10 Things Your Funeral Home Won’t Tell You

August 6, 2009
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I found this article online and for the record I believe the article to be heavily slanted, and the article does not share the views of those at ConnectingDirectors.com. I do feel it is important to share this article to show the crap that is being said about the funeral industry. Tell me what your feelings are about this list.

1:?Business is slow, but my prices are high.?

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As U.S. life continue to climb decade after decade, funeral homes struggle to maintain their profits. In most industries, that would mean price wars, but not in the burial business, where consumers often choose providers based on just three criteria: location, family history, and personalrecommendations. Knowing that the majority of their customers don?t shop around, funeral homes charge for their services accordingly?the average cost of a funeral today stands at roughly $6,850, according to the most recent data from the National Funeral Directors Association.

And that?s without a lot of fancy extras such as flowers and video tributes. That amount is up 36 percent from 10 years ago, when the average funeral was $5,020.Looking to protect vulnerable consumers, who are often not at their most savvy when dealing with the burial industry, the Federal Trade Commission put in place the Funeral Rule of 1984, which requires all funeral homes to provide a written price list with itemized fees. Nonetheless, some businesses still don?t offer it?or else they exclude simple options such as direct cremation or burial, as well as bundle things consumersaren?t required to buy, such as vaults ortransportationservices. The best defense? Shop around, or have someone who is up to it do it for you.Specifically, call and request an itemized price list from several funeral homes in your area and choose accordingly.

2: ?Cremation is killing off my profits.?

Cremation is becoming a steadily more popular practice in the U.S. According to the Cremation Association of North America, the number of cremations increased 5 percent between 2001 and 2005, to 32 percent of all deaths; by 2025, that figure is projected to reach 57 percent. Since cremation can cost up to a third less than the average funeral, this trend is bad news for funeral directors. To pick up the slack in lost revenue, many funeral homes are promoting extra products and services. While grieving families are often relieved to hear that cremation can include such traditional funereal elements as a viewing and a memorial service, there are some things that are unnecessary or that may be presented deceptively. For example, cremation does notautomaticallyinvolve purchasing a casket even if you plan to hold a viewing beforehand. (In that case, inquire about renting a casket from the funeral home.) Also, funeral directors who offer the most basic type of cremation are required to disclose your right to buy an unfinished wood box or an alternative container, and are obligated to make such a container available.

3: ?You don?t actually have to buy your casket here.?

One of the biggest funeral expenses is the casket. The average price hovers somewhere around $2,000, but many models easily surpass $10,000?and those are the ones you?ll likely see on display. Funeral directors are required by law to provide a list of prices for every casket they sell before showing them, but they don?t always have every model they offer on hand. If you don?t see some of the less expensive models when you?re shown the selection, ask about them. What many people don?t know is that youneedn?t purchase the casket from the funeral home at all. Third-party dealers selling reduced-cost caskets have sprung up in the past decade; caskets are now available for purchase over the Internet, at funeral-supply stores, and even at some Costco locations. Funeral directors are required by law to accept caskets purchased from these outlets, and they cannot legally charge you a fee for doing so. But thatdoesn?t mean some funeral directors don?t try to discourage it. When PatriciaAnzelmo, a bookkeeper from Stow, Mass., purchased a $1,800 casket for her stepson from CasketRoyale, she says her funeral director advised against it. ?He tried to put a fear into me that Iwasn?t going to be happy with it and that it was going to be cheap,? she says. ?But the casket was gorgeous.?

4: ?We?ll play your heartstrings like a harp.?

When ErinStrout?s grandmother died in 1998,Strout?s normally frugal grandfather purchased a $14,000 package that was loaded with extras, including the release of a live dove at the burial site. ?Neither my grandmother nor my grandfather is really a release-a-dove kind of person,?Strout says. Other common pitches include everything from ?protective caskets??metal models that claim to delay the penetration of moisture and can add $1,000 to the cost?to extras like journals and photo frames. Forest Lawn Funeral Home inGoodlettsville, Tenn., offers a silver-plated picture frame, crystal pen, and access to a ?grief management library? as part of its ?Platinum? package. Even worse are thequestionable marketing practices some businesses use. For example, it?s not uncommon for a funeral home to stamp the words ?temporary container? on the cardboard box cremated remains are returned in?implying that the family will need to buy an expensive urn. Another trick: marketing optional elements liketransportation or steel caskets as part of a ?traditional? service. ?A lot of people are cowed [by that],? says Joshua Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance.

5: Process of chemically preserving a body, is a necessary or even legally required part of the undertaking process.

Not true: Embalming is almost never necessary in the first 24 hours and is not required at all in many cases?when you choose cremation or immediate burial, for example, or when plain oldrefrigeration is available. If you opt to hold a public viewing, the funeral home may have an embalming policy in such cases. And it?ll likely encourage both. ?The funeral industry stresses the notion that in order for anybody to come to terms with death, they must see embalmed bodies,? Slocum says. ?That?s malarkey.? Funeral directors promote it, he says, not only for the embalming fee, but also because if you?re paying for the embalming and beautifying of the body?which can cost up to $1,000?it?s easier to sell you a fancier casket. If your funeral home has such a policy and you?re opposed to it, ask if it will hold a private viewing for family members, without embalming. The bottom line? ?Don?t feel obligated just because it?s [considered] normal,? Slocum says. Process of chemically preserving a body, is a necessary or even legally required part of the undertaking process. Not true: Embalming is almost never necessary in the first 24 hours and is not required at all in many cases?when you choose cremation or immediate burial, for example, or when plain oldrefrigeration is available. If you opt to hold a public viewing, the funeral home may have an embalming policy in such cases. And it?ll likely encourage both. ?it?s easier to sell you a fancier casket. If your funeral home has such a policy and you?re opposed to it, ask if it will hold a private viewing for family members, without embalming. The bottom line? ?Don?t feel obligated just because it?s [considered] normal,? Slocum says.

