Funeral Expenses

After the passing of a loved one, it’s difficult to carry on with the normal activities of daily life and plan for their funeral, especially with the rising costs of these services.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, in 2009, the average cost of an adult funeral was $6,500. Funeral services are meant to give those close to the deceased a chance to celebrate, grieve and pay respects to their departed loved one. The average cost of funeral expenses does not take into account any additional items or services, such as the cost of burial and a headstone.

In the event that your loved one suffered a wrongful death, you may be entitled to compensation that will help cover funeral expenses, which can quickly rise to $9,000 or $10,000 after the costs of a traditional burial are factored in.


Types of Funerals

Culture, religion and personal preferences all play into the type of funeral services a family will choose for their loved one. Unfortunately, budgeting for a funeral is not typically on the top of the list in situations where a loved one dies unexpectedly, and for this reason the type of funeral will also be determined by the cost associated with it.

The following are the three main types of funeral services:

  • Traditional/ Full-Service Burial: Most common. It includes a viewing and a formal service, a hearse to transport the body, and either entombment, cremation or burial, depending on the family’s wishes.
  • Direct Burial: Viewing and visitation are not allowed. There is no viewing. The body is placed in a modest container and a graveside memorial may be held, if the family desires.
  • Direct Cremation: No embalming takes place in direct cremation, and the body is cremated shortly after death, with the ashes placed in an urn or other container. The family may bury the container, keep it with them or scatter the ashes. Usually, a crematory fee applies.

Dealing with the death of a loved one can be traumatic and taxing. There is no need to take on this struggle on your own, especially if you may be legally entitled to compensation that can help you and your family give your loved one the funeral they deserve.


Protection Under The Funeral Rule

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) established the Funeral Rule in 1984 to protect consumers from unfair business practices when dealing with a funeral provider. It states that, as a consumer, you have the following rights:

  • Funeral directors are legally obligated to give you price information on the phone if you request it. You do not have to give them any personal or contact information first.
  • With some exceptions, you have the right to choose only the funeral goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming or a memorial service) that you want.  You are under no obligation to accept a package that includes items you don’t desire.
  • You are allowed to use an “alternative container” rather than a casket for cremation. There is no state or local law that requires the use of a casket for cremation. Funeral homes must inform you about alternatives, like fiberboard, cardboard, pressed wood, and unfinished wood.
  • The funeral home must provide you a General Price List (GPL) that you can keep. It should list all of the items and services offered and how much each costs. If casket or outer burial container prices are listed on separate sheets from the GPL, it is advisable to ask for these prices in order to know all of the pricing options available to you.
  • You are under no obligation to include embalming when you make funeral arrangements. There is no state law that requires embalming for all deaths. Some states do require embalming if the body is not buried or cremated within a certain timeframe.
  • You should receive a written statement that shows exactly what you are buying and how much each item will cost before you pay.
  • If you purchase a casket or urn online, at a local store, or elsewhere, the funeral provider cannot refuse to use it or charge you an additional fee for doing so. They also can’t require you to be present when the casket or urn is delivered to them.

If the funeral home you are dealing with fails to comply with any of the above, contact the FTC and report the issue.


Paying For Funerals

The following are three options that you have when considering how to manage the large costs associated with a loved one’s funeral. They include:

  • Prepaying: Requires forethought; starting a fund for funeral expenses ensures that there will be available money set aside for this purpose before it’s actually needed. The funds in this account become available once a trustee has shown the funeral home proof of death, although the laws and protections of prepaid accounts vary from state to state.
  • Paying through an estate: Assets from the deceased person’s estate can be used to pay for the funeral.
  • Direct payment: A friend or family member pays for the funeral directly. In the event that no loved ones can do this, the government can make arrangements.