Estate Planning Law

What rights do I have in planning a funeral?

When a loved one passes away, you may be surprised to find out how many decisions there are to make when planning the funeral.

You may not even know that you have certain rights. This can make the process go more smoothly, even in a time of great emotional stress.

Use the ‘Funeral Rule’ to Your Advantage

The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has a regulation in place known as the “Funeral Rule.” The most important component of that rule is that you can choose only those goods and services that you want or need for the funeral, and you must pay for only those goods and services that you prefer.

While many funeral homes offer package deals that provide various goods and services for a fixed cost, the Rule gives you the right to pick and choose so that you aren’t stuck with more than what you want or need.

The Rule, however, does not apply to sellers of caskets or monuments (gravestones), or to cemeteries that aren’t tied to a funeral home.

Other Rights in the ‘Funeral Rule’

You also have several rights under the Rule to get information about the goods and services that funeral homes offer:

  • You can comparison shop across various funeral homes and choose the home of your choice, whether you are planning a funeral in advance or immediately.
  • A funeral director must give you pricing information over the phone, without first requiring that you provide identifying information about yourself.
  • A funeral home must give you a detailed, itemized price list of all goods and services that it offers, including the prices of caskets and outer burial containers.
  • You are not limited to the caskets that a funeral home has on display. You can choose a lower-cost casket from the price list or an alternate burial container, which a funeral home must offer you in the case of cremation.
  • You can purchase a casket or urn elsewhere and use it at any funeral home. A funeral home cannot require that you buy caskets or containers from it to use its services.
  • You have the right to determine if and when a body is embalmed, and you may seek alternatives like immediate cremation or burial or a private family viewing without embalming.

The bottom line is that the Funeral Rule entitles you to make the choices that are best suited to your wants and needs in this difficult and emotional situation. Once you make those choices, you have the right to see a written statement of the goods and services, as well as their prices, before you pay for them.

The Federal Trade Commission enforces the Funeral Rule. If you have a complaint about a funeral home or funeral services provider, you can contact the FTC or speak to an attorney.

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