Did you know that Costco and Walmart sell caskets? That’s a good thing because the LAFRA member death benefit is $4,500 but the average funeral can cost about $6,000. To save even more, you could even rent a beautiful casket for the funeral ceremony and then use a cardboard casket for the burial.
The best way to save on all your funeral costs is to make the arrangements ahead of time. The advantages are: 1) You will have plenty of time to shop and make prudent decisions. 2) You’ll be purchasing your casket, burial plot, and monument at today’s prices. 3) The bereaved can be very vulnerable, so you will provide peace of mind for yourself and your family.
The Funeral Rule, enforced by the FTC, makes it possible for you to choose only those goods and services you want or need and to pay only for those you select, whether you are making arrangements when a death occurs or in advance. The Rule allows you to compare prices among funeral homes and to select the funeral arrangements you want at the home you use.
The Funeral Rule gives you the right to:
•Buy only the funeral arrangements you want. You have the right to buy separate goods (such as caskets) and services (such as embalming or a memorial service). You do not have to accept a package that may include items you do not want.
Many cemeteries will make it difficult for you if you don’t use their funerary services, but you have the right to use any funeral home. In fact, in most states you are not legally required to use a funeral home to plan and conduct a funeral at all.
In close proximity to most cemeteries you will find business selling urns, flower pots, caskets and monuments. LAFRA has experience with Kemp Monument Co. which has been located across from Inglewood Park Cemetery for almost 100 years. Local companies like Kemp know the restrictions like the size and shape of a monument. Most cemeteries require flush headstones now – I think it has something to do with lawn mowing problems.
•Get price information on the telephone. You don’t have to give them your name, address, or telephone number first. Many funeral homes mail their price lists, and some post them online.
•Get a written, itemized price list when you visit a funeral home. The funeral home must give you a General Price List (GPL). It lists all the items and services the home offers, and the cost of each one.
•See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets. Sometimes, detailed casket price information is included on the funeral home’s GPL. More often, though, it’s provided on a separate casket price list. Get the price information before you see the caskets, so that you can ask about lower-priced products that may not be on display.
•See a written outer burial container price list. Outer burial containers are not required by state law anywhere in the U.S., but many cemeteries require them to prevent the grave from caving in.
One California mortuary charges from $395 to $8,150 for an outer burial vault (not include the “setting fee”). The $395 model is “high strength, unfinished concrete, non-sealing” with no warranty. The expensive model is also concrete but incorporates “Stryntex” bonded to a bronze coated, stainless steel liner and includes a warranty. What they warranty against I can’t figure out. I do know that no one will ever see the vault – not even at the funeral. And no burial liner is designed to prevent the eventual decomposition of human remains.
•Receive a written statement after you decide what you want, and before you pay. It should show exactly what you are buying and the cost of each item.
•Get an explanation in the written statement from the funeral home that describes any legal cemetery or crematory requirement that requires you to buy any funeral goods or services.
•Use an “alternative container” instead of a casket for cremation. No state or local law requires the use of a casket for cremation. A funeral home that offers cremations must tell you that alternative containers are available, and must make them available.
•Provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere. The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought online, at a local casket store, or somewhere else — or charge you a fee to do it. The funeral home cannot require you to be there when the casket or urn is delivered to them.
In addition to retailers like Costco, there are a few local casket factories that you can buy from direct. ABC Caskets has been around since 1933 and provides caskets to LAFRA members at a discount of about 75%. You can visit their showroom, buy your casket in advance and they will build it when the need finally arrives.
•Make funeral arrangements without embalming. No state law requires routine embalming for every death. Some states require embalming or refrigeration if the body is not buried or cremated within a certain time; some states don’t require it at all. In most cases, refrigeration is an acceptable alternative.
For further details go to www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0300-ftc-funeral-rule or www.cfb.ca.gov/consumer/funeral.shtml for further information. And you can always call me at (323) 259-5224 if you need more help.
By Andy Kuljis, LAFRA Secretary