General Funeral Planning Tips

If you are having a viewing, make arrangements to view the body prior to the wake to be sure your loved one looks as you expected. - Sal

Cemetery fees are separate from funeral home services; however, funeral homes are often the liaison between you and the cemetery. Make sure the funeral director, from the start, clearly identifies all of the cemetery fees that need to be paid and explains how and when they need to be paid. - Dick

Monument dealers are separate entities and are a separate expense. As with funeral homes, some are family owned and some are corporate owned. Be sure you thoroughly research your options before selecting a monument company to work with.

Use caution when publishing obituaries. It has been known that criminals check newspapers and may plan to burglarize the house when the family is at the funeral home and cemetery as listed in the papers.  It’s best to have a friend or neighbor to watch over the house during these times and report any mischievous activity.

Legal Matters

In Pennsylvania, if you want to have more than one executor, know beforehand that "and" between the executors' names requires signatures of ALL of them on everything. Unless you recuse, that is. For more than one executor, consider putting “or” between each name, which allows either party do it - Sharon

Cost Saving & Financial Tips

Cremation caskets can be used for burial and are often much less expensive. The funeral director can not limit the use of the casket to cremation only. - Funeral Ethics Organization

Most funeral homes expect payment for services rendered upon completion of arrangements.  What does this mean?  You have to pay for everything once you have made all of the plans before the services take place.  Acceptable forms of payment at most funeral homes are: Funded Pre-Need Contract, Life Insurance, Cash/Check, Credit Card, Payments Plan (in-house or 3rd party). 

Having a wake/viewing the same day as the burial reduces the cost. You are paying per hour, so if you have the viewing the night before and the burial the next day, you will be paying for that extra time.

Many funeral homes require embalming if you are planning a viewing or visitation; however, embalming generally is not necessary or legally required if the body is buried or cremated shortly after death.  Eliminating this service can save you hundreds of dollars.

Refrigeration is an alternative and often less costly option to maintain a body while awaiting a funeral service or when there is a delay in making arrangements.

If your loved one passed away out of state or country and air transportation is necessary, appoint the destination funeral home as the primary coordinator. They will arrange the transportation with the funeral home at the origin, and you will avoid having to pay “retail cost” to two funeral homes for services rendered.

Save all receipts for costs you incur for planning, food, transportation, professional help, etc. This will help reduce your inheritance tax exposure. - David B

It is the cemetery that dictates necessity of burial containers to prevent the ground from sinking, not the law. If the cemetery requires one, consider a "grave liner" rather than a "burial vault". It is significantly cheaper and equally effective.

The Funeral Rule

(all rules below are enforced by the Federal Trade Commission)

If you visit a funeral home in person, the funeral provider is required by law to give you a general price list itemizing the cost of the items and services the home offers. 

If the general price list does not include specific prices of caskets or outer burial containers, the law requires the funeral director to show you the price lists for those items before showing you the items.

The Funeral Rule requires funeral directors to provide price information over the phone to any caller who asks for it.

Many funeral providers offer various "packages" of commonly selected goods and services that make up a funeral. But when you arrange for a funeral, you have the right to buy individual goods and services; that is, you do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.

The funeral provider may not refuse or charge a fee to handle a casket you bought elsewhere.

A funeral provider that offers cremations must make alternative containers available.