Tag Archives: cremation

Jake Koltun is seen in a photo provided to CBS Denver station KCNC-TV.

Heritage Cremation Provider Accused of Being the Ultimate Scam

Via CBS News Denver – February 10, 2017

DENVER — As Lisa Koltun quietly thumbed through precious photos of her son Jake, she couldn’t help but remember how his 2015 death on a Colorado ski slope was made far worse by the treatment she received after he died, CBS Denver station KCNC-TV reports.

“That’s my boy,” she murmured softly as she looked through a photo album. “He had so many friends.”

Jake Koltun, 22, died at Breckenridge on his last run of the day. Things were only about to get worse for his mother as she connected with Heritage Cremation Provider, which purported to be a local, trusted cremation service in Boulder that could handle Jake’s remains.

“It was just a nightmare,” said Lisa Koltun.


She is not alone in that assessment. A KCNC-TV investigation found that the company paid to handle Jake Koltun’s arrangements has been the subject of numerous consumer complaints in Colorado and across the country, has been officially sanctioned by several states for shoddy service, and is essentially a web-based marketing company that collects upfront payments and fees from grieving families and then subcontracts actual services out to local funeral homes. The company acts as a middle man or body broker and is based in Florida.

After Jake Koltun’s death, his mother asked her friend David Williams to handle cremation arrangements, which is what Jake wanted in the event of his death. Williams did an internet search of cremation services in Boulder, which is where Jake had been living as he attended the University of Colorado. A website immediately popped up for Heritage Cremation Provider, which said it provided “trusted cremation services in Boulder” and said it was “family-owned and operated for over two decades. Compassionate community service close to home.”

“I trusted their website,” said Williams. “They stated clearly in their advertising that they were a locally owned in Boulder family-run business.”

Based on the local appearance, Williams contracted with Heritage to have Jake’s body cremated. The problems began immediately. On the first invoice Heritage sent to Williams, the company misspelled Jake’s last name as “Kolton.” On a follow-up invoice, the company said the deceased was “The William family,” apparently confusing David Williams as being dead. On another invoice sent to Williams, the bill was for another dead person – Sarah White. And on multiple invoices the company asked for additional fees for an oversize container for Jake, even though he only weighed about 165 pounds and was about 6-foot-2.

“It’s so dishonest,” said Williams. “It’s the ultimate scam.”

They aren’t the only ones who feel that way. In 2015, five complaints were filed against Heritage Cremation Provider with the state of Colorado. One of those was from the family of Jake Koltun. But two years later, the state agency that deals with funeral complaints says none of those investigations have been completed and the company has no disciplines on its state record.

Three of the complaints were filed in June 2015, another was filed in September 2015, and the fifth was filed in December 2015.

Lee Rasizer, a spokesperson for Colorado’s Office of Funeral Homes and Crematory Registration told KCNC-TV, “This is a complex case with numerous complainants from multiple jurisdictions, many outside of Colorado. Ensuring that the investigation is thorough, complete and ultimately ensures the public is protected takes due diligence and time. Information continues to be submitted, and is proving helpful in furthering that overall objective. The methodical nature of the investigation takes precedence over any timelines. All avenues are being explored.”

Rasizer said the agency would not appear on camera to further explain why three investigations of Heritage have now spanned 20 months with no resolution. Complaints have also been filed against the company in Colorado in 2016.

Many of the complaints revolve around the fact that Heritage Cremation is little more than a marketing company which does not do any of the actual transportation or cremation work itself.

DFS Memorials, a low-cost network of cremation services, wrote that Heritage Cremation Provider “give the appearance of being a local company when in fact they are just acting as ‘middle men.’”

In North Carolina last year, the North Carolina Board of Funeral Service filed an injunction against Heritage Cremation Provider and informed crematory managers throughout the state that performing a cremation for the company “would constitute aiding and abetting the unlicensed practice of funeral service.”

In Oregon in 2014, the state mortuary and cemetery board found the company’s online advertising “constitutes a sales presentation or practice that conceals or misstates a material fact” and ordered a fine of $10,000.

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Colorado has also warned consumers about the company. The BBB gives Heritage a D- grade saying there were 10 complaints processed against the company in a 12-month period.

