With the emerging of funeral homes, there are rules and regulations set by law to govern the industry and safeguard your interest as a consumer. The laws cover marketing practices by prohibiting sales tactics that can be intrusive. It also governs pre-payment plans like pre-need policies, to ensure that the future service is delivered when the time comes. Some laws govern funerals. This is in terms of body preparation, as well as, method of disposition.
These laws differ from state to state. In some states, for example, a funeral home is not allowed to own a cemetery. Similarly, while some states allow home burials, some prohibit it. There is however a general law that all funeral service providers have to be licensed. Moreover, these laws are subject to change as frequently as the state authorities deem fit.
Being aware of the funeral laws safeguards you from being taken advantage of since you are aware of your rights. It also helps know the legal requirements regarding different types of funerals in different states. That way you are more prepared and can make more informed decisions. In this article, we cover the various funeral laws that cover burial and cremation. We also compare these laws by state and offer guidance on how to prepare for a funeral.
What Is the Funeral Rule?
The Funeral Rule was enacted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 1984 and amended in 1994. The rule was put in place to regulate funeral home operations on a federal level as well as safeguard your rights as a receiver of their service. The rule applies to funeral homes whether you are seeking their service in advance or after death. It however does not apply to third-party vendors for items like caskets, cemeteries, or insurance providers, among others.
The Funeral rule mainly prohibits any misrepresentation of information concerning funeral items or federal and state funeral laws. It requires that the funeral home provides you with adequate and accurate information to make an informed decision. As per the rule, they are not allowed to coarse you into purchasing items you do not require. It also prohibits any additional fee being charged outside of the basic fee, especially if you purchased items like caskets from a third party. The basic charge is the only fee you have to pay, and it includes the services offered by the funeral director and staff and sometimes the recovery costs for maintaining vehicles and other facilities for the funeral.
By knowing and understanding the funeral rule, you are less likely to be taken advantage of while shopping for a funeral. You are also aware of your rights and entitlements. So, you can exercise your rights when dealing with funeral homes.
Here are Your Rights Under the Funeral Rule
Based on the Funeral Rule, the following are rights you are entitled to when it comes to working with funeral homes:
Receiving prices over the phone. Funeral homes are required by law to disclose their prices and rates when you call to inquire about their services. They should not be any questions asked or reasons given for the information to be offered. Additionally, you do not have to share your details to receive this information.
Seeing item price list when you visit the funeral home. Once you visit the funeral home you are entitled to see the price list of their items before any verbal discussions or viewing of the items. This is because the funeral director could verbally hike the price of the item if you’re not aware of the actual price.
Seeing the casket price list before seeing the caskets. Much like salespeople, a funeral director can use the psychology of a client to get a profit. If they notice you like a particular coffin they could hike its price. For this reason, it is safer to ask for the price list first before viewing the caskets.
Purchasing obligations. As a consumer, the Funeral Rule dictates that you are not required by any law to purchase any items you do not want or need. So, funeral directors are not allowed to sell your packages with items you do not require. This especially applies in processes like embalming, which can be costly but not necessary.
Choosing to purchase items from alternative vendors. Once you see the price list of the funeral home and feel it is too high, you can always buy items from alternative sources. The funeral directors are prohibited by law from refusing to use any item you purchase from a third party. They are also not allowed to misrepresent information about buying items from third-party vendors. Additionally, they cannot charge you any additional fees for handling those items.
A written statement of selected items before payment. After settling on the items, you need for the funeral, the funeral director is obligated to provide a statement of those items before any payment. You are entitled to withhold payment until the statement is provided. This prevents any additional items or fees from being added to your bill.
Proof of law requirements and regulations about purchasing a funeral item. For every item advised by the funeral director for purchase, you are entitled to ask for proof regarding the legal requirement behind it. This prevents the funeral director from misrepresenting funerals laws to benefit them.
Cremation: State Regulations, Public Lands, And Scattering Vs Burying Ashes
While cremation is a cheap and fairly easy process, some states have regulations governing the process as well as how the ashes are kept or disposed of. A common legal requirement is a need for an authorization form or cremation certificate before a body can be cremated. In some areas, a family member should be present to identify the body and/or witness the process. Similarly, in some areas, the law requires the presence of a funeral director.
As mentioned, the laws differ from state to state. Some states have laws that also govern how the ashes should be kept, shipped, or disposed of, while others do not. Moreover, state laws can differ from the local laws of the cities within them. So, before cremation or disposal of the ashes, be aware of both the state and local laws governing cremation. Additionally, when disposing of ashes on private property, you must first seek the owner’s permission, unless you are the owner. The following is a summary list of states that have laws concerning disposing of the ashes and those that do not:
States with No Laws Governing Cremated Ash Disposal
- West Virginia
- District of Columbia
- South Carolina
- Rhode Island
- North Dakota
- New York
- New Mexico
- New Jersey
- New Hampshire
States with Few Laws Governing Cremated Ash Disposal
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
State with A Lot of Laws Governing Cremated Ash Disposal
Burial Laws: State Laws, Military Rights, And Other Important Considerations
Unlike the disposal of cremation ashes, bodies cannot be buried anywhere you wish. This is because the laws and regulations governing burials are stricter. The reason being that unlike burying a body, cremation ashes are less harmful to the environment. Like with Cremation, however, the laws vary by State. In some states like California, the laws are very strict, while in other states, the law only regulates where and when a body can be buried. Some states also govern whether or not a body being buried will require embalming.
