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How To Save Money When Planning A Funeral

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While, we as individuals may find it uncomfortable to think about funerals, remember that the funeral business is a multi billion dollar industry -- one that stands to gain from our discomfort.

Perhaps it would be easier to think of planning someone else's funeral -- with the twin objectives being to send off the person in a particular manner, while spending the least amount of money.

If money is the main concern, the least expensive method through the process is to skip a funeral, be cremated in the least expensive container required, and to have a memorial service. If this is of interest, the only questions become about the memorial service and what to do with the cremains.

Know your rights.

The Funeral Rule provides valuable protections law. If you haven't read about the Funeral Rule, this is a good time to do it. To learn more, see: Legal Protections Under The Funeral Rule.

If you haven't already, do not pre-pay.  Pre-plan.

If you pre-pay a funeral, your estate may have to pay again if you've moved, or the funeral home has gone out of business or you change your mind about your wishes.

It would be better to put the money aside in a separate bank account, or to purchase a life insurance policy to cover the costs. To learn more, see How To Obtain Life Insurance.

When you hear or see the words "funeral director," think the word "salesman" or "saleswoman"

The funeral industry has taught us to think of funeral sales people as professionals who, like other professionals, are supposed to put your interest ahead of theirs.

In reality, funeral directors are funeral salespeople.

In fact, a great many seemingly local funeral homes which are seemingly part of the community are actually owned by large corporations where bottom line profit is the overriding factor.

As they say, "It can't hurt to keep your hands in your pockets."

Keep in mind that funeral homes maximize their profits by selling the most expensive caskets and vaults.

A well known sales technique is to show potential customers three versions of a casket with three different prices. Our tendency is to pick the price in the middle. It's up to the sales person which three items to pick. For instance, if the average consumer is shown a $1,000, $2,000 and a $3,000 casket, the tendency is to pick the $2,000 casket. However, if the choices are $1,000, $3,000 and $5,000, then $3,000 becomes the mid-range.

Comparison shop.

Use the same smart shopping techniques that you use for any other major purchases. Particularly when planning ahead, comparison shopping allows you the time to explore all of the costs without pressure and to determine what you really need versus what you can do without.

Decide where to hold the funeral or memorial service.

You don't have to use a funeral home for visitation or the funeral. Consider the cost of transporting the body if it will be present.

Decide whether you want to be embalmed.

Embalming is only legally required where the body is transported a distance or across state lines, or where death is caused by certain contagious diseases. As a practical matter, it is also needed if the funeral will be delayed, although refrigeration may serve the same purpose.

Consider cremation.

Cremation is the least expensive type of burial. See Direct Cremation.

Shop around for a casket.

You don't have to purchase a casket from a funeral provider. Under the Funeral Rule, funeral homes have to accept whatever casket you desire. You may be able to save a lot of money by purchasing a casket from a free standing store or an internet site that guarantees delivery within 24 hours. Type the word "casket" in your favorite search engine.

If you do look at a casket at a funeral home, keep in mind that the salesman knows industry studies show that the average casket shopper buys one of the first three caskets shown, and it is usually the one in the mid-range. If the average buyer is shown caskets at $1,000, $2,000, and $3,000, the average buyer will buy the $2,000 casket. If the average buyer is shown caskets for $1,000, $3,000 and $5,000, the odds are that the $3,000 casket will be purchased. Don't be an "average" casket shopper.

Decide whether you need a burial plot, or whether you want to be buried elsewhere.

It may be legal in your state to be buried on your own property at no cost, rather than in a cemetery. If this is of interest, check your local law or contact a non-profit consumer funeral or memorial society as noted below.

If you choose burial on private property, let your heirs know what you want to happen if they need or want to sell the property.Would you like your remains to stay even if the property is sold?Would you like to be disinterred? If so, what would you like to happen? Be cremated? Moved with your heirs? Re-buried somewhere else?

Either eliminate flowers or have them purchased from a florist.

If you want flowers at the funeral, indicate that flowers should be purchased directly from a florist instead of through the funeral home, or ask friends or family to provide them.

Do you need a police escort?

A police escort can add considerably to the expense of a funeral. Is it really necessary for traffic control?

Instead of limousines, can your loved ones drive, or have someone else drive them?

Will all your family be so upset that everyone needs to be driven because no one will be able to drive? Could a non-professional drive your immediate loved ones?

Don't pay for pallbearers.

Name friends and/or relatives that you would like to serve as pallbearers instead of using paid pallbearers supplied by a funeral home. If your circle is small, perhaps an organization to which you belong, or your church, mosque or synagogue, could supply volunteer pallbearers.

Arrange for someone to obtain Death Certificates.

Funeral homes obtain copies of the death certificate for a fee (in addition to the fee charged by the government for the actual certificates.) Do a little advance research and leave instructions for family members indicating who should obtain the death certificate and how to do it.

When determining how many certificates to obtain, keep in mind that each financial institution in which you have an account will usually require their own original or certified copy of a death certificate before it will make a transfer from your name. Of course, more certificates can always be ordered as needed.

Don't ask the funeral home to write an obituary.

Funeral homes will write the obituary and submit it to your local papers for a fee. Instead, ask a friend or family member to take charge of writing an obituary and sending it to the newspapers. Maybe you even want to write your own. To learn more, see Obituaries.

Don't buy or rent clothing especially for a service or burial.

Indicate what clothing you would like to be buried in. If you prefer to leave the choice to family or friends, at least let them know that you don't want them to purchase new clothing for burial.

Don't be buried with expensive jewelry.

Some people want to be buried wearing a particular piece of jewelry -- particularly one that is worn all the time like a wedding ring. While this may work during a funeral service, it should be removed before burial because of the risk of theft -- either before or after burial.

If you've arranged for money to pay your funeral costs, or pre-paid, let your heirs know.

Leave details of any death benefits(i.e. life insurance) that your family will need in order to cover any funeral expenses. If your loved ones are unable to locate these documents they may be forced to pay any funeral expenses out of the family's general budget, leaving them in a pinch.

If you've pre-paid for your funeral, let your family know so they don't get hit twice for the same goods and services.

Contact a non-profit, consumer, funeral or memorial society.

For a small membership fee, a funeral or memorial society can help locate a funeral home in your area that will deal honestly with you and/or your survivors. The societies act as watchdogs to make sure that consumers are not forced into making purchases that they don't want. These organizations often have discounts at funeral providers. To locate a society in your area, click on www.funerals.org/directry.htm#NH offsite link.

If you have additional tips to share, please e-mail dlanday at survivorshipatoz dot org


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