funeral expenses

Grief Article:

An Honest Look at Funeral Expenses

It's no surprise: lots of families in our area come to us fearing that the cost of making funeral arrangements—whether the plan includes a traditional funeral, or a simple memorial service—will place a financial burden on them.

2 minute read

It's no surprise: lots of families in our area come to us fearing that the cost of making funeral arrangements—whether the plan includes a traditional funeral, or a simple memorial service—will place a financial burden on them.

The General Price List Details Funeral Expenses

Every funeral home is required by the Federal Trade Commission to provide consumers with a copy of the firm's GPL, or General Price List.

It's one of the basic tenets of the Funeral Rule; a set of strict guidelines developed by the FTC to govern the business practices of funeral homes across the country—and protect consumers. The GPL is a complete list of "all the items and services the home offers, and the cost of each one." If this document is not all inclusive, the funeral home must also provide consumers with a separate Casket Price List and Outer Burial Container Price List. (Source: FTC)

The Major Funeral Expenses

What you'll pay a funeral home will largely depend on your cremation/burial decision; but your final funeral expenses will also include the services and products you select during the arrangement conference, such as memorial folders, a newspaper obituary, or any post-service reception costs.

The major funeral expenses include the cost of cremation; or if you've selected traditional burial in a cemetery, additional major expenses will include the cost of a casket, burial plot and headstone. But no matter what, there's one funeral expense you will always be required to pay: the Basic Services Fee.

It covers the professional services of the funeral home staff to compensate for the time spent in the arrangement conference and in funeral planning; obtaining copies of the death certificate and preparing applications for the required permits, caring for the physical remains (commonly called "sheltering"), and coordinating arrangements with any third-party providers, such as crematories or cemeteries. You will always pay the funeral firm's Basic Services Fee. On the webpage simply titled "Statistics" the National Funeral Directors Association detailed the 2014 median costs for an adult funeral, putting the nationwide average Basic Services Fee at $2,000.00.

Additional Funeral Expenses

There are also "cash advance items" for things like flowers, musicians, clergy or celebrant honorariums, as well as the fees charged by newspapers for the publication of the obituary. You should know a funeral home is allowed to place a surcharge on their services in obtaining these cash advance items; but if this is the firm's practice, the Funeral Rule requires full disclosure in writing, "although it doesn't require them to specify the amount of their markup. The Rule also requires funeral providers to tell you if there are refunds, discounts, or rebates from the supplier on any cash advance item." (Source: FTC)

The FTC also requires funeral firm's to provide a customer with a written statement of your selections, "after you decide what you want, and before you pay." This document must detail exactly what you are buying and the cost of each item, and the total cost immediately after you make funeral arrangements. (Source: FTC)

Online Sources:
Editorial Staff, "The Lowdown on Funeral Costs", Kiplinger, Updated January, 2015
"The FTC Funeral Rule", Federal Trade Commission, accessed September, 2016
Federal Trade Commission, "Funeral Costs and Pricing Checklist", accessed September, 2016