Saying Goodbye

Once your loved one’s body is in the appropriate place and your support system is there, you have a few days to take the next steps. This will include planning the final goodbye, which includes contacting those beyond immediate family, decisions about ways to honor, celebrate, and remember your loved one, and their final resting place.

This process could take as much as a week or more, so it is important to take this into consideration when making plans. For example, embalming is usually required if burial or cremation will not take place within a week of death.

Although not legally required in more than half of states, these decisions should reflect your loved one’s wishes. In addition to reflecting their wishes, there are many ways you can personalize funerals and burials to reflect their life, personality, and beliefs. There will be practical considerations, such as cost and availability.

When planning, it is important to know that you are protected by the Federal Funeral Rule, which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission. The Federal Funeral Rule outlines your rights concerning interactions with funeral homes. Unfortunately, these rules do not apply to non-funeral home vendors and cemeteries.

The Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to supply you with certain information and grants you rights to a number of options that you can choose or refuse.

The information you are entitled to receive includes:

  • A copy of an itemized breakdown of every line item for funeral home costs including fees, items, and services, plus outside vendor expenses that are being billed through the funeral home, such as flowers, music, clergy honorarium, and newspaper notifications.
  • Price information over the telephone without having to give them your name, address, or telephone number. Does not apply to their website or outside vendors.
  • A detailed casket price list with all of the options, before you see the actual caskets.
    • This allows you to ask about lower-priced products without unnecessary features that may not be on display.
    • With this information you should be able to purchase a casket with only what you need.
    • They are obligated to make it available to you if they have it.
  • A detailed list of outer burial containers and their prices, if the funeral home sells containers, before you see them.
    • If you don’t see the lower-priced containers listed, ask about them.
    • They are obligated to make it available to you if they have it.
  • A copy of your receipt or a printed statement of exactly what you are buying and the cost of each fee, item, and service after you decide what you want, and before you pay.
  • A printed explanation from the funeral home describing any legal funeral, cemetery, or crematory items or services that you will be required to have, such as embalming or outer burial container.

The funeral home must grant you the following rights:

  • To allow you to refuse embalming, unless situations require it and they give proof.
  • To avoid expensive packages by choosing and paying for only the goods and services you want or need, even if making arrangements in advance.
  • To hear about and offer you options to a casket for cremation, such as unfinished wood, pressed wood, fiberboard, or cardboard.
  • To supply your own casket or burial container that you may have purchased from another source.
    • They may be much less expensive than a direct purchase from the funeral home. 
    • Some states may allow you or someone else to build their casket.
  • To be informed of any charges due to markup of previously purchased items or price reductions due to commissions, discounts, or rebates.

Funeral homes are prohibited from claiming that the burial container will prevent water, dirt, or other debris from getting into the casket to prevent decomposition.

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