FUNERALS

More than 2 million funeral are arrange by Americans annually. The Federal Trade Commission developed some rules in 1984 regulating certain funeral practices. Basically, you can pick and choose what you want and the funeral home is to give you a written list of the services and prices available.

If you call on the telephone, the funeral provider is to

The written general price list is to include info on embalming, cash advance items (i.e. newspaper notices, flowers, pall bearers, clergy Honoria), caskets for cremation and other required purchases

As regards embalming, the funeral info must not falsely state that embalming is required by law and, except for certain circumstances, must disclose that in writing. Further, they may not charge an unauthorized fee for embalming. They must disclose in writing that you can choose direct cremation or immediate burial if you do not want embalming. Lastly, they must disclose in writing that certain funeral arrangements- such as viewing the body- may make embalming a necessity.

The Funeral Rule requires a written itemized list of each of the items to be purchased and the total price. You can then select what to add or delete.

Funeral Directors are prohibited from indicating that anything will preserve the body forever. They also cannot indicate that a casket or vault will absolutely keep out dirt, water, etc.

As with any type arrangement, try to get as many of these details ironed out BEFOREHAND- before someone dies. Admittedly, few people like to think about that when they are young. However, I selected cremation at least 20 years ago. It's all in my will. Do you have a will?

For further info, contact the Conference of Funeral Service Examining Boards, 15 Northeast 3rd Street, PO Box 497, Washington, Indiana 47501 812 254-7887. It represents licensing boards in 47 states and provides info on laws and accepts and responds to consumer inquiries or complaints about funeral providers.

Continental Association of Funeral and Memorial Services, 6900 Lost Lake Road, Egg Harbor, WI 54209, 800 458-5563. Has info, encourages cost efficiency and advance planning

Cremation Association of North America, 401 North Michigan Ave., Chicago, IL 60610, 312 644-6610

International Order of the Golden Rule, PO Box 3586, Springfield, IL 62708, 217 793-3322

Approximately 1,500 members

Jewish Funeral Directors of America, Inc., 250 West 57th Street, #2329, New York, NY 101097, 212 582-9744

National Funeral Directors Association, 11121 West Oklahoma Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53227, 414 541-2500. Largest education and professional association with about 14,000 members

National Funeral Directors and Morticians Association, 1800 East Linwood Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64109 816 921-1800. About 2,000 black funeral providers.

National Selected Morticians, 1616 Central Street, Evanston, IL 60201, 708 475-3414

Free info. Members must comply with Code of Good Funeral Practice

Pre Arrangement Association of America, 6321 Bury Drive, Ste 8, Eden Prairie, MN 55346, 612 937-5879

Funeral Service Consumer Assistance, Program National Research and Information Center, 2250 E. Devon Ave. Ste 250, Des Plaines, IL 60018, 800 662-7666. Designed to help assisting consumers and funeral directors with disagreements.

FUNERALS: (Survivor's Guide)

If a funeral is to be conducted:

There are apparently five types of funerals

Traditional with open casket- the body is embalmed and placed in a casket and religious services are held followed by earth burial, cremation or entombment

Traditional with casket closed- same as above except embalming is optional

Traditional with rented casket- either of the two above is possible. After the service, the body is transferred to a burial case or cremation.

Memorial service- a religious or secular service is held either before or after the body has been buried or cremated. Embalming is optional.

Direct burial or cremation- the body is NOT embalmed but is buried or cremated as soon as legally possible.

FUNERAL COSTS: The Federated Funeral Directors of America reported in 1991 that the average funeral sale was $3,247.46. This included owner and staff services, use of mortuary equipment, professional care, motor vehicles and the casket. The casket price averaged $526.96. That's from about 171,000 funeral of 1,400 privately owned funeral homes. Thirty two percent of funeral arrangements were preplanned. Another 21% involved some discussion or arrangement before needed.

GRAVESITES: In 1991, gravesites were estimated to cost from $500 an up in metropolitan areas and about half that in rural areas.