For the family of Jake Koltun, the ultimate insult came when they traveled to Boulder to retrieve his ashes. Believing the company was local and had an office in Boulder, the family said when they arrived Heritage gave them the runaround, only later to discover the company didn’t actually have a Boulder office.

When they pressed the company by phone to get Jake’s cremains, David Williams said a representative of the company told him, “They had no idea where Jake’s body was.” Lisa Koltun said, “They lost track of him for a week. It’s bad enough he is gone and I don’t get to see him again, but to not know where he was in that time period is completely unacceptable.”

Lisa Koltun said she eventually received her son’s ashes after numerous contacts with the company.

Katrina Goldsmith, who identified herself as a Colorado-based manager for Heritage Cremation Provider, told KCNC-TV by phone, “I don’t think there’s a story here. When people are grieving things get put in a different light. We do service many families, there’s always sometimes where we’re not perfect.”

She said she felt badly for Jake’s family but said it was “utterly ridiculous” for the family to think Jake’s body was temporarily lost. Goldsmith declined to meet with KCNC-TV in person, declined to agree to an on-camera interview, and said she did not want to review records of what occurred in the Koltun case. She cut off the phone conversation without answering most questions. Owners of the company never responded to KCNC-TV’s repeated requests for information and comment.

Lisa Koltun is answering questions. She said, “I can’t stand the thought of another parent going through this.”

David Williams, the family friend who first found Heritage Cremation and contracted with them, said the web-based company is “the ultimate scam. They are not the most trusted name in the funeral home business in any town in the United States.”

Colorado’s Office of Funeral Homes and Crematory Registration is asking anyone else with complaints about Heritage Cremation Provider to get in touch with the state agency.

See Original Article at CBS News Denver

Pope Francis greets the crowd in St. Peter's square.

Vatican issues guidelines on cremation, says no to scattering ashes

According to new guidelines from the Vatican’s doctrinal office, cremated remains should be kept in a “sacred place” such as a church cemetery. Ashes should not be divided up between family members, “nor may they be preserved in mementos, pieces of jewelry or other objects.”

The church has allowed cremation for decades, but the guidelines make clear that the Vatican is concerned that the practice often involves “erroneous ideas about death.” Those ideas run the gauntlet from deeply nihilistic to New Age-y, the Vatican says, from the belief that death is the definitive end of life to the notion that our bodies fuse with nature or enter another cycle of rebirth.

So, in a sense, the Vatican’s new guidelines on cremation aren’t really about cremation. The church’s true targets are modern societies’ increasingly secular notions about the afterlife and the trivialization of dead bodies, making the departed into mementos for the living instead of temples made in the image and likeness of God.

Pope Francis greets the crowd in St. Peter's square.

“Struggle”

As cremation has become more popular — nearly half of Americans said they were at least “somewhat likely” to choose cremation upon their death — the Vatican, like other religious institutions, has struggled to keep pace with the trend.

In 1963, the Vatican said burial of deceased bodies should be the norm, but cremation is not “opposed per se to the Christian religion.” Catholic funeral rites should not be denied to those who had asked to be cremated, the church said.

But in recent years, “new ideas” contrary to the Catholic faith have become widespread, the Vatican said. The new statement names pantheism (the worship of nature), naturalism (the idea that all truths are derived from nature, not religion) and nihilism (a deep skepticism about all received truths) as particularly problematic. If cremation is chosen for any of those reasons, the deceased should not receive a Catholic burial, the new guidelines say.

In the United States, cremations have taken on a highly personalized and commercial aspect. Companies offer to load cremains into shotgun shells so that family members can take them on turkey hunts. Nature lovers ask that their ashes be scattered under a favorite tree or inserted into coral reefs. Cremains can be shot into space, or refashioned as diamonds.

A pilgrim holding a crucifix attends the Pope's Angelus Sunday prayer in St. Peter's square.

“Sacrilegious”

Such practices are sacrilegious, the Vatican’s new guidelines say.

Catholicism teaches that all people will be resurrected — both body and soul — at the end of days. Cremation does not “prevent God, in his omnipotence, from raising up the deceased body to new life,” the Vatican says, but it does raise the possibility that the deceased’s body, which the church believes is sacred, will not be properly respected by ancestors and relatives.

