Sunday, March 13, 2011
BEWARE OF FUNERAL RIP-OFFS. (LETS JUST CALL IT LIKE IT IS, SHALL WE?)
I found this article in a newspaper back east, I think you will appreciate it, I know I do because it says what I’ve been saying all along. If you are reading this, you are making your local overpriced funeral director VERY uncomfortable, and that is EXACTLY what I am intending to do.
Death is big business. How big, you ask? The National Funeral Directors Association says the average funeral costs $7,323 ($3,400 average @ Avenidas Funeral Chapel, 2 day burial service) — and that doesn't include the cost of a cemetery plot, a gravestone and cemetery burial services.
In all, dealing with the death of a loved one can cost more than $10,000, making it one of the most expensive purchases most families will make. So why do we do so little research on the topic?
"People are in denial about death right up until the bitter end," said Ed Markin, who runs the Funeral Help Program in Virginia Beach, Va. "You delay talking about it at your own fiscal peril is what it all boils down to."
Markin said funeral costs vary widely, controlled almost entirely by the amount of research you do — and when you do it. He said you can save almost 50 percent by shopping around and getting written quotes before you need them.
He suggests talking to your loved ones ahead of time about what they actually want in their funeral: the type of casket, the tone of memorial service, and whether they want to be cremated or buried.
Markin said he thinks funeral home directors sometimes guilt loved ones into paying for more expensive caskets and services by implying that anything less would be disrespectful.
To protect consumers, the Federal Trade Commission established the Funeral Rule, which requires funeral directors to give you itemized prices in person or, if you ask for them, over the phone. When you visit a funeral home shopping for a casket, the director must show you a list of all the caskets his or her company sells, along with the prices and descriptions, before showing you any models.
The Funeral Rule also states you have the right to buy individual goods and services. In other words, you don't have to buy a package deal with commonly selected goods and services. Funeral homes must allow you to buy services a la carte, so don't be pressured into buying more than you want.
To find the full list of provisions in the Funeral Rule, visit ftc.gov.
Joshua Slocum, executive director of Funeral Consumers Alliance, said funeral directors sometimes try to "upsell" consumers to pricier, flashier casket models.
"Anytime (a funeral director) talks to you about a 'traditional funeral,' make a mental strike through those words and replace them with 'my highest-priced funeral,'" Slocum said.
READ THE NEXT PARAGRAPH VERY CAREFULLY!
After a loved one has just died, the funeral director "is in full control of their mental faculties, and you are not," he said.
"THEY ARE NOT CLERGY. IT'S IN THEIR ABSOLUTE BEST INTEREST FOR YOU TO SPEND A LOT OF MONEY AT THEIR FUNERAL HOME AND NOT, I REPEAT NOT FOR THEM TO SAVE YOU MONEY. THEY ARE NOT A NON PROFIT ORGANIZATION"
THIS IS A BUISNESS, NOT A WORSHIP FACILITY AND YES, MANY WILL TRY TO GIVE YOU THE IMPRESSION OF "MINISTRIES FIRST" APROACH. IF SO, ASK FOR CREDENTIALS.
Slocum says also to be wary of prepaid funerals. While prepaid plans sound enticing, they often come with strings attached. Funeral homes usually pitch the plans as a way to lock in funerals at today's prices, saving you the cost of inflation. Cashing in the plans, however, can sometimes prove difficult.
If you are considering such a plan, review the contract carefully and understand exactly what you are buying. Ask where your money will be held and who will manage it. Some accounts that hold money from prepaid plans have gone under in recent years, leaving the folks who invested empty-handed. Make sure the contract has a provision that protects you if the firm goes out of business. Also check to see if there are fees to cancel the plan, or what happens if you move.
"Prepaid plans “can be” a terrible idea,". If you notice "I" said "can be" but it does not necessarily have to be that way. Read the small print, understand what you are signing up for, ask questions and ensure you are getting everything YOU want.
Be weary of funeral home owners who sell funeral policies for their own funeral homes. Consider an independent that promotes or offers many different packages for different funeral facilities.
Consider putting your money in a certificate of deposit, a savings account or a "pay on death" account at your bank. Make a trusted friend or relative the beneficiary, so that when you die, the money is immediately available.
Most important, shop around. Never look at just one funeral home. The more research you do, the better deal you will get.
Why you should know this:
Because the death of a loved one can scramble your common sense, it helps to study before you need the facts.