Every time tragedy strikes, the swindlers come out in drovers.  In fact, a couple scam artists set up fake charitable organizations during the Sandy Hook School Shooting and were taking “donations” for the families of the victims.  There are few words to describe the awful level of humanity one must adopt to scam those experiencing tragedy.  And while we’d like to think scamming those at their weakest moment is a confined event, it takes place as a matter of practice by some who are masquerading as “funeral directors.”

I’d like to say that ALL funeral directors are in the funeral business to serve people, but sadly there are those who are looking to profiteer on humanity in their weakest moment.  Yes, many — even most funeral directors — are good people, but there are some.

In 1984 the Federal Trade Commission established The Funeral Rule.  It was created to protect you, the consumer, from scam artists who hide under the guise of respectable, here-to-help-you “undertakers.”  Even decent funeral directors tend to bend parts of the The Funeral Rule, and I – being a funeral director – know which parts tend to be bent.

Let me highlight those parts of The Funeral Rule that you, as the consumer, should be aware:

  A burial vault is NOT required by state law.  Most cemeteries require a vault to keep the ground from eventually caving in, but some do not require vaults.  If you don’t want to pay the extra expense of a burial vault, find a cemetery that doesn’t require them!

Two.  While embalming still constitutes the “traditional funeral”, it is NOT required.  In fact, we must have the permission of the next of kin to embalm.  You can even have a public viewing with an unembalmed body.  No worries, no one will catch death if an unembalmed body is displayed in public.  *Some states require embalming when transporting a body from one state to the next. 

Three.  You don’t need a casket for cremation.  Profiteering funeral directors will try to sell a rather pricey “alternative container” for cremation, but most crematories only require a body bag that keeps body fluids contained.

Four.  You don’t have to buy the casket, urn or merchandise from the funeral home.  You can buy it from a third-party, such as Wal-Mart; or, you can make it yourself. 

Five.  Our “basic service fee” is necessary to pay, but everything else is an optional item/service to be purchased, such as a casket and even transportation of remains (you can do this yourself … although you need to go through the proper channels).

When all is said and dead, if you want a “traditional” funeral or cremation, it should be more cost effective and efficient to use your local funeral home’s services and products, but sometimes it’s not.  I advise you to price shop BEFORE you pass.  Some funeral homes are nearly twice as expensive as others and it’s helpful to find that out before you die.

There are funeral directors who are legally sound, but ethically stinky in their pricing.  Make sure you find a funeral director that YOU can trust with your funeral and your money.  And know your rights.

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