Alert
Close

Earn Double Rewards Points: Take the AARP Social Security True/False Quiz

Highlights

Open

Money & Work

Technology and Innovation

Contests and
Sweeps

Safe Driving in 2014 Sweepstakes

Learn how AARP Driver Safety can help you stay safe—and enter for a chance to win $1,000. See official rules. 

Driver Safety

Piggy bank on the road - AARP Driver Safety

Take the new AARP Smart Driver Course!

AARP Books

Visit the Money Section

Enjoy titles on retirement, Social Security, and becoming debt-free.

Jobs You Might Like

most popular
articles

Viewed

Prepaid Funerals: A Grave Error?

Mom paid for her funeral before she died, but didn't tell the kids. Can they get a refund?

In 1973, 49-year-old Evie Robinson of McComb, Mississippi, bought a prepaid full-burial policy from the local Hartman Funeral Home. But by the time she passed away in 2008, at age 84, the policy had gone missing; unaware it existed, Robinson's family paid Hartman $8,128 to lay their mother to rest. They later found the policy among her possessions. Evie's daughter, Johnnye Denman, presented the document to the funeral home and asked for a refund. Too late, they said. So Denman contacted On Your Side.

See also: When online checks disappear.

Modern life insurance and burial policies generally don't have expiration dates on payouts. Some older policies may have "redemption clauses" requiring a claim within a certain period (Robinson's read 30 days), but such restrictions are rarely binding.

Hartman funeral director Gene Sharkey didn't return my phone messages, so I called Arthur W. "Bubba" Lang, past president of the state association of funeral directors. He persuaded Sharkey to refund $4,370 in service fees but couldn't budge him on the hard costs (like the casket). I then contacted the underwriter of the policy, Madison National Life in Wisconsin, which agreed to cover the full remaining fee of $3,758.

Funeral home scam, charged twice, double wreath

Funerals can be expensive — especially if you pay twice. — Illustration by Paul Moser/photograph by Getty Images

The average price of a burial with vault is about $8,000, according to the National Funeral Directors Association. But Josh Slocum, executive director of the Funeral Consumers Alliance and coauthor of Final Rights: Reclaiming the American Way of Death, doesn't recommend purchasing a prepaid funeral plan: "Some prepaid plans can actually cost you more in payments over time than the amount they'll pay out on your funeral," he says. Instead, set up a "payable upon death" bank account. It will earn interest, be available for an emergency, and still provide financial support to your family when you pass away.

Most important: Talk to your spouse and children about funeral plans. "Avoiding the topic won't stave off death," he says, "but it will make the funeral more difficult, and likely more expensive, for survivors."

Ron Burley is the author of Unscrewed: The Consumer's Guide to Getting What You Paid For.

Have a complaint about customer service? Write to Ron.

Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

The Cheap Life

Jeff Yeager Cheap Life Ultimate Cheapskate AARP YouTube web series save money

Catch the latest episode of The Cheap Life starring Jeff Yeager, AARP's Ultimate Cheapskate. Watch

Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Life insurance: you are covered rain or shine

Exclusive annuities for members from AARP Lifetime Income Program from New York Life.

AARP Credit card from Chase

Members can get cash back rewards on purchases with the AARP® Credit Card from Chase.

Homeowners Insurance
Member Benefits

Join or renew today! AARP members receive exclusive member benefits & affect social change.