How to Shop
The casket and the funeral home’s fee for the basic services of the funeral director and staff are typically the most expensive items in a full-service funeral. Comparison shop before you decide on a casket and funeral home; you may find a wide variation in pricing. If cost is a consideration, look at lower-price caskets and outer burial containers offered by the funeral home, local casket providers, or online retailers. Caskets and outer burial containers with warranties may not be worth the extra cost because no casket or container can delay the decomposition of human remains indefinitely, and the Funeral Rule prohibits statements to the contrary.
If you don’t want to hold a viewing, you can avoid charges for embalming and “other preparation of the body,” and the charges for a viewing. Most states do not require embalming except in special cases. The Funeral Rule requires that an explanation of any charge for embalming be included in the written statement you receive immediately after making the funeral arrangements.
Immediate Burial & Direct Cremation
Immediate burial and direct cremation usually are the least expensive options. The cost of permits, preparing death notices, and coordinating cemetery or crematory arrangements must be included in the price for direct cremation and immediate burial. If you choose cremation, ask if the direct cremation price includes any crematory fee. If you want additional services, including the use of staff and facilities for a memorial service, the funeral home may charge an additional fee.
In most states, you are not legally required to use a funeral home to conduct a funeral. These functions may be handled by a religious or other organization, or by your family.
Veterans and Public Health Workers
In addition, veterans, their immediate family members, public health workers, and some civilians who provide military-related service are entitled to burial in a national cemetery with a grave marker. Burial for the veteran is free, but the family is responsible for all funeral home expenses, such as the funeral ceremony or memorial service, and transportation to the cemetery. Many states have low-cost cemeteries for veterans.
The Funeral Rule in Brief
- You have the right to choose the funeral goods and services you want (with some exceptions).
- The funeral provider must give you a General Price List (GPL) that states your right to choose what you want in writing.
- If state or local law requires you to buy any particular good or service, the funeral provider must disclose it on the statement it provides describing the funeral goods and services you have selected, with a reference to the specific law.
- The funeral provider cannot refuse to handle a casket or urn you bought elsewhere — or charge you a fee to do that.
- A funeral provider who offers cremations must make alternative containers available.
- You can’t be charged for embalming that your family didn’t authorize, unless it’s required by state law.