“By burying the bodies of the faithful, the Church confirms her faith in the resurrection of the body, and intends to show the great dignity of the human body as an integral part of the human person whose body forms part of their identity,” the new guidelines state.

The Vatican makes clear, however, that there are valid sanitary, economic and social reasons for cremation. But burial, the church says, is the best way to demonstrate “esteem” for the deceased, and cremains can only be kept at home with special permission from a bishop.

Preparing for Cremation

About 50% of the US population now opts for cremation as the final means of disposition. Though it is a straight-forward process, you should be prepared to make some decisions before the cremation takes place.

Remove Valuables Prior to Cremation

Cremation uses intense heat to break down the body to ashes and bone fragment. A typical flame-based cremation retort reaches temperatures between 1400-1800 degrees F. With that in mind, any clothing, jewelry, or valuables left on the deceased will be destroyed by the heat, so you should decide ahead of time whether you will want to remove those items for safe-keeping prior to cremation.

Body Preparation

If you are not having a public viewing, it is not necessary to have the body embalmed or further prepared with hair and makeup. The funeral director may require this if you choose to have a public viewing before the cremation takes place. Keep in mind that embalming and other body preparation will come at an additional cost.

You should also take care to notify the funeral director or crematory of any implanted medical devices, such pacemakers, or prosthetics. Pacemakers will need to be removed prior to cremation to avoid exploding and possibly damaging the retort.

Viewing Before Cremation

If a viewing or service is held prior to cremation, your funeral home may offer you the option to purchase a “rental casket” that has removable one-time use insert. Only the insert will go into retort with the body. Some crematories offer families the ability to attend, witness, or participate in the cremation, such as pushing the button to open the and start the retort.

ID Viewing

To prevent misidentification, a representative of the family may be asked to identify the deceased prior to the cremation taking place. This is often referred to as an “ID Viewing” by funeral directors. This is also the time that you can remove any valuables that you would like to keep. After the identification has taken place, the cremation container will be closed and prepared for cremation. Once this happens, the crematorium will not allow the opening of the container again, so be sure that all valuable you want removed have been and you’ve had enough time to say goodbye.

Cremation Containers

A funeral home or cremation provider will provide you with a price list outlining the cost of Direct Cremation with a container brought by the purchaser as well as with a basic one that they can provide for cremation.

Alternative Cremation Container

An example of an alternative container made of cardboard

You will need to decide if you will furnish your own cremation container such as a cardboard casket, another type of casket or coffin made of natural materials, or a shroud. If not, you can purchase the “alternative container” or another casket that the funeral home or cremation provider offers. The type and cost of alternative containers containers vary widely amongst providers from basic cardboard to basic  untreated wood. Be sure you inquire on the type and cost of the containers available before committing to use one provider or the next.

Once the cremation has taken place and the remains have cooled, they will be raked out into a container to be sifted to remove any remaining metals. The organic matter will then be placed in a pulverizor to grind the remaining bone fragments into a more consistent ash. The cremated remains are then placed into a “temporary” container such as a plastic bag, cardboard box, a tin, or a basic plastic urn at no extra cost. If you have an urn or other preferred vessel, you can provide it to the funeral home or cremation provider to use instead.


For more information on Paying for a Funeral, funeral planning and resources to guide you through planning a funeral, visit the I’m Sorry to Hear article library, download a Funeral Planning Checklist, review the Casket Guide, see your State by State Guide on End of Life issues, get information on How to Pay for a Funeral, view Funeral Planning Tips, and access Funeral Consumer Advocacy links all from our Resources area.

hd-aspect-1477932610-death

The Women Who Love Death

Young women are more paranoid about their own demise than ever before. Enter “death positivity,” a new female-driven trend aimed at turning that fear on its head.

About a dozen people are gathered at the Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, New York for its monthly death café, an event designed to prompt discussions about, as you may have guessed, death. We’re sitting in the library at a dark wood table topped with two emerald green banker’s lamps. What I see when I look around: specimen jars, wax figurines, anatomy prints, preserved butterflies, books, religious artwork, and a set of human teeth displayed in a black case like a pair of earrings at Claire’s. For two hours, we chat about our own experiences with death, learn about alternative funerals and “green” burials, and nod at phrases like “closure is a myth” and “to talk about death is to appreciate life” while eating shortbread cookies.

