No one is ever fully prepared for the passing of a loved one, but it’s comforting to know you can take control of at least some aspects of funeral planning: finding a suitable funeral home and the costs. During a time of extreme vulnerability, when decisions must be made quickly, the last thing you want is to make a major last-minute financial decision. Better Business Bureau is advising consumers to plan ahead and do research before investing in funeral services.
According to the most recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association the average adult funeral was $6,650 in 2009. That doesn’t include the headstone, flowers or limousine rentals which can add to the cost. Having arrangements ahead of time can save your family from feeling overwhelmed with decisions on top of being grief-stricken.
But the financial impact is only part of the equation. The funeral home itself should also have an impact on your decision. In a recent press release issued by the Federal Trade Commission, undercover investigations of funeral homes conducted in eight states discovered 12 of 39 funeral homes in Texas had significant violations of FTC consumer protection requirements; compared to four in 19 the year before.
While the exact violations are not given, the FTC indicates violations were made against the FTC Funeral Rule. Among the Rule’s requirements: funeral homes must provide consumers with a price list of funeral services.
In addition to an increase of funeral home violations in Texas, BBB has seen a national increase in complaints against funeral homes in the last three years, from 173 in 2010 to 190 in 2012. Consumer complaints allege services were paid for but never completed, such as headstone placement and engraving. Other complaints allege customer service issues with a particular funeral home.
It’s also important to know your rights and the laws of your state regarding funerals and burials. Be aware of necessary paperwork required when choosing someone other than your next-of-kin to be in charge of arrangements. Or the restrictions on the kind of monument adornments allowed. For a complete review of the laws in Texas see this pamphlet issued by the Funeral Ethics Organization.
If you’re comfortable preplanning for funeral arrangements, BBB recommends the following advice:
- Write a will. Consider consulting a lawyer or estate planner for help. Putting your wishes on paper will gain you peace of mind knowing your possessions will end up in the right hands.
- Create a budget. Research the funeral homes in your area and request a General Price List which details the cost of every service. It is possible to obtain this over the phone.
- Visit the establishment. Before making any final decisions, visit the funeral establishment and gravesite in person to examine the facilities. Go to bbb.org to find details about the company and consumer complaint information.
- Check operating licenses. Check that any funeral establishment you are considering has been licensed and is registered by the Texas Funeral Service Commission.
- Keep your records. Funeral directors are required to provide you with a signed copy of the funeral purchase agreement, which lists out all the items you selected and the price.