Serious Decisions: Picking a Funeral Home

Finding the best funeral home is the last thing people want to think about when a loved one passes away. The spouse or significant other is in a distraught state and simply uses the nearest funeral home that a friend or relative suggests.

The difference between funeral homes A and B can mean the difference between spending hundreds and thousands of dollars for the same services. The underlying reason is ownership.

Consider these two key points:

  • Your funeral home may appear to be privately owned, but more than 20 percent are actually owned by corporations that typically charge higher rates — 30 to 40 percent more than privately owned homes.
  • Preparing in advance can save you not only money but reduce unnecessary stress in your life.

So then, what are the top five things to look for to find the best funeral home?

  • Compare prices. Funeral homes are required by law to make general prices available and to list all services and products offered. Ask for a copy so you can compare prices with other funeral homes in the area. Many funeral homes offer a packaged selection that will help you reduce your overall out-of-pocket costs. But double-check to make sure you aren't actually getting charged more with a package.
  • Be aware of service fees. They vary significantly from one funeral home to another.
  • Steer clear of buying a funeral plan from a funeral home. Instead, include funeral costs in your life insurance plan.
  • Skip the protective casket upsell. This is another layer to keep outside elements from destroying the body by dehydrating and petrifying it, as creepy as that sounds. You should know that this process costs funeral homes only $8. What do some homes charge clients? As much as $800! Whoa!
  • Buy a casket at Costco or a local retailer. Believe it or not, you can buy a casket at Costco's online store. Funeral companies are required to allow you to use the casket of your choice. You are not required to use only their services or products just because you're having a funeral there. Homes are not allowed to charge a handling fee for using outside caskets. Only Oklahoma bars customers from buying caskets directly from a retailer.

Despite our desire to hope for the best, it's a good idea to prepare for the worst. Planning in advance will help you and your loved ones have a smoother transition at this difficult time.

Even if you've used the funeral home in the past, don't automatically assume it's the best choice. If you don't compare prices and services, you can't tell whether its fees are reasonable or if you've been overcharged generation after generation.

Find the best funeral home for you and your family by learning to choose wisely so you are satisfied with the services you receive. Discuss a budget with your family, decide on an amount that's affordable for you — that you can spend without hardship. Don't just accept the funeral home's price and then have to scramble to find the money to pay it.

Talk to your family to discover if they have preferences about the type of final arrangements. Next, review your rights as a funeral consumer — the Federal Trade Commission's Funeral Rule affirms your right to:

Get price information over the telephone.

Receive a written, itemized price list when you visit.

Buy only the goods and services you want.

Choose not to have embalming.

Use an alternative container instead of a casket for cremation.

Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you bought elsewhere, without incurring additional fees.

Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, but before you pay.

Remember, you never need to sign a contract for more than what you or your family can afford or are willing to pay. You can read the Funeral Consumers Alliance's "Should You Prepay for Your Funeral?" for further guidance.


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