THAT’S THE THING ABOUT “DEATH POSITIVITY”—IT’S NOT ABOUT WANTING TO DIE. IT’S ABOUT FEELING BETTER ABOUT DEATH IN ORDER TO FEEL BETTER ABOUT LIVING.

“It’s refreshing,” Gianina Galatro, a 26-year-old media planner, says of attending her fourth death café today. “Bring up death in a random room, and it’s like, ‘Wow, way to bring down the mood.’ But whenever I leave a death café, I feel so happy.”

The leading women in death: Sarah Troop (left), Megan Rosenbloom (middle), Caitlin Doughty (right) photo: Scott Troyan

That’s the thing about “death positivity”—it’s not about wanting to die, looking forward to dying, or fantasizing when and where and how it’ll happen. It’s about feeling better about death in order to feel better about living. It’s about, in a way, alleviating the I’m-sure-something-horrible-is-going-to-happen-to-me paranoia that grips so many young women these days.

In fact, the “death positivity” movement is being led by women—female morticians, writers, academics, and artists—as an answer. Their cause has evolved over the last few years from online communities to annual events to, now, an entire museum.

Caitlin Doughty, 32, was there at the beginning. In fact, she’s pretty much the mother of the whole thing. (The New York Times bestselling author of Smoke Gets in Your Eyes: And Other Lessons from the Crematory, she’s credited with coining the term “death positivity” and for spurring the phenomenon of more open conversations about dying with her popular YouTube series Ask a Mortician.) “It’s not, ‘Oh, your dad died? Just be positive about it. It’s okay!'” she explains of the movement’s goal. “It’s realizing the fact that we’re all going to die is our greatest cultural force. It affects our desire to achieve, have children, get married. It affects everything we do.”

Not that Millennials need reminding that death looms large around every possible corner.

Maybe it’s all the apps and fitness trackers that tell us exactly how alive we are at any given moment. Or the constant stream of new studies revealing that everything we love will give us cancer. Or the collective mourning on social media that immediately follows a celebrity death. Or the incessant mass shootings and Reddit threads that follow them. Or the chilling headlines about young women being raped and murdered while out on a jog, while leaving the office, while on vacation.

For all these reasons and then some, young women are experiencing death anxiety more than ever. In data pulled for Marie Claire by OkCupid.com earlier this spring, only 28 percent of male users answered yes to the question: “Have you created a ‘Things To Do Before I Die’ list?” That’s nearly half the percentage of female users who answered the question the same way (52.6 percent). Part of it, perhaps, is timing. According to a study published in 2007 by a group of University of North Florida, Jacksonville researchers, death anxiety peaks for men and women in their 20s, but for women, there’s a “secondary spike” during their 50s, which men don’t experience.

DJ Andi Harriman spinning at the Morbid Anatomy Museum’s fundraising gala after-party photo: Eric Ogden

There’s also this: Today we don’t engage with death in the way we might if we time-traveled back to a period before vaccines and the marvels of modern medicine. Before you could pick up protein at Whole Foods without raising and slaughtering it yourself. Before you visited dying loved ones at a sterile hospital rather than tending to them at home.

Without a regular face-to-face relationship with death, we’ve developed an aversion to the subject entirely.

But, it turns out, death can be sort of fun.

At the after-party for the Morbid Anatomy Museum’s annual fundraising gala this past April, guests—older artistic types who look like cooler versions of your parents, and hipster-y 20-to-30 somethings with beards and bangs and lots of black—chatted with each other between trips to the bar about near-death experiences and how they’d like to die. There were tarot card readings. An insect petting zoo. And even a palm reader, who held her iPhone over my two palms in the dimly lit space to tell me I’ll find true love later in life, not when I’m old-old but when I’m middle aged. Bad news for my boyfriend, who pays for the reading when I learn she’s cash-only. The good news, though, is that I’ll avoid certain death for at least another two decades. “It’s the funnest place I’ve ever been,” says Tonya Hurley, 45, New York Times bestselling author behind the ghostgirl fiction series and founding board member of the museum, “being surrounded by all this death!”

