  • People who retire out-of-state, but wish to be buried back home someday, should make sure their funding arrangements will cover this additional cost.
  • Also, if a person dies overseas on vacation or business travel, it can cost as much as $12,000 to have the remains shipped back home for burial.
Source: Assist America, Inc. (AAI)

Insurance benefits often go unclaimed because the beneficiary simply did not know about the policy — or couldn’t find it.

  • The Funeral Consumer Guardian Society can make sure loved ones know about any life insurance policies you may have now, or in the future.
  • Beware of using a safe-deposit box to store your important documents, which can result in time-wasting legal clearance efforts that will have to take place before the box’s contents are made available.

Your funeral funding will give those handling your final arrangements enough money to work with.

  • Add up what you reasonably estimate your funeral will cost some day. Don’t forget cemetery costs, marker costs, flower costs, outer burial container cost... anything else your plan calls for.
  • Subtract what you have in place for your expenses right now.
  • Make up the difference by taking advantage of a sound funding plan.

You will be rewarded for having taken the time to obtain this little booklet published by the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society.

If you are seeking to take control of how your funeral will be conducted, having this helpful information at your disposal may be worth hundreds, even thousands, of dollars in savings toward your funeral costs.

The mission of the Funeral Consumer Guardian Society is to help its members make sure things go smoothly and easily for the people who will be handling their final arrangements for them some day. 

Free Safekeeping of Funeral Instructions: Your instructions will be stored in the Society’s secure computer archives, accessible only to you and people you choose. Make changes whenever you wish.

Free Auxiliary ID Cards for Loved Ones: You will have four auxiliary membership ID cards featuring the Society’s toll-free number. They are for those most likely to handle your final arrangements. 

Free Family Support: Upon notification of your death, the Society will immediately contact the funeral home you select, and inform the funeral director of your final arrangements —with emphasis on staying within your pre-determined budget.

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