CREMATION: In 1970, cremation was 4.58%; in 1980 it was 9.74% and in 1989 it was 16.36% of all final dispositions. Four reasons for its increase

FUNERALS: (WSJ 1996) The average death rate in the U.S. for many years was 8 per thousand. This is now going up about 1% per year as the baby boomers get older. The average cost of a funeral is:

Professional Service Charge..................$1,025

Embalming............................................... 343

Other preparation (cosmetology)..............129

Visitation/Viewing....................................292

Funeral at funeral home............................307

Transfer to funeral home...........................125

Hearse (local)........................................... 155

Service car or van.......................................76

Acknowledgment cards............................ .25

Casket................................................... 2,146

Sub Total................................................4,625

Burial Vault................................................497

Single Cemetery Plot...................................689

Other expenses (digging and refilling grave)..462

An article in Kiplinger's noted that it normally costs about $375 to open and close the grave between 9am and 3pm and about $700 after 3 pm. Weekends may range from $1,000 for a Saturday before 1pm to $1,500 after 1 pm and on Sunday.

Total........................................................6,750

You can get cremated cheaply for about $500 to $700.

Approximately 22,000 funeral homes nationally handle about two million deaths per year for an average of 91 funerals per mortuary.

FUNERALS: (1997) An article in Kiplinger's noted that it normally costs about $375 to open and close the grave between 9am and 3pm and about $700 after 3 pm. Weekends may range from $1,000 for a Saturday before 1pm to $1,500 after 1 pm and on Sunday.

Total for an "average funeral is approximately 6,750.

You can get cremated cheaply for about $500 to $700.

Embalming is not is normally not required unless the body is transferred across state lines or when there is open casket viewing.

Ceremonies are usually cheaper when held in a church than in a funeral home. If the body is transferred, the typical costs is $125. If the body is some distance, you may have to hire two funeral homes. The costs for embalming and transportation is about $1,100 on average.

Approximately 22,000 funeral homes nationally handle about two million deaths per year for an average of 91 funerals per mortuary.

Cremation is more often the choice nowadays and account for 21% of all funerals- up from 7% in 1975.

Some homes will offer discounts. Contact the Funeral and Memorial Societies of America, 6900 Lost Lake Rd. Egg Harbor, WI 54209, 414 868-3136 for a local member. It is an association of nonprofit consumer operated memorial societies for simplicity, dignity and economy in funeral arrangements. Information and referrals.

CREMATIONS (1997): In 1985, 14% of corpses were cremated. It's up to 21% in 1995 and the Cremation Society of North America expects 40% by 2010. Lots of other extra can be added to cremation- scattering of ashes, variety of urns (I'm going to use a Powerbait jar- that's a inside joke for fisherman), memorial service, etc. And almost to the macabre, family members can watch as the body enters the crematorium and- this is true- even flip the switch.

Dying Costs (1998) The National Funeral Directors Association says that the average funeral is $4,782 excluding the vault, cemetery plot, market and some miscellaneous items. According to the Cremation Association of North America, the average cremation is $1,200.

Goods:

Caskets- $50 (Cremation only)- $19,000

Urn- $20- 5,000

Bronze Marker- $450- 3,000

Granite Market- $600- 1,000

Grantie Market upright- $900- 10,000+

Marble statute- $500- 20,000

Crypt- $3,000- 50,000

Niches (for ashers)- $1,000- 6,000

Burial Plot- $800- 280,000

Burial Permit- $7.00

Death Certificate copy- $8.00

Services

Direct Cremation (no viewing)- $365- 1,500

Direct Burial (no viewing)- $600- 1,700

Cremation with viewing (includes urn but no niche)- $650- 4,000

Burial with viewing (includes casket but not plot or market)- $1,100- 8,000

Cryogenic Suspension- $35,000 (33,000 head only)

Long term Cryogenic Storage- $100,000; $85,000 with small patient discount

Scattering of ashes at sea $150- 645

Embalming- $250- 400

Removal of pacemaker- $35- 50

Temporary refigeration- $60- 185/day  

FUNERALS (2000) In 1997, the average funeral costs was $5,500 including a casket ($1,500 to $2,500) and a vault ($760). Grave space ($150- $1,900), opening and closing the grave ($125- $750), are extra. AARP estimated the costs in 1998 between $8,000 and $10,000.

Funerals (2000) When someone dies and you first visit a funeral home (NY Times EVE TAHMINCIOGLU)

Have a friend accompany you. This should be someone who has emotional distance from the death and can be a sounding board in sifting through catalogs and fees.

Know your state's laws, and the cemetery's bylaws. Can a coffin be bought from a merchant not affiliated with a funeral home? Is a vault required to encase the casket? Services and products sold as "standard" or "required" may be neither.

