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Planning a Funeral: Top 3 Things You Should Know

Rachel Zeldin is the founder and CEO of I'm Sorry to Hear, an online community dedicated to helping you with funeral planning. Following the death of a great-uncle and experiencing the challenges that accompanied the funeral planning process, Rachel set out to make it easier to find, compare, and share funeral planning experiences with one another. A labor of love, it is a true for-you, by-you website similar to the TripAdvisor of funeral planning.

Planning a funeral isn't an easy task. Unlike other major life cycle events and purchases, you're faced with some major challenges: time to plan is short, you're grieving, finances are often a concern, and you often know little about the topic and have a very small time frame to do your homework before making decisions.

Below are three things you should know when planning a funeral.

  1. Be familiar with the Funeral Rule.
    The Funeral Rule is a set of laws put in place and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to protect the funeral consumer. The principles of the Funeral Rule revolve around these eight rights:
    • Get a written, itemized general price list when you visit a funeral home.
    • See a written casket price list before you see the actual caskets. (This also applies for outer burial containers.)
    • Get price information on the telephone.
    • Buy only the funeral arrangements you want.
    • Receive a written statement after you decide what you want and before you pay.
    • Option to provide the funeral home with a casket or urn you buy elsewhere.
    • Able to use an unfinished wood box or alternative container for direct cremation.
    • Can decide to make funeral arrangements without embalming.

    Be sure to read the full version on the FTC website and report any violations to the FTC or local Funeral Consumer Alliance (FCA) affiliate.

  2. More Money Doesn't = More Love.
    You don't need to spend a ton of money to have a funeral or to demonstrate your love for your loved one. Funerals can cost as little or as much as you want; so, you shouldn't feel pressured to spend a certain amount on it.

    It's easy to make impulse decisions and purchase more than you want or can afford. To avoid this, before going to a funeral home to finalize the details of the funeral arrangements, decide which services you want and which you don't and stick to it.

  3. Do your homework!
    Just like any other major service or item you will purchase, be it a wedding, vacation, or even a car, it is up to you to do your homework and decide what you want and how much you will spend. This isn't something to be ashamed of doing—this is being a smart consumer!

    Be sure to select only the services you want and don't feel obligated to purchase a package, be it the "Basic Package" or the "Platinum Package." Only pay for the services you need and will use. Since funeral services vary in price from funeral home to funeral home, it's wise to call three to five funeral homes to understand the standard pricing in your area and use that to negotiate better terms with the funeral home you ultimately decide to use. Some FCA affiliates have done the legwork for you; check their website to see if they have a current Price Survey listed in your area.

    With the Internet open 24/7, make use of all of the online tools and information available to you. At I'm Sorry to Hear we give you an easy way to find a funeral home using our Basic or Advanced Search features. We already list information on every funeral home in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia, and Washington, DC in a standard format; so, it's easy to compare options and see what services they offer. You can also leave and read Funeral Home Reviews on the quality of service they provide.

    Additionally, you can download a funeral planning checklist, learn about your casket options via the Casket Guide, and read and exchange funeral planning tips with members of our community.

Keeping these three things in mind, you can be a confident and savvy consumer even when it comes to end-of-life arrangements for you or a loved one.

Posted on September 11, 2013


Posted by Nora Miller (not verified) on September 11, 2013 at 06:32 p.m.

Excellent article! I'd only add one thing: go easy on yourself! Beyond arranging for the disposition of the body, you don't have to do *anything* if you don't want to. You do not actually need a casket beyond the most basic, especially if you are cremating. Start at the absolute minimum and only add things you want to do for yourself, your family, your friends, and your acquaintances, in that order. If you don't want it, don't do it just because someone else might expect it. If you want something for yourself and for your family, feel free to limit what you do to them alone, and don't feel obligated to include anybody else. Sometimes the best "funeral" is no funeral, but rather a quiet evening on the beach or at a friend's house for dinner, with companionship, loving remembrances, and a few laughs. Oh, and if you do decide to go for a funeral package, take along someone who knows you and is far less emotionally compromised than you are, and let them interpret the sales pitch for you!

Posted by Bill (not verified) on October 6, 2013 at 10:26 a.m.

I am glad to see that there is in place laws to protect consumers from agressive funeral salesmanship!
I am reminded of my experience as an American consular officer in Haiti where I had the unpleasant duty of claiming deceased Americans from the hospital morgue, dressing them, and placing them in caskets we were able to obtain from an American firm in town. I wish I had saved a copy of the literature that came with the caskets, obviously intended for funeral directors. The pamphlet proudly proclaimed, "Equipped with innerspring matresses for the comfort of the deceased". !!!!!

Posted by organise funeral (not verified) on February 24, 2014 at 08:50 p.m.

I am really appreciate your post because it's a great concept. I think, i thankful to you, for posting above helpful information with us.

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