For the rest of us who may not have warmed up to the topic quite yet, part of our uneasiness, says Bri Barton, a 27-year-old artist in Philadelphia, is based on certain societal values. “Our culture is youth- and growth-focused,” she says. “Anything that reminds of us of decay or mortality terrifies us.” Last November, Barton self-published an all-ages coloring book titled Everything Dies! A Coloring Book About Life!, the first 1,000 printing of which sold out in four months. The project began as a way of coping with a “string of sudden deaths” when Barton lost six loved ones in an eight-month period. “All of these people are dying around me and all I wanted to do was talk about it,” she says. “But every time I mentioned ‘this person died,’ everyone froze and no one knew what to say next. And it was just like, dude, there’s one thing that happens to all of us. We have to be able to talk about it.”

People do talk about it in small (but growing) circles of similar-minded people. Take Death Salon, the discussions, panels, performances, even parties that make up the events arm of Doughty’s non-profit Order of the Good Death. The group’s first-ever event took place in October 2013 at L.A. rock venue Bootleg Theater—and the turnout shocked organizers. “No one knew our name, and we didn’t do a ton of promotion, but when we showed up it was sold out,” says Megan Rosenbloom, 34, co-founder and director of Death Salon and a medical librarian at the University of Southern California. “We didn’t have any seats because it’s a rock club, but people sat on the floor because they wanted to watch everything to the end. We were like, Wow, okay, something is happening here.” There have been five events since (in London, San Francisco, Philadelphia, Houston, and another in L.A., at the Getty Villa).

WITHOUT A REGULAR FACE-TO-FACE RELATIONSHIP WITH DEATH, WE’VE DEVELOPED AN AVERSION TO THE SUBJECT ENTIRELY.

Rosenbloom thinks about death every day—which, to her, is a good thing. “There are a lot of studies that say people who think about death more are actually happier because humans are wired to value things that are perceived as finite,” she says. And she’s gained a sense of preparedness for the inevitable losses to come. Earlier this year, her experience at Death Salons helped Rosenbloom cope with an unexpected death in her family, from making funeral arrangements (pro tip: you don’t need to embalm a body before it’s cremated, something funeral directors often fail to explain before charging you for the unnecessary expense) to what not to say to grieving family members (“she’s in a better place” and “everything happens for a reason” = particular pain points). Sometimes you have to get comfortable with the idea of a crisis before it’s staring you in the face.

morbid-anantomy-museum-gallery-1472136164-204a0308-copy

The Morbid Anatomy Museum in Brooklyn, N.Y. photo: Eric Ogden

Like on a recent Saturday afternoon inside the basement of the Morbid Anatomy Museum, where everyone—11 women and one man seemingly plucked from the pages of an Urban Outfitters catalog—is hunched over their plates in concentration. Somewhere else, this could be brunch. But there are no mimosas here. Just tiny dead white mice being skinned.

Divya Anantharaman, 32, stands in the center of the room encouraging the attendees to dive in, her purple ombre hued hair in a messy bun. For the former Pratt Institute design student, taxidermy was a hobby until three years ago when she quit her freelance fashion work and turned the practice into her full-time job; now she teaches an increasingly popular sustainably-sourced taxidermy workshop in Brooklyn.

“IT’S THE FUNNEST PLACE I’VE EVER BEEN, BEING SURROUNDED BY ALL THIS DEATH!”

Fellow taxidermist Katie Innamorato, 26, who has the long wavy brunette locks and casual pitch-black style of an off-duty metal-band frontwoman, theorizes about the surging interest in their artform: “It’s another way for people to relate back to nature and to death.” Both women teach regularly sold-out classes, which cost between $100 and $450, in cities like L.A., Portland, Detroit, and Atlanta, with women, mostly in the 20s through 40s, making up the majority of their students. This month, Anantharaman and Innamorato released a part how-to, part history book on the subject, Stuffed Animals.

Katrina Spade, founder and executive director of the Urban Death Project in Seattle photo: Rania Spade

The fact that women are both driving and consuming the death positivity trend is not exactly coincidental. The women in death movement is actually a resurgence. “Typically death care [tending to the dying, making arrangements for funerals and wakes, preparing the body for burial] was considered feminine work,” says Sarah Troop, 41, curator at the Lindsey Museum Gallery in central California and executive director of the Order of the Good Death. “That was taken out of our hands and professionalized by men who said, ‘This is not something you can do, there’s science here, it’s a business, this is not a place for you.’

