Financial Advice for Funeral Planning: Smart Decisions during an Emotional Time
September 22, 2017 by Hannah Thoms, CPA, M.S.F., CFP
Planning a funeral is not a task most look forward to, but a little forethought can help ensure that your loved one receives the funeral of his or her choice when the time comes. Sound planning can also relieve grieving family members of having to make financial decisions during a difficult and emotional time.
Determine What They Really Want
When planning a funeral for a loved one, a candid discussion with them and their family can help define wishes and expectations in advance. For example, knowing ahead of time that cremation is preferred to burial can help prevent the surviving family from spending a great deal of money on a funeral that was not what the deceased wanted. Having this discussion and clearing the air now can ensure the loved one’s funeral meets their preferences and can proceed as planned.
No matter what you’re buying, it’s always a good idea to have an informed idea of what’s available and how much it will cost. It’s also smart to shop around and compare costs to get the best price. This is true with funerals, too.
Funeral expenses can rise very quickly. According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the median cost of a funeral is more than $7,000 and may exceed $10,000, not including the costs for the cemetery, monument, flowers, or obituaries.
As part of your planning, call different funeral homes to find out who offers what services and the costs associated with the services you want. This is also a good time to visit the most appealing funeral homes, meet the proprietors and decide if the location is appropriate. If you can find a funeral home run by knowledgeable, caring people, it’s more likely you and your loved one will feel that the cost of the funeral is worthwhile.
Know the Rules and Your Rights
To protect grieving family members at times of personal loss, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enforces the FTC Funeral Rule. The Rule covers several areas of concern about funeral homes and services such as allowing separate funeral-related purchases (like caskets or memorial services) rather than packages only; providing prices over the phone and in writing when requested; receiving a written statement of your purchases before payment is made; and other consumer protections.
Reviewing these regulations can also help dispel some myths about funerals that you may have heard in the past. For example, many people may believe that embalming is always required, however, there are circumstances such as immediate cremation or burial that eliminate the need for embalming.
To protect yourself and your loved ones, take the time now to learn about funeral practices and options, funeral rights and regulations, financing, and other legal information available from the Funeral Consumers Alliance. Additional Michigan-specific information can be found at the Funeral Consumers Information Society.
Consult a CPA
Families often find themselves faced with complicated financial decisions that must be made during times of trauma and grief. Your local Certified Professional Accountant (CPA) can help. Turn to a CPA you can trust for advice on any of the tough financial questions facing your family. Contact us today.