What Is The “Funeral Rule” And How Does It Work? 

The Funeral Rule went into effect on April 30, 1984.  Funeral providers are required to give consumers accurate, itemized price information and various disclosures about funeral goods and services.  In addition, the Rule prohibits:  Misrepresenting legal, crematory, and cemetery requirements;  Embalming for a fee without permission; Requiring the purchase of a casket for direct cremation; Requiring consumers to buy certain funeral goods or services as a condition for furnishing other funeral goods and services; and Engaging in other deceptive or unfair practices.

When a grieving family is struggling to pay for burial services- the “need to know” of what you can do to save money pertaining to burial expenses is often a mystery for consumers who trust that a funeral home will provide them with all of their options.  The truth is that this isn’t always the case and while making arrangements, families may or may not know what their rights are under The Funeral Rule.

Funeral providers are anyone selling funeral goods or providing funeral services.  Cemeteries, crematories and other businesses can also be “funeral providers” if they market both funeral goods and services.  

The Rule’s requirements apply to both pre-need and at-need funeral arrangements.

Here’s a good example: Mr Green made pre-need arrangements in 1980 but dies in 2010.  At the time of his death, his wife wants to change the casket specified in the pre-need contract and to add visitation hours.  The funeral director must comply with the Rule’s requirements, including giving Mrs Green a General Price List, showing her a casket price list, and providing her with an itimized statement of goods and services selected.

How do you get a copy of a General Price List?  Anyone who asks (in person) can get a price list for funeral goods, funeral services, or the prices of goods and services. 

In 2014, an FTC investigation found funeral homes in 9 states failed to disclose pricing information to consumers as required by the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule.  

The reason for these violations is money.  If you as a consumer don’t know what you’re paying for or that you can choose to purchase a casket elsewhere or flowers outside of the funeral home, your options are limited.  The Funeral Rule was put in place in order to protect consumers from being “fleeced” by funeral directors and providers.

The FTC regularly conducts undercover inspections of funeral homes to monitor compliance of the Funeral Rule.  Every year, numerous funeral directors and providers are effectively “caught” violating the Funeral Rule.

Today, I’m going to provide Funeral Planning Tips because I “run into” grieving families who have no idea of the options available to them on a regular basis since I’m also a Celebrant/Funeral Officiant.

Many funeral providers offer various “packages” of goods and services for different kinds of funerals.  When you a arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy goods and services separately.  That is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items that you do not want.  These tips will help you shop and compare for funeral services:

1.  Shop around in advance.  Compare prices from at least two funeral homes.

2.  Ask for a price list.  The law requires funeral homes to give you written price lists for products and services.

3.  Resist pressure to but goods or services that you don’t really want or need simply because they are in the “package” offered.

4.  Avoid emotional overspending. It’s not necessary to have the fanciest casket or the most elaborate funeral to properly honor a loved one.

5.  Recognize your rights.  Laws regarding funerals or burials vary from state to state.  It’s a smart move to know which goods or services the law requires you to purchase and which are optional.

6.  Apply the same smart shopping techniques you use for other major purchases.  You can cut costs by limiting the viewing to one day or one hour before the funeral, and by dressing your loved one in a favorite outfit rather than costly burial clothing.

7.  Shop in advance.  Planning ahead of time or discussing plans will create an opportunity for family discussion and lift some of the burden from your family.

I’ve written previously regarding the importance of having a Body Disposition Affidavit because it is a very important instrument to have on hand if you aren’t married and a survivor of the deceased-What Is A Body Disposition Affidavit And Why Do I Need One? This blog will address your questions and concerns regarding who makes burial decisions.

If you have other questions regarding funeral planning or preparation, please feel free to contact me.

Wendy M Wortham