6: ?You might not need me at all.?

Despite the common conception, only a few states?including Nebraska, Indiana, and Connecticut?require you to hire a funeral director at all. In most places, it?s perfectly legal to plan and conduct a funeral in your own home. While there are no hard statistics on home funerals, ?public interest is definitely growing,? says Lisa Carlson, author of Caring for the Dead: Your Final Act of Love.Experts say the option can make the grieving process more natural. ?It allows [people] to feel all their emotions rather than showing up at a building and having to leave an hour later because there?s another funeral,? says Jerri Lyons, founder of Final Passages, a group that educates consumers about alternative funerals.Thatdoesn?t mean it?s easy. When Elizabeth Knox held a home funeral for her daughter nine years ago in Silver Spring, Md., she says the hospital where her daughter died refused to release the body to the family; then she had to call four crematories beforefinding one that would let the family act as funeral director. Last summer, when she conducted a home funeral for her mother in New Jersey, Knox was erroneously told by stateofficials that shecouldn?t transport her mother?s body herself. Knox?sfrustrations prompted her to form Crossings, anonproft group dedicated to guiding others through the process. Visit the website (http://www.crossings.net/) for information on home funerals.

7: ?Prepaying benefits me, not you . . .?

So-calledpreneed funeralarrangements seem like a good idea on paper: Customers design their own funeral and pay for it in advance, thus protecting their relatives against escalating prices and having their grief exploited for profit. The cost of the funeral is paid either in part or in full, with a percentage of the total.

Put into a trust or covered via apreneed insurance policy with monthly payments. Sounds like a great idea on paper. But prepaying is often a better deal for the funeral home than for you. Under the upfront option, the funeral home pockets as much as 50 percent of the payment immediately. If it goes out of business or you change your mind, you won?t necessarily get all your money back?and less money earns interest in the trust.Preneed insurance policies, meanwhile,aren?t usually refundable, and you may only get pennies on the dollar if you cash out of them. Even worse, if you live long enough, the monthly premiums can end up costing more than the funeral you wanted in the first place. That?s what almost happened to Patricia Cairns, a retiree in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Cairns selected a funeral plan valued at $5,842 and bought an irrevocable insurance policy with monthly premiums of $86.43. ?What they never told me was that I had to pay on this until I was 80,? she says. By that time, Cairns calculates, she would have paid $10,371.60?almost twice the cost of the funeral she?d chosen.

8:?. . . and it doesn?t cover everything.?

Even if you do prepay, chances are your loved ones will still have to open their wallets, as there are many items commonly found on funeral bills?such as autopsy charges, flowers, and grave opening and closing fees?that can?t be included inpreneed contracts. Relatives may also get stuck shelling out for the casket, since a model picked out 15 years ago may no longer be available. It?s not uncommon for models to bediscontinued, and while there may be a similar replacement found, the price will almost inevitably have increased. Even worse, a funeral director may claim that a desired casket is out of stock?a convenient opportunity to push for an upgrade. ?It?s definitely a huge red fag if [you?re] asked to buy a more expensive casket? when a preselected model is simply out of stock, says Darrell Simpson, former vice president ofWilkirson-Hatch-Bailey, an independent funeral home in Waco, Tex.?especially when most of the larger casket-manufacturing centers are willing to deliver either same-day or by the morning of the next day.

9: ?At the crematorium, anything goes.?

In 2002 the funeral industry and the general public were appalled by news of decomposing remains found at a crematory in Noble, Ga. The Cremation Association of North America quickly responded by revising a model state cremation law to includecertification and trainingrequirements. But in most states crematories are still not required to have inspections orcertifications class-action lawsuit against the Georgia crematory also asserted claims against several funeral homes for failing to ensure that cremations were performed properly (or, in fact, at all). The funeral homes settled for roughly $36 million, and the crematory later settled for $80 million. To help protect your loved one, theAARP recommends using a crematory that does undergo public inspections and to inquire about the training of the facility?s operators. Were they trained and certified by the Cremation Association of North America (CANA)? (Some states requireCANA certification.) Is the facility subject to internal inspection as well? Proceed with caution if the answer is ?no.?

10: ?Green? burials have me feeling blue.?

In addition to home funerals, another movement in the funeral industry is burial in ?green,? or natural, cemeteries?which prohibit embalming, metal caskets, and concrete burial vaults, and generally forbid traditional headstones in favor of smaller, engraved indigenous stones, trees, or shrubs. While the practice is still rare, it has started catching on among theenvironmentally?andeconomically?conscious. ?There?s increasing interest in it,? Slocum says. ?It?s really a return to the way we always used to do it.? In addition to being green, forgoing embalming services and selecting simple wooden caskets can save consumers thousands of dollars. At one green cemetery, Ramsey Creek Preserve in Westminster, S.C., even casketsaren?t required. Of course, this is just more bad news for funeral directors. They ?don?t know what to make of the trend,? Slocum says.

Source: The Easy Living Sherpa


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