Do not rush to have a mortuary pick up the body. You can usually take at least a day or two to research alternatives even if the death occurred at home, except in very hot weather.

Get prices before sitting down with a funeral director. Obtain price lists from many establishments and study them at home, away from sales pressure. Avoid establishments that resist supplying lists or whose lists are confusing or long -- more than three pages.

Keep some information to yourself. Do not disclose the value of the deceased's estate, death benefits or insurance.

Consumer advocates and the AARP also urge caution when considering prepaid funeral plans, which can be poor bargains and may be less all-inclusive than buyers are led to believe.

Funeral Lobby (2000)The National Casket Retailer's Association is an organization founded to lawfully oppose anti competitive activity by the funeral industry. The mission statement is to provide consumer education, keep abreast of the ever changing trends in the casket retail business and laws which affect this industry.

Costs (2001) The average adult funeral, excluding cemetery charges, costs $5,800.

Fat funerals: (2003) A coffin maker who makes them 44" across rather than the standard 24" said he only shipped about one per year in the 80's. Now he is selling four a five per MONTH.

20% of adults are now obese as are 17% of those over age 70. The average weight of an elderly man is 185 and the woman is 165.

Dying: The average funeral cost in 2001 was $6,126.

Caskets

Funerals: (USA Today 2006) The average cost: $6,500, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. But some traditional funerals with a casket, limousines, a viewing and burial can exceed $20,000.

the Funeral Rule is designed to protect consumers from unscrupulous funeral home operators. Unfortunately, few consumers know about the law. Among the provisions:

• A funeral home must provide you with an itemized price list of its products and services. Items usually include the fees for professional services, transportation and care of the body, costs of providing facilities and staff for a wake or viewing, flowers, music and preparation of obituary notices. The price list lets you choose only the products and services you want. It also makes it easier to compare the prices offered by different funeral homes.

The funeral home is required to give you a free copy of the price list when you visit. It's also required to tell you its prices over the phone. If a funeral director refuses to do so, suggesting instead that you come in for an appointment, "That should be a warning sign.

• If state or local law requires you to buy a particular service, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, along with a reference to the law.

• When you visit a funeral home, the director is required to show you a list of caskets the company sells, along with descriptions and prices, before showing you the caskets. This rule is designed to prevent funeral homes from steering you to the most expensive models.

If you buy your casket from somewhere else, the funeral home can't refuse to provide services. And it can't charge you an extra fee. This is an important provision, because a casket is typically the most expensive item bought for a traditional funeral. Prices range from $2,000 to $10,000.

• If you want a direct cremation — which means there will be no visitation or viewing — the funeral home can't require you to buy a casket. Upon request, the funeral home must offer an unfinished wood box or other alternative container.

• Funeral homes are barred from requiring embalming if you plan to be buried or cremated shortly after death. Except in certain cases, embalming isn't required by law, and funeral homes must disclose that fact to potential customers.

Prepaid funerals

Many funeral homes allow individuals to pay in advance for their funerals. These prepaid plans appeal to people who prefer not to burden their families with funeral costs. Some prepaid plans are cash-value life insurance policies that will cover funeral costs. In other cases, funeral homes invest your money in a trust.

These plans aren't covered by federal law, and state regulation is uneven. Some families have lost their money when a funeral home went out of business. In October, a Kentucky funeral home director was sentenced to 30 months in prison for stealing $90,000 from prepaid funeral plans.

abuses are rare and prepaid contracts offer crucial advantages. Prepaid funeral contracts, for example, aren't considered assets for purposes of determining eligibility for Medicaid. If you end up in a nursing home, the state can't force you to use the money in your prepaid contract to pay for your care before you become eligible for Medicaid.

There are other ways to set aside money for your funeral. You can set up a payable-on-death, or POD, account at your bank, naming the person you want to handle your arrangements as the beneficiary. These accounts don't have to go through probate, the often lengthy process by which a court distributes your assets. When you die, the money will go immediately to the beneficiary and will be available for your funeral.

Unlike with a prepaid contract, you maintain control of the money. If you need funds for medical expenses — or if you decide you'd rather have a new deck than a mahogany coffin — you can withdraw your money from the POD account.

If you're concerned about Medicaid eligibility, check the laws of your state. Some states will exempt POD accounts if they're set up as irrevocable trusts.