Q: I am considering pre-arranging my funeral, but am not quite sure where to start. Does the BBB have any tips on how to go about my planning?
A: At an average cost of more than $9,000, funerals are one the more expensive purchases made by consumers. An advantage of pre-planning your funeral is really helping your grieving loved ones know what you want after your death, so they do not have to make quick decisions that may leave them with lots of extra debt. During an emotionally-charged time it can be easy to spend more than might be necessary.
Most funeral providers offer a variety of package plans that include products and services that are most commonly sold. However, it is important to remember that no package is obligatory and it is important to take the time, even though it may be constricted, to find the individual products and services that you prefer. The "Funeral Rule," enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person and, if asked, over the telephone.
As outlined by the Funeral Rule:
• You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services that you want (with some exceptions).
• The funeral provider must state this "Rule" in writing on the general price list.
• If state or local law requires you to buy any particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price list, with a reference to the specific law.
• The funeral provider may not refuse, or charge a fee, to handle a casket that you bought elsewhere.
• A funeral provider who offers cremations must make alternative containers available.
Most importantly, do not be afraid to ask questions and read contracts before you sign. If you feel as if you are being pressured into buying something you do not want or need, ask to speak to a different funeral director or go to a different funeral home. Also realize that there may be more expenses to consider than just with a funeral home. Consider the costs of buying a cemetery plot and the opening of the grave-which is billed separately, the headstone or grave markers, and even flowers.
The National Funeral Directors Association offers a "Bill of Rights for Funeral Preplanning" (www.nfda.org/planning-a-funeral/preplanning.html) that its members follow. You do not have to prepay for a funeral in order to preplan one, although there may be financial benefits to doing so.
BBB has Business Reviews on more than 1,350 funeral homes and mortuary service providers across North America, available for free at www.bbb.org/search. BBB Business Review reports for funeral homes in this local service area of Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia are available at www.Chattanooga.bbb.org.
Get answers to your questions each Friday from Jim Winsett, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau Inc., which serves Southeast Tennessee and Northwest Georgia. Submit questions to his attention by writing to Business Editor Dave Flessner, Chattanooga Times Free Press, P.O. Box 1447, Chattanooga, TN, 37401-1447, or by e-mailing him at dflessner@ timesfreepress.com.