“Not today, and not anymore. Just look at mortuary science schools, Troop says, where classes are now “overwhelmingly comprised of female students.” (More than 60 percent of mortuary school students are female, according to National Funeral Directors Association.) Or outside the classroom where entrepreneurial women like Katrina Spade, the founder and executive director of the Urban Death Project in Seattle, W.A., are finding ways to decompose dead bodies at a faster-than-normal pace to turn them into soil for use in green spaces.

Ask any woman in the movement and she’ll tell you that constantly thinking about death is one of the best things that ever happened to her. Being reminded that we’re “mortal creatures,” as Doughty puts it, forces a sort of clarity about not sweating the small stuff. “It makes you focus on and appreciate the moments you have,” Spade says.

A sense of humor helps, too. “I’ve always been a little afraid of dying,” Spade admits, “but now when I get on a plane, I’m like, I can’t die. I’m going to a meeting about the Urban Death Project. It’d be too ironic.

Originally published by  Oct 31, 2016 in Marie Claire.

direct-cremation-crematorium-main

The Cremation Process

What is cremation?

Cremation is a means of final body disposition that uses intense heat to break down the body to bone fragments which are often pulverized along with the other organic matter to an ash-like substance.

The Cremation Process

Cremation is performed by placing the deceased in a cremation container of your choice, then placing the container into a cremation chamber, referred to in the industry as a “retort”, where the cremation container and the remains are subject to intense heat and flame. Through the use of a suitable fuel, incineration of the container and contents is accomplished by raising the temperature to approximately 1600 degrees F. All substances are consumed except bone fragments (calcium components) and metal (including dental gold, silver and other non-human material), as the temperature is not sufficient to consume them.

Due to the nature of the cremation process any personal possessions or valuable materials, such as dental gold or jewelry, as well as any body prostheses or dental bridgework, that are left with the decedent and not removed from the casket or container prior to cremation will be destroyed or will otherwise not be recoverable. As the casket or container will not be opened by the crematory, to remove valuables, to allow for a final viewing or for any other reason, the Authorizing Agent understands that arrangements must be made with the funeral home to remove any such possessions or valuables prior to the time the decedent is transported to the crematory.

Following the cooling period, the cremated remains are then swept or raked from the cremation chamber. The crematory makes a reasonable effort to remove all of the remains, but some dust and other residue from the process are always left behind. In addition, while every effort will be made to avoid commingling, inadvertent or incidental commingling of minute particles of cremated remains from the residue of previous cremations is a possibility, and the Authorized Agent understands and accepts this fact.

After the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, all noncombustible materials, insofar as possible such as bridgework, and materials from the casket or container, such as hinges, latches, nails, etc., to which some bone particles or other human residue may be affixed. They will then be separated and removed from the human bone fragments by visible or magnetic selection and will be disposed of by the crematory with similar materials from other cremations in a non-recoverable manner, so that only human bone fragments will remain.

When the cremated remains are removed from the cremation chamber, the skeletal remains often contain recognizable bone fragments. Unless otherwise specified, after the bone fragments have been separated from the other material, they will then be mechanically processed, also called “pulverized,” which includes crushing or grinding an incidental commingling of the remains with the residue from the processing of previously cremated remains, into granulated particles of unidentifiable dimensions, virtually unrecognizable as human remains, prior to placement into a designated container.

A special thank you to Romero Funeral Home for sharing this educational article with us.

olu-eletu-unsplash

Cremation Not Included: FCA Study Reveals All

When a loved one passes away, those tasked with arranging funerals and settling estates have to make a multitude of decisions during a stressful time and on a deadline. Cremation? Burial? Embalming? Organ Donation? The possibilities are endless and the choices made often have a lasting effect and although we try to make the most informed decision possible, no one really knows all the questions to ask. So when the Federal Trade Commission created the Funeral Rule in 1984, which requires funeral homes and providers to disclose all their disposition option,rates and pricing on a General Price List, consumers were reassured and confident their rights were being protected. But when a funeral home falsifies or fails to disclose important pricing information, what happens?

