AARP Eye Center
It’s hard to think about death — whether your own or that of a loved one. But in planning and paying for a final farewell, it’s important to think clearly and be wary: Some unscrupulous operators take advantage of families’ most trying times for their own monetary gain.
Even when everything is on the up-and-up, funerals and burials tend to be expensive. According to a 2021 price survey by the National Funeral Directors Association (NFDA), the median cost of a funeral with viewing and burial is $7,848, while a traditional adult funeral with cremation and burial is $6,971. Unethical funeral directors seek to collect many thousands more by overcharging for items or tricking you into buying packages with extra features you don’t want or need.
The Funeral Rule, a regulation issued in 1984 and enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), requires funeral homes to disclose the cost of every item and service they provide — but pricing information can be hard to come by. A 2022 study by the Funeral Consumers Alliance (FCA) and the Consumer Federation of America (CFA) surveyed 1,046 funeral homes in 35 state capitals and found that only 18 percent posted their complete price list online (hardly up from 16 percent in 2017).
The FTC is considering updating the rule to require that the prices be posted online. The FCA has noted that having to visit funeral homes in person to pick up their pricing lists is impractical and makes it difficult for consumers to make informed decisions.
Listed prices need to be accurate. The FTC pursued legal action, through the Department of Justice, against a trio of related companies, including Legacy Cremation Services, for, among other alleged wrongdoing, posting prices that were lower than what consumers actually paid. A recent court order requires that Legacy and its owner post price information on their websites, as well as disclose that some of their services are contracted out to third parties
A lack of price transparency isn't the only problem. Dishonest funeral directors might insist that you purchase a casket even if your loved one is being cremated (you don’t) or try upselling you to a pricey “protective” casket they claim will preserve the body longer (it won’t).
Millions of Americans seek to ease the burden on their families by arranging their funerals in advance and prepaying some or all of the costs. That might seem like a prudent choice, but prepaid plans have their own pitfalls.
Regulations for prepaid funerals vary widely from state to state, and you might not be protected if, for example, the funeral home you dealt with goes out of business or you move out of the state where you bought the plan. Find out about cancellation policies and what regulations your state has in place to ensure the money you paid will be there for the funeral when the time comes.