5 Common Funeral Traps and How to Avoid Them
How to avoid the pitfalls of unnecessary burial expenses
In the hours and days after a death, surviving family members or friends are often forced to make a number of decisions about buying funeral goods and services -- often at great expense. But even in the best of times, many consumers are ill equipped to wade through the hype and misconceptions and to make wise choices.
Here's a look at the top five traps that commonly ensnare consumers -- and tips on how to avoid them.
Trap 1: Purchasing packages
Most funeral providers offer a bundle or package of goods and services, which typically includes charges for everything from securing paperwork (such as death certificates and permits) to use of vehicles for transporting the body and family members. Some consumers find this a help that allows them to avoid guesswork and difficult decision making during a time when they're feeling stressed and vulnerable.
But it can also be expensive. A package for a traditional service with burial rather than cremation -- often called a "full service" or "classic" funeral -- has a nice ring to it, but it typically costs in the range of $3,000 to $6,000, excluding the high-ticket items of a casket, cemetery plot or crypt, and graveside service. Even cremation packages can range in cost from about $500 to $3,000, depending on whether the provider owns a crematory or contracts with an outside service.
How to avoid the trap
The only way to know whether a package is a good buy or a bad gouge is to scrutinize the specific goods and services included and to remember that you have the legal right to exclude -- and not pay for -- goods and services that you don't want or need.
As an added consumer protection, the federal Funeral Rule, which controls industry practices, forbids an establishment from refusing to serve consumers who choose not to purchase a particular item or service, such as a casket or embalming.