Mother’s cancer diagnosis prompts quick review of funeral arrangements, considerations and costs

By Robb Hicken/ BBB’s chief storyteller

The woman’s plea was urgent and gripping.

“My mother is 85 years old and has been diagnosed with cancer,” Tamara B writes. “I’m a low-income single mother and if something happens, I don’t have the money to cover the costs of the funeral … what do I need to do? Please answer.”

At an average cost of $8,000, funerals are expensive. Decisions must be made quickly under great emotional stress. It can be easy to spend more money than might be necessary.

“I need to find a way to cover the funeral, if anything happens,” writes Tamara, a Boise resident.

Better Business Bureau advises people to take their time, ask a lot of questions and consider several providers before buying a funeral plan or paying for funeral services.funeral rule

Most mortuaries provide funeral plans and prepay arrangements, which is a good starting point in planning. Before you go, check the provider’s background. Prepaying for a funeral has advantages, as well as risks. If you choose to prepay, make a well-informed decision, carefully research your options and know your rights. You can always make plans in advance, without prepaying. Be sure to share your specific wishes with those close to you.

Federal Trade Commission undercover investigators found funeral homes in nine states discovered significant violations of FTC consumer protection requirements.  Idaho was not among those investigated. Exact violations were not given, but people need to be aware problems exist. The FTC’s Funeral Rule as an alternative to a FTC lawsuit is a guideline for businesses and people. Here’s a three-minute video: http://1.usa.gov/130TBWo

The FTC’s Funeral Rule gives people a number of rights, including the right to receive written price lists, explanations of cemetery or legal requirements and the choice of using a container other than a casket for cremation. Some cemeteries have requirements that must be explained fully before you make a purchase.

Remember, every family is different, and not everyone wants the same type of funeral. The type of funeral you’ll have elaborate or simple, public or private, religious of secular can be influenced by religious and cultural traditions, costs and personal preferences.

BBB recommends the following advice:

  • Check with BBB. Use BBB’s free services to find a trustworthy funeral establishment. A company’s BBB Business Review will show any history of complaints and how the company addressed those complaints.
  • Check operating licenses. Check that any funeral establishment you are considering has been licensed and is registered. In Idaho, check occupational licensing.
  • Visit the establishment. Before making any final decisions, visit the funeral establishment and gravesite in person to check the facilities and meet the funeral director.
  • Compare costs. Consult at least three different firms to compare costs and services available. By law, any establishment you enter is required to give a price list, which you can keep, itemizing the costs of funeral services and the merchandise for sale.
  • Get a copy of the funeral purchase agreement. Funeral directors are required to give you a signed copy of the funeral agreement, which lists out all the items you selected and the price.
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