Fineas Anton |Unsplash|

On September 12 the Consumer Federation of America’s Executive Director  Stephen Brobeck and Josh Slocum, the Executive Director of the Funeral Consumer Alliance held a teleconference following the spontaneous release of an in-depth study on the cost of dying, with a special report on the cost of simple cremation, in America. The results were nothing short of surprising.

The CFA and FCA investigated 142 funeral homes in the top ten metropolitan cities in America including Atlanta, Denver, D.C., Indianapolis, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Princeton, Seattle, Southern California, and Tucson. They examined the General Price Lists disclosed by the homes, compared them to the actual fees charged, as well as the practices and services provided and found a substantial difference in cremation pricing and blatant exploitation of a loophole revealed in the Funeral Rule laws.

Of 142 funeral homes and cremation businesses surveyed:

—prices for Direct Cremation ranged from $495 to $7,595.

— 33 of funeral homes failed to list legally required options and disclosures on their general price lists. This is a direct violation of the Funeral Rule.

—Of the 46 funeral homes that post Direct Cremation prices on their websites, 12 (26%) failed to offer these options and disclosures. If the Funeral Rule applied to websites, these would be in violation.

—Thirty-one of the surveyed funeral homes (22%) advertised a price for their Direct Cremation package that failed to include the cost of the cremation process itself, making the price for a simple cremation seem artificially low. Though this is not a direct violation of the Funeral Rule, it is inherently deceptive and the FTC should bar this practice.

According to the report, the Funeral Rule requires funeral homes to provide two options when selecting cremation as the chosen means of final disposition:

“The price of Direct Cremation when the customer supplies their own casket or cardboard “alternative container” to hold the body prior to cremation, such as a homemade casket or a container bought from a third-party retailer,”

And

“The price of Direct Cremation when the customer buys the funeral home’s least expensive alternative container.”

But of the 142 funeral homes investigated, 23% of them failed to list the legally required service options which is a direct violation of the Funeral Rule. In addition, the advertised prices for a simple cremation and the actual cost differed $200, at least, and $595 at most. With the cost of cremation not included in the GPL, low and middle-income consumers were at risk being blindsided by the exorbitant fees and unable to afford even the most simple method of disposition.

Olu Eletu |Unsplash|

Since the services provided with a simple cremation does not vary between one funeral home and another, the prices and the differences did not add up. A Direct Cremation consists of picking up and transporting the body, filing paperwork, and returning the ashes to the family. There are no ceremonies included, no casket, and no ornamental urn aside from the basic container when a direct or simple cremation is chosen and yet, prices could vary as much as 200 percent for the same service in the same city, according to the report. While many funeral homes use third-party crematories, as they do not have their own, these crematories charge somewhere between $250 and $400 for a cremation, pointing to a large discrepancy in ethical practices and pricing. But if the 2012, 2013 and 2014 lawsuits filed against a NY, Montgomery and D.C. funeral home by the FTC are any indication, the people will soon have their justice.

The full report can be accessed here.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).

The FTC educates and provides comprehensive guidance services to businesses and consumers in how to comply. For more information read Shopping for Funeral Services, Paying Final Respects:  Your Rights When Buying Funeral Goods and Services, and Complying with the Funeral Rule.

27718506706_3ae092aaa9_o

10 Do’s & Don’ts of Condolence Etiquette

There are many unspoken rules of social media etiquette, some universal and others, circumstantial.

Mourning online can be a difficult line to walk; between the giving and receiving of condolences, there is no universally acceptable or unacceptable way to pay your respects. There are many unspoken rules of social media etiquette, some universal and others, circumstantial. When combined with a topic like death, it becomes nearly impossible to know what lines you shouldn’t cross and why. We’ve taken the time to create a set of guidelines of the most common “do’s and don’ts” of condolence etiquette and navigating loss online.

photo-1423784346385-c1d4dac9893a

1: DO Send A Message

Sending a message is the most private and personal way you can reach out to someone when communicating on social media. Out of all the methods of condolence-giving out there, sending a message is the most acceptable and supportive method. Don’t hesitate to reach out and send a message to those affected by the loss of a loved one.

2: DON’T Rush

As a mourner, you are not required to respond to every message or comment that comes your way. We understand that you are still healing and it will take some time. Our second rule is to take your time, don’t rush. Everyone grieves on their own time and those who reach out to you already understand. The marvelous thing about social media is you don’t have to fret over an appropriate response time like you would in real life.

