Death and Tax Dancing in America

As someone once said there are only two things in life you can count on “death and taxes”. Americans got the tax dance steps down but no one bothers to learn the death steps until the music has already begun to play and they are thrust out on the dance floor without a clue as to even the beat of the tune being played.

Many Funeral Directors are hesitant to take up their rightful place as important experts on one of the most significant events any human ever experiences, a death in the family. Few others, save doctors and clergy, are called upon at such important life changing events in the course of human existence, as are the funeral director. Yet industry reserve continues to keep these professionals reluctant to assert their rightful authority when it comes to telling Americans they need to see them not just when a death occurs but long before that.

Companies like The Final Arrangements Network have taken up the gauntlet and begun to associate funeral homes with cities and cemeteries both for people dealing with an immediate need and on a pre-need and informational basis.

“We could see that the consumer isn’t familiar with who to turn to when they have a death. They ask us and we are not the experts. The Funeral Director or Cemetery Manager is.” Offered Lori Campbell, Corporate Communications Director for The Final Arrangements Network. “It was for that reason that our new Internet portal, The Cemetery Registry, now carries links from the Registry’s Cemetery and City listings to local funeral homes, if any have asked to be listed.” Campbell said.

“The problem we see for funeral homes is that more and more people who are responsible for funeral arrangements are either very naïve about what to do or are having to do this long distance and haven’t a clue who to turn to in the city they have to make the funeral arrangements in. We expect over the course of the coming months we will even be able to link people directly to a funeral home’s website if they have and more and more funeral homes are developing them.” Campbell offered.

According to Campbell, the Final Arrangements Network is so committed to this funeral home linking system for its visitors they, FAN, will even help or completely develop a web page for a funeral home if they don’t have one and house it at their sites. Costs are minimal compared to those incurred when a funeral home has to set up their own site or use a web design or funeral home hosting service now.

“Our interest is not gouging funeral homes with high creative or hosting costs, nor getting into the web hosting business. We are only interested in making The Final Arrangements Network and The Cemetery Registry the most visited portals on the Internet for death care and estate planning information. If we do that right everybody wins and we think we will create a value that will justify the small fees we do charge.” Stated Campbell.

What The Final Arrangements Network and The Cemetery Registry seem to be trying to accomplish is to raise the presence of mind of death care in the US. With the death rate expected to increase from its current 2.4 plus million to over 3.5 million over the next decade that educational goal is daunting indeed.

“If the public can so enthusiastically be concerned about taxes and more and more realize they need to turn to an expert, how much more should they be willing to learn about the other major event in their lives, death and where to go for that specialized expertise.” Ward added.

Americans think nothing of spending hundreds if not thousands for a tax return that may or may not give them a few hundred or thousand dollars back. They pack storefront tax “expert” offices across the country and are willing to write checks to these experts for whatever it takes to get that return.

They buy software packages hawked on TV as godsends of found money, some even believing the software is actually creating the money out of whole clothe. They tell all their friends how much they made on their return by being so smart as to buy that software or see that “expert” in his or her cubicle at what last month was a vacant hole in an obscure strip shop location right next to the local Laundromat.

These same so-called smart people will sit dumbfounded and thoroughly confused when they get the call that Uncle Joe just died. Unlike taxes, they have no idea where to turn or who to call. They never thought that whatever that tax refund was is nothing compared to what Uncle Joe’s final arrangements may cost. Yet they have given no comparable effort to such an occurrence happening to their family.

“It is almost inconceivable the number of Americans who have no clue what would have to be done and who to turn to when a death occurs. All most know is that there are these places called funeral homes with these people called funeral directors, you are supposed to call.” Stated Campbell.

As Readers Digest said in its treatise on the subject in its book “Consumer Adviser” published way back in 1989, “Few consumers would ordinarily admit to spending $5,000 or more on something that they knew little or nothing about. Yet everyday thousands of Americans do just that when a family member dies. On short notice, with their judgment often clouded by grief or guilt, they turn to the nearest funeral director to tell them what to do.”

Since that publication the price has risen to over $6,000 on average and yet nobody has paid attention. You don’t hear TV or Cable news talking about it, yet it will affect the real lives of more Americans this year than Martha Stewart or Michael Jackson will ever significantly affect them, no matter how long these so called dramas take to finally fade from the screen.

There is something Americans can and should do about this lack of knowledge concerning what needs to be done when someone dies. It is simple and doesn’t cost a dime, unlike that “tax expert” at the tax store will. Every American who has responsibility for a family of any size and especially those who are now or in the future expect to have some responsibly for their parents well being needs to have a sit down with a licensed funeral director.

They need to learn what is involved, not if but when someone in their family dies. What will it cost? How is it started? What information needs to be gathered? Which types of services are available? How would the funeral home work with that family? Are there things they can do now that will make such a catastrophic occurrence somewhat less burdensome?

“We just want to be the conduit through which the dialogue between funeral director and family begins. If we can make that connection and help make the anxiety, fear and confusion a little less stressful for our clients, we will be satisfied we did our part. We hope the funeral industry will see the merit of our effort and help make more information available to us so we can give it to the consumer.” Concluded Campbell.

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