Many people might be surprised to know that at least part of the death industry is regulated. What is regulated and what isn’t?
Let’s talk about the federal [rules] because that’s most important to the basics of what people need to know. There’s something called the Funeral Rule, a regulation from the Federal Trade Commission, which gives consumers particular rights, and they would be very wise to exercise these rights.
One, they have a right to get price quotes by phone.
Number two, when they go to a funeral home in person to talk about a funeral arrangement, they have a right to a printed, itemized price list — think of it just like a menu at a restaurant.
Number three, they have a right to pick and choose item by item. Funeral homes are not allowed to offer you only a package. They will try to offer you a package and they will often say, “You save money if you buy everything together in a bundle.” But just like all bundles, you have to take a look and see, is this actually something I would have spent money on, on its own? Am I really saving money? Or am I just getting a bunch of things that I wouldn’t have picked anyway?
What are the first steps to take after a loved one’s death?
Number one, remember that death is not an emergency. When death occurs, by definition, that means the emergency is now over. The worst thing that can happen has already happened. The person isn’t going to get any deader, to put it plainly.
Get on the phone and call at least five different funeral homes within a 20- to 30-mile radius of where the dead person is. Get price quotes. Take the time to at least look it over and compare some of the prices before you commit to having the funeral home remove the body. If the person dies at a hospital, which is more common, you have more options. Ask the hospital if the body can stay in the morgue for a couple of days while you make a considered decision about which funeral home to call.
Two, take stock of your budget. You need to know that figure. Decide ahead of time what you can comfortably afford. And for God’s sake, please don’t do this: “Oh, money is no object. It’s my mother. She deserves the best,” and then three months from now, you’ve got a $15,000 bill that you can’t pay. . . .
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