What You Need To Know

Until recently, the only place where you could purchase a casket was from a licensed funeral home at a cost that could average in the thousands of dollars. Thanks to a 1994 ruling by the Federal Trade Commission, you have the legal right to furnish your own casket to the funeral home at a greatly reduced cost. By providing your own casket, you are saving a major portion of the traditional funeral expenses.
The Federal Trade Commission has ruled that funeral homes can no longer condition the purchase of a casket with the purchase of other funeral goods and services. If you are purchasing a casket from a source other than a funeral home, the funeral home of your choice must use the casket you have provided without duress or embarrassment to you, the consumer. http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/rulemaking/funeral/index.htm


What else should you know?

  • You have the right to comparison shop by phone. By law, funeral directors must give you specific answers to specific questions regarding types of services available and pricing for all items.


  • If you inquire in person at a funeral home about arrangements, the funeral director must provide you with a preprinted “General Price List”; a complete itemization of all services offered and the corresponding prices.


  • When you select a funeral home to handle the service portion of the funeral, there is one item on the General Price list that is non-declinable: the basic service fee of the funeral director and staff. The basic service fee amounts to the cost of doing business by the funeral home and does not include any of the other services provided such as transfer of the remains, refrigeration, embalming, use of the facilities just to name a few of the many costs of a funeral. The basic service fee is a discretionary charge that can range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. The higher the basic service fee, the higher the overall expenses may be… the lower the basic service fee, the more room the consumer has to negotiate.


  • Embalming is not required by law except in 3 specific circumstances; death by infectious disease, a prolonged period of time between death and burial, or most commonly, a public viewing or wake.


  • If a funeral director is making a cash advance for such items as flowers, obituary notices, grave opening and closing fees, clergy honoraria, pallbearers, etc., it must be disclosed to the consumer if any money is being made on the transaction. It is advised to ask for cash receipts.


  • A casket is not required for a direct cremation. An inexpensive alternative container is all that is required.


  • The funeral director must provide an itemized accounting, known as the statement of goods and services, showing the total cost of the funeral merchandise and/or services selected.


  • Funeral providers are strictly prohibited from making any claims that a product or service will indefinitely preserve the remains.


  • Many funeral homes are owned by large corporations. Market research indicates that a corporately owned funeral home tends to be significantly higher in cost. Ask your funeral director if the funeral home isindependently owned and operated or is it part of large nationwide corporation.


  • Many funeral directors no longer do their own embalming or initial pickup of the remains. Ask the funeral director if he is providing these services or if it is contracted to an outside source.