This article will give you resources for planning a meaningful, affordable funeral for yourself or someone you love.
Advice and resources from the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA)
The Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) is a watchdog group that informs consumers about their rights when making funeral arrangements and provides planning tips. Local chapters sometimes conduct pricing surveys and make discounts available. Find your local FCA chapter at this link.
- Figure out how much you can afford
- Set a solid budget
- Make sure you shop around
The FCA Four Step Funeral Planning Process
In its “Four Step Funeral Planning” Guide, the FCA reminds us that there are many meaningful and affordable ways to honor loved ones who have passed away and that the “traditional” funeral is “relatively recent commercial invention that is rarely practiced outside the US and Canada” and has no religious roots. They advise:
“Whatever you choose, be sure it’s based on what’s meaningful to you, not on what you think other people expect you to do. No amount of money, great or small, can express how we feel about those who have died. Taking an active role in funeral arrangements—whether that means carrying out the whole process without a funeral home, or just preparing and delivering the eulogy—is more meaningful than the money we spend.”
The FCA’s four step process is:
- Start your planning at home
- Explore your options
- Cremation or burial?
- Embalming (rarely required by law)
- Viewing of remains? Where?
- Body present at the funeral, or a memorial service after burial?
- Shop around
- See the FCA’s guide on “Understanding a Funeral Home’s Price List.” The guide also lists common violations of price list regulations.
- Put it all together, and document it in a place where others can easily access it
- The FCA offers a workbook called “Before I Go, You Should Know”, available for purchase in print or downloadable format.
Dispelling Common Myths
In their article “Common Funeral Myths”, the FCA says:
- Hiring a funeral home is not necessary for every death
- Embalming is not required for public health and will not preserve the body forever. It is rarely required by law and never for the first 24 hours after death. Refrigeration is almost always an alternative to embalming.
- Viewing the body provides comfort for some grieving people but not for all
- “Protective” caskets and vaults do not prevent the body from decomposing
- Vaults are not required by law and are not required for the interment of cremated remains
- Cremation does not reduce the body to ashes. Rather, the remaining bone fragments are pulverized to a small size
- It is legal in all states to scatter cremated remains on private property with the permission of the property owner.
FCA Guides and Tips
Read the FCA Guide “Ten Tips for Saving Funeral Dollars” for more detail on these ideas:
- Explore your options and tell your family
- Shop around
- Buy only what you want
- Buy online or make your own
- Consider direct cremation or immediate burial
- Plan a memorial service
- Skip embalming
- Consider donation
- Eliminate the vault
- Do it yourself!
The FCA recommends that you not prepay for your funeral (unless you are spending down for Medicaid) or buy burial insurance, since there are safer ways to plan ahead. Read more in their article here.
The FCA also provides other helpful articles and guides, including:
- Body and Organ Donation, A Gift to Science
- How to Choose a Funeral Home
- Veterans’ Funeral and Burial Benefits
- How to Arrange a Home Funeral
- Embalming Explained, Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
- How to Save on Caskets<
- Guide to Cemetery Purchases
- Green Burial, an Environmentally Friendly Choice
- Death Away from Home
Federal Requirements for Funeral Pricing
The "Funeral Rule" (details at this link) enforced by the Federal Trade Commission, gives you the right to:
- Buy only the funeral arrangements you want
- Get price information on the telephone
- Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home
- See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets
- See a written outer burial container price list
- Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, and before you pay
- Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory requirement
- Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere
- Make funeral arrangements without embalming
Tips from Care is There
- If you or your loved one live in a senior living community, inquire about whether the community has requirements about the handling of remains after death
- If you or your loved one are in the care of a hospice provider, discuss your wishes with the provider so they can support your choices
How Care is There Can Help
Care is There can assist you in your funeral planning by helping you:
- Explore options and clarify your wishes
- Compare prices and choose providers and products
- Document your plan and communicate it
- Put your plan in action after death has occurred
Resources for Planning a Funeral
Contact Care is There today for a free consultation!