15 Things Funeral Directors Will Not Tell You

Ross Quade | Death | 17 Feb, 2015 | No Comments

During a time of bereavement, hardly anyone can think clearly, much less question the financial decisions they are making. Most everyone assumes that when they hire a funeral director, that director will handle all the legal logistics, embalming or cremation, the coffin or urn, the venue, wake and funeral itself. Unfortunately, some funeral homes use the grief of their clients as an opportunity to work as a business rather than a place of compassion. If you are not careful, you could be caught with a high bill for services you never needed. Protect your family with these tricks of the trade that funeral directors will never tell you.

1.   Funeral Director is a Title

The term funeral director is purely a title. In truth, a funeral director is an undertaker or a mortician. The title “funeral director” has been applied recently to reassure customers as undertaker and mortician sounds less appealing. Unfortunately, this title does not make them more qualified to choose an economic service for your loved one.

2.   Burial is Free to Veterans

If your loved one served our country, a proper burial is the least that can be done to show our nation’s appreciation. The Veterans Affairs National Cemetery takes care of the entire burial process for you. This includes a space in any one of their national cemeteries, the opening and closing of the grave, a government headstone or marker, grave site care, a burial flag and a Presidential Memorial Certificate. Depending on the deceased’s veteran status, they also might be eligible for a burial allowance. The Department of Veterans Affairs National Cemetery Administration offers over one hundred thirty national cemeteries across forty states, including Puerto Rico. There are also over thirty soldiers’ lots and monument sites available. The funeral director may not tell you this; however, because the Department of Veteran Affairs will not cