Planning a funeral can be a daunting task, especially during a time of grief. To assist you, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions based on the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Funeral Rule guidelines. This information aims to help you make informed decisions and understand your rights.

What is the FTC Funeral Rule?

The FTC Funeral Rule, established in 1984, is designed to protect consumers by ensuring they receive accurate and itemized information about funeral goods and services. It requires funeral providers to give consumers the right to:

  • Purchase only the goods and services they want.
  • Receive price information over the phone.
  • Receive a written, itemized price list when visiting a funeral home.
  • Get a written statement after deciding on arrangements, before paying.

What should I do first when planning a funeral?

The first step is to determine if the deceased left any instructions regarding their funeral preferences. If not, discuss options with family members and consider the following:

  • The type of service (traditional funeral, memorial service, graveside service, etc.).
  • Whether the deceased will be buried or cremated.
  • The budget and how costs will be covered.

How can I compare prices among funeral homes?

The FTC Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide a General Price List (GPL) upon request. This list should include prices for all goods and services they offer. You can:

  • Visit funeral homes in person to collect GPLs.
  • Call funeral homes and ask them to mail or email their GPL.
  • Check if the funeral home’s website offers price information.

Can I purchase caskets or urns from a third party?

Yes, the FTC Funeral Rule allows you to buy caskets and urns from outside vendors and not exclusively from the funeral home handling the arrangements. Funeral homes are required to accept these items without charging additional fees. The family does not need to be present when the casket is delivered to the funeral home.

What are the basic services fees?

Every funeral provider charges a basic services fee, which covers:

  • Funeral planning
  • Securing necessary permits and death certificates
  • Preparing notices
  • Sheltering the remains
  • Coordinating arrangements with the cemetery, crematory, or other third parties

This fee is non-declinable, meaning it is mandatory and must be included in the overall cost.

Are embalming services required by law?

No, embalming is not always required by law. It is often necessary for open-casket viewings or if the body will be transported over long distances. However, many states allow alternatives like refrigeration. Funeral homes must inform you if embalming is required under specific circumstances.

Can I have a funeral without embalming?

Yes, you can choose direct cremation or immediate burial without embalming. Direct cremation involves cremating the body shortly after death without a viewing, while immediate burial involves burying the body shortly after death without a formal funeral service.

What are my rights regarding funeral pre-planning?

Pre-planning a funeral allows you to make decisions in advance and may include prepaying for services. The FTC Funeral Rule ensures that you:

  • Receive a written statement of all services and merchandise selected with their prices.
  • Are informed about how your prepayments will be handled and protected.
  • Can transfer your pre-need arrangements to a different funeral home if necessary.

How can I avoid potential scams and overcharges?

To avoid scams and overcharges:

  • Always ask for an itemized statement before paying.
  • Compare prices from multiple providers.
  • Be cautious of high-pressure sales tactics.
  • Verify that prepayments are placed in a trust or insurance policy.
  • Ensure that all agreements are in writing.

Where can I get more information?

Click here to receive a free FTC booklet, “Paying Final Respects: Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods and Services.” 

For more detailed information, the FTC provides comprehensive resources on their website. Additionally, local consumer protection offices and the Funeral Consumers Alliance offer guidance and support.

Planning a funeral involves many decisions, but understanding your rights can help you navigate this challenging process with greater confidence and peace of mind.

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