“The Funeral Rule is a Federal Law Designed to Protect Consumers From Funeral Home Fraud.”
Older Americans are the targets of many con artists and financial frauds. Funeral and burial schemes are big business in our country. The mortuary industry has been so fraught with scams, that the Federal Trade Commission urges everyone planning a funeral to be aware of potential fraud in this industry.
The Funeral Rule
The Funeral Rule is a federal law designed to protect consumers from being victimized by funeral homes. Funeral directors are required to show customers “the List” which itemizes costs for all items and services. Customers are allowed to buy packages, but they can also opt to order individual items and services “ala carte” instead.
Because industry research shows most customers buy one of the first three caskets they see, funeral homes like to show clients the most expensive caskets first. Under the Funeral Rule, they are supposed to show you “the List” before showing you any caskets or other items. However, not all funeral directors follow the law.
You are allowed to buy the casket elsewhere. The funeral home cannot require you to buy the coffin from them, in order to have the service at their facility. They are also not allowed to increase the price of services if the casket is purchased elsewhere
There are often unnecessary “add ons” intended to inflate the overall costs of the burial. For example, “protective coffins” add potentially hundreds of dollars to an already high invoice. This expensive “add on” merely equates to an inexpensive rubber gasket, supposedly used to slow down the rate at which moisture will soak into the coffin. Mausoleums do not allow gaskets, because they can cause the coffin to explode from trapped gases.
Despite what some funeral homes will tell you, the law does not require you to have your loved one embalmed. The exceptions are when there will be an open casket viewing of the body, or the body will travel by air to another location. If the funeral home embalmed without your express permission, you do not have to pay for it.
Some funeral homes or crematories insist upon embalming the body before cremation. If it is a direct cremation, with no open casket viewing, there is no reason to embalm. You do not have to buy a coffin for a cremation. You do not have to buy an expensive urn from the mortuary. Interestingly, you can use your own container or have the ashes placed in a plain container. You may purchase the urn elsewhere. Ask the crematory how they track remains, to make sure that the ashes you receive are truly those of your loved one.
There are several well-run, reputable funeral and mortuary facilities in our area. My own personal experience has been very good, with our local mortuary representatives clearly explaining the law and my options. It is important to know the reputation of the facility you choose, and not be swayed due to grief.
Scambusters.org. “Rolling Over in the Grave: Three Funeral Scams.” (accessed July 25, 2017) https://www.scambusters.org/funeralscams.html
AARP. “Beware of Funeral Frauds.” (accessed July 25, 2017) http://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2014/beware-of-funeral-fraud.html
Life Insurance Quotes. “8 Ways Funeral Homes Will Try To Rip You Off.” (accessed July 25, 2017) http://www.lifeinsurancequotes.org/8-ways-funeral-homes-will-try-to-rip-you-off/