What You Need to Know About Funeral Costs

NPR’s recent two-part investigation of funeral costs in the U.S. revealed some very disturbing facts. Despite the 1984 federal regulation requiring funeral homes to disclose their pricing, many are unwilling to make their full price lists available either online or to people calling to request services. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, to comparison shop.

And face it: Funeral homes are businesses, so like most retailers, up-selling is the norm and sometimes very expensive add-ons or packages are promoted. What can you do? How can you ensure your grief isn’t clouding your judgement? We’ve got you covered.

Related: The Ultimate Gift to Leave Your Heirs

3 Tips for Planning Funeral Costs

With these three tips, you and your loved ones can start the process of funeral planning with confidence.

1. Talk about the inevitable

Talk about death before you have to talk about death. Avoiding the conversation won’t change the outcome, and will make the funeral more difficult (and probably more expensive) for survivors. If possible, you should plan well in advance. Put your wishes for your arrangements/services in writing while you’re still young and healthy and the discuss those wishes with your family.

Early planning prevents your loved ones from being swamped with choices while they’re grieving and lets them eliminate those options that are unimportant, guilt-free. After putting your wishes in writing, or, if you have a pre-paid funeral policy, be sure it can be found or your loved ones may end up re-paying for your final costs.

2. Ask for advice

Talk to friends who have had to plan a funeral recently and ask about their experiences. It may seem like a hard conversation to have but surprisingly, most people are happy to share their impressions, reviews and any regrets about the process after the fact.

A simple conversation could help you avoid a costly mistake or an unprofessional funeral home. If you don’t have anyone in your circle to ask, consider visiting local message boards or review sites for advice.

3. Visit the funeral homes in person

Stop by a few funeral homes and request a price list. If they are willing to give you their lists (which should include at least the 16 standard goods and services required by law) it is a good indication that the establishments are transparent .

Another great resource is Parting.com, a company that has pricing data on 75% of U.S. funeral homes by zip code.

When visiting funeral homes, don’t disclose any financial information about insurance or any inheritance that may be coming your way. If visiting funeral homes after a death, consider bringing a trusted, objective advocate who has your best interests in mind and who will be able to discern between reasonable or costly proposed expenses.

Related: How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft – Even After You Die

Funerals can be costly – with these three tips, you can save money and get the most out of your family’s funerals.

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