3: DO Show Solidarity

With the abundance of recent tragedies occurring around the world, showing solidarity has become a common means of support. As a friend or member of a family currently undergoing some sort of loss, you don’t need a hashtag or photo-filter to show solidarity; simply changing your profile picture to an image of you and the deceased can help memorialize and pay tribute to the good memories you may have shared. It can symbolize the life the deceased lived and immortalize your relationship online so others impacted by loss can feel how much you care.

photo-1461088778056-88bf6d3cefcd

4: DON’T Apologize for Sharing

So your baby didn’t make it full-term, or maybe your crazy-cool aunt lost her battle with cancer, and every day you are overwhelmed by your thoughts of them. It is normal to want to share even the smallest of memories to anyone who will listen. Posting your memories and thoughts online are good ways to cope and release bottled feeling.  If your entire feed and profile is filled with mention of your loved one, don’t ever apologize for it. Sharing may even assist others who are grieving, open up as well.

5: DO Share Memories

If you were impacted by the news of someone’s passing and have a lot of photos or memories of the deceased, you too can share your memories. As long as it is relevant to loss, it is acceptable. Social media has taken great strides in creating a more global grief forum, in which potentially taboo topics like death can be discussed and explored. Share your memories, share your loss, share your load; it’s what social media was created for after all; connecting and sharing.

6: DON’T Serial Post

As a friend, or acquaintance, the worst thing you could do is take away from the family’s loss by serial posting. Rule six of condolence-giving is to avoid posting comments on each post or swamping a memorial page with daily wishes. While you may feel you are being supportive, in hindsight, it can burden those closely related to the deceased and you may risk coming off as fake or over-enthusiastic.

7: DO Create A Memorial Page

If inspired to create a memorial page to commemorate the life of a loved one and aggregate the influx of well-wishes and memories, take a minute to do so. With sites like Facebook, it can take less than five minutes to get one up and running. Memorial pages can help separate your loved one’s death from the life they lived, as opposed to comments on an inactive profile page. In the context of community, memorial pages are the online equivalent; instead of neighbors bringing you a pie as an excuse to check up on you, users can now leave comments and messages on a memorial page. By having a space purely for remembrance, you can begin to move on with your life and whenever you are struck with longing or sadness, you have a designated space you can go, to remember and share in your loved one’s memories.

photo-1460794418188-1bb7dba2720d

8: DO , DON’T ‘Like’

Before the most recent Facebook update, users had only one option; to ‘like’ or not to ‘like.’ When dealing with touchy subjects like the death of a friend or family member, heaven forbid you press ‘like’ by accident. But today, Facebook users have the choice between ‘like,’ ‘love,’ ‘wow,’ ‘sad,’ and ‘angry’ emoticons. The most acceptable choices for an “R.I.P.” post would be to click ‘love’ or ‘sad’ followed by a warmhearted comment or private message.

9: Don’t Be First

Although ranked low on this list, guideline number nine is one of the most important. If someone in your family or a close friend passed away, it is recommended you give the immediate family overseeing death-care details several days, or even a week, to notify all next of kin before posting about it on social media. One of the most painful things when finding out a relative died is to read about it on social media. While paying condolences online is increasingly common, the best way is still the old fashioned way: a telephone call.

10: DON’T Get Too Overwhelmed

Last but not least, be sure to do what is best for you in your time of need. Following the loss of a loved one, the outpouring of texts, emails, calls and social media notifications can begin to take its toll. You may feel you’re too involved or not involved enough in sharing your grief and responding to condolences. Do not let it go to heart. You will have time for all of that. But first, focus on healing and only take on as much as you can handle. The messages and comments will not disappear. And neither will those who care.

This list stands to provide you with a guideline when maneuvering death and loss in an increasingly digital world. In the case you recently lost a loved one and you don’t know where to start when planning a funeral, I’m Sorry to Hear can help.


For more information on Paying for a Funeral, funeral planning and resources to guide you through planning a funeral, visit the I’m Sorry to Hear article library, download a Funeral Planning Checklist, review the Casket Guide, see your State by State Guide on End of Life issues, get information on How to Pay for a Funeral, view Funeral Planning Tips, and access Funeral Consumer Advocacy links all from our Resources area.