The Funeral Planning Guide: The importance of talking with family

Whether you have previously planned the funeral of a loved one, or are now planning a funeral for the first time, you may have come to realize that the costs associated with traditional burial can quickly escalate.

According to the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA), a nonprofit organization that works to protect the rights of funeral industry consumers “to choose a meaningful, dignified, affordable funeral,” several issues have combined to create a dramatic increase in funeral costs over the past several decades.

Joshua Slocum, executive director of the FCA, points out that most significantly “the general American fear of death and refusal to talk openly about what our burial expectations are with loved ones has created a situation where funeral costs are able to rise astronomically from one year to the next.”  Most people do not make their funeral wishes clear to loved ones prior to their passing, so final arrangements are left to the last minute and carried out by grieving loved ones who may be easily influenced to spend more money than is necessary on the departed person’s funeral arrangements.  It is important to realize that the amount of money you spend on the funeral of a loved one does not in any way reflect on how much you cared about that person.  By discussing funeral expectations with loved ones now, you will be able to make better informed decisions about the kind of funeral each of you desires.

The FCA also points out that package style funeral planning is not necessary and can often inflate funeral costs.  The Federal Trade Commission established The Funeral Rule in 1984 as a way to protect funeral industry consumers.  Amongst other regulations, The Funeral Rule establishes that consumers are allowed to select only those funeral items or services that they want or must have.  This eliminates the possibility for funeral homes to create funeral “packages” that include goods or services that are not desired.

It should also be noted that The Funeral Rule also enables consumers to purchase funeral items, such as caskets and monuments, from sources outside of the funeral home. If a funeral home or funeral director is leading you to believe that you may only purchase funeral goods and services from the funeral home, that provider is in violation of The Funeral Rule.

Funeral pre-planning is a good way to assure that an individual’s final arrangements are planned according to his or her wishes.  However, pre-planning does not have to mean pre-paying. By pre-planning your own final arrangements, or by helping to pre-plan the final arrangements of a loved one, you can be certain that when the time comes every desired detail of your funeral plans will be addressed without concern for additional costs being incurred.

The most important aspect of the pre-planning process is considering how the individual feels about what should be done with his or her own remains.  Though burial is still the most common final arrangement choice, cremation and body donation are both becoming more acceptable and preferred options for some people.  These two options also offer practical and economical solutions for some families as well.  It is important that pre-planning discussions amongst family members include these alternate choices.

Though no one wants to think about death or dying, it is important that we begin to understand the responsibility associated with becoming informed funeral planning consumers.  By talking openly about final arrangements with your loved ones, you will be able to arrange the perfect – and most affordable – farewell.

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