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The Funeral Rule

By Linda Banks 

My brother Bob was 19 and I was 12 when our parents were killed in a car accident.  Bob also lost his four-month-old daughter in the accident; an unimaginable tragedy.  I was in the hospital for several days, and it fell on my brother and grandmother to make the funeral arrangements.  Crying and grieving, my teen-aged brother and aging grandmother met with the funeral director to pick out caskets and make financial decisions.  We were lucky that grandma lived in a small town and had a trusting relationship with the funeral home director and his family.  Simple and appropriate funeral plans were made.

Contrary to the positive experience that my brother and grandmother had in making arrangements, almost everyone has heard a story about a grieving widow exploited by an unscrupulous funeral director.  At the worst possible time to make decisions, family members are pressured to spend thousands of dollars on caskets, cremation urns or funeral products they do not need and cannot afford.   Within a few minutes, funeral contracts are signed or expensive coffins and cremation urns purchased by people at a most vulnerable time.

In 2012 in response to complaints made about funeral home practices, the federal government instituted national rules designed to prevent funeral homes from taking advantage of grieving families.  The Funeral Rule, enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), provides basic rules and practice requirements for all funeral homes, regardless of state laws and regulations. It sets forth safeguards to provide consumer protection for people who choose to use funeral home services.  Funeral homes found in violation are fined and directors are required to attend additional training.

To make sure people have the information they need, The Funeral Rule requires that funeral directors provide a complete list of services and goods with corresponding prices so that people can choose selectively and avoid costly surprises. The rule applies to consumers making arrangements for the loss of a loved one, as well as to people who are inquiring in advance and planning for end-of-life.  With detailed information available from funeral homes, consumers can compare prices, and shop for memorial cremation urns or caskets from on-line direct retailers or stores. 

The rule requires that funeral homes who provide cremation services must inform people that they do not have to purchase a casket to hold the final remains for cremation.  There are no laws that require the use of a casket for cremation, and other containers may be used made of unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard or cardboard. 

Additionally, you may bring your own memorial urn or casket to the funeral home to hold the final remains.  The funeral home cannot refuse to handle a casket or cremation urn that you purchase at an on-line retailer or local store.  Further, you cannot be charged a fee for the use of an urn or casket purchased by you. 

Other requirements of the Funeral Rule include that the funeral home must provide prices over the telephone when asked, provide a list of caskets and prices, before you see the caskets, advise that you do not have to request embalming, and provide a written statement of services and costs before you pay.

Note that the rule does not apply when goods and services are purchased from cemeteries or third-party suppliers.  People are still taken advantage of and the rules violated.  It’s important to always be diligent, ask questions and work with a funeral home or cremation provider whom you trust.   

You can read about it at this link: Federal Trade Commission Funeral Rule

Also see our article about working with funeral homes and crematories: Working with a Funeral Home or Crematorium - What's the Difference?

 

Linda Banks provided extended end-of-life care for her beloved Aunt who was like her mother. When her brother died suddenly last year, she was instrumental in orchestrating all of the details of his final wishes to be cremated. Linda has been an active blogger for ten years, including blogging about Willie Nelson and his family. Willie told her recently that he reads her blog every day. 

 

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