By – Angela Webster
The pressure of time, budget, and decisions can make planning a funeral a daunting task for a grieving family. To reduce stress on family members, many Americans are choosing to pre-plan their funerals by working with a funeral home or other provider to ensure that the arrangements reflect their final wishes. Pre-planning gives people the freedom to share what they want with their families, to shop for the casket or urn of their choice, purchase a burial plot or secure a spot in their church columbarium.
You have choices.
Many people feel undue pressure from the funeral industry, but they don’t have to.
If you’re thinking about pre-planning your funeral, you may be surprised to learn that you have choices.
While many funeral providers offer “packages” of services that make up a funeral, you’re not limited by these
packages. When you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy individual goods and services. That
means you don’t have to accept a package with items you don’t want.
Here are a few of your legal rights according to the Federal Trade Commission’s Funeral Rule:
- You have the right to choose only the funeral goods and services you want.
- The funeral provider may not refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket that you bought somewhere else.
- The funeral provider must provide you with a general price list
- If a state or local law requires you to buy a particular item, the funeral provider must disclose it on the price
list, with a reference to the specific law.
These rights are important. You have the legal right to price shop and buy a casket or urn from outside the
funeral home. You have choices.
Five things you can do to help your family feel more prepared
- Put together a simple list of after-life instructions that you can have your spouse, children, or the executor
file away. Your instructions should detail your wishes for your remains, a funeral, burial, cremation,
pallbearers, etc. It will reduce some of the anxiety if your family doesn’t have to guess about what you
might have wanted.
- Consider what type of service you want—funeral vs memorial—and place—church or funeral home.
- If you desire burial, consider where and make arrangements with the cemetery for a plot, and marker. If
cremation, what do you want done with the ashes?
- Pre-purchase your casket or urn and provide the details in your after-life instructions
- Sit down and talk with your spouse and family to answer any of their questions or concerns
Alternatives to the Status Quo
If you decide to take the first steps and begin pre-planning, you’ll have a lot of decisions to make. There are
many alternatives to the standard options presented at the funeral home. Before you start exploring, think
about what you’re looking for. If you are purchasing a casket, do you prefer metal or wood? A handmade
casket or one produced on an assembly line?
One example of an alternative casket-maker is a small company tucked in the rolling farm land of Iowa.
Trappist Caskets are made by monks at New Melleray Abbey out of hardwood, harvested partly from their
own sustainable forest. Their caskets reflect the Trappist values of work and prayer. Purchasing a Trappist
casket or urn supports the monastery, and makes it possible for the monks to offer child caskets to grieving
families at no charge. Casket makers like this one offer meaningful alternatives as you consider how to plan
for the future.
Don’t be corralled into a funeral purchase that doesn’t sit right with you. Instead, be empowered to take
control and explore alternatives.