With burials, there are three main options for you to choose from. These options are as follows:
Traditional burial, that involves a casket, service, and burial at a cemetery as well as embalming in some cases.
Green or Natural burial, that does not involve embalming, or caskets and may take place at an established cemetery or home.
Home burial involves burying the body at home, with or without a casket, and with no embalming.
Unlike home burials, you can have green burials and traditional burials fairly easily. The reason is that with home burials there are a lot of considerations to be made. To begin with, some states prohibit home burials unless it’s an established family cemetery. Additionally, there’s always the question of what will happen to the body if the family later has to sell the property.
As for military burials, certain regulations govern veteran’s eligibility for a military burial and memorial benefits. Usually, eligible veterans are either buried in national or state veteran cemeteries and receive items like headstones and national flags. To be eligible for a military burial in a national or state veteran cemetery, a person has to have been a veteran of the armed forces, died while in active service, or had an honorable discharge. The spouse or minor child of a veteran is also eligible to be buried in a veteran’s cemetery.
Some of these veterans’ cemeteries, however, have stricter eligibility rules. In Arlington National Cemetery, for example, only veterans who were in active duty, retirees, prisoners of war, or recipients of top military awards can be buried there. Spouses and children could also be eligible, but other veterans will only be entitled to above-ground inurnment.
While planning a burial, therefore, check both national and state laws as well as local laws that govern burials in your area. Also, consider the type of burial you wish to have and what the law requirements are for such a burial.
How to Prepare a Funeral Home Visit?
Being prepared beforehand when visiting a funeral home ensures you do not end up spending more than you intended. There are several steps you can take to be prepared for a funeral home visit:
Have a clear idea of what you want or prefer. There are many options to choose from in terms of funeral packages. The whole process can be confusing and it’s easier for the funeral director to convince you to buy items you do not necessarily need. With a clear idea drafted on paper, you can narrow down the choice to only what you need.
Ask for a general price list as the first thing. Before mentioning what, you need or discussing any prices, it is important to ask for a general price list first. This way you have an idea of their rates and the funeral director can’t verbally misrepresent the prices of items.
Select only items you need. As mentioned, there are many choices to pick from. As the client, you are in charge o deciding what it is that you need. For anything the funeral director recommends to you as a requirement, you have the right to ask for legal proof before agreeing to purchase it.
Ensure you leave with a statement of the selected items. The statement of the selected service and items ensures that you will not incur any additional charges. You can also use the statement and general price list to compare prices with third-party vendors or other funeral homes. Only pay after the statement has been issued and you have finalized the items.
Need Help With Funeral Insurance?
Funeral costs can be high for most people and can end up leaving them in huge debt. Aside from planning, there are other alternative ways to alleviate the cost of the funeral. A popular option is taking out a funeral insurance policy. The benefits or payment from this policy can cover the partial or entire cost of the funeral, depending on the type.
Deciding on the right policy for you can sometimes be confusing. There are several factors you need to consider when picking out the best policy for you. These factors are as follows:
Start by estimating your final expenses. Having an idea of how much your funeral will cost helps determine how you can cater for the cost. To determine the expense, you first need to have a clear idea of what type of funeral you want and what it will entail.
Determine if the money you’ll leave behind will cover the cost of the funeral. Once you have a rough idea of what the funeral will cost, you should take a look at your finances. This will help you determine whether the money you have will be enough to fully cover the funeral costs. If not, you can try looking for an alternate way.
Decide if funeral insurance is necessary for you. While insurance is a safe and popular option as an alternative to covering funeral costs, it is not the only way. Depending on what your expenses are, you can decide whether or not a policy is necessary.
Understand the different types of insurance. Once you’ve settled on taking a funeral insurance policy, there is the issue of deciding what cover is suitable for you. Today there are several options for you to choose from. For example, there is a Preneed Funeral Insurance policy. Different life insurance policies can cover death, generally divided into term and whole life policies. Choose a policy that properly covers the expenses of your funeral.
Can you afford the cover you want? After researching the suitable policy for you, you have to consider your financial ability to take up the cover. If the cover you choose is not affordable, you can always revise your decisions.
Decide on the best funeral provider. While deciding the affordability of your preferred policy, you can compare premiums from different insurance providers. Also, look at the fine prints of the policies which can differ from one provider to another. Some service providers add exclusions to their policies, others have added benefits. Ensure the provider you choose offers the policy that you want which covers what you need in terms of funeral costs.
Planning for a proper funeral takes time. That is why it’s important to plan. When grieving can be a difficult process, and it could be easy for funeral homes to take advantage of. Thanks to laws and regulations like the Funeral rule, however, your interests and rights are safeguarded. It is therefore important to be aware of the funeral laws in your area as well as your rights. This way you are prepared beforehand when visiting a funeral home. Still, do not be hesitant to ask for help when planning a funeral. You can even seek guidance on how to plan and pay for your funeral in advance, to lessen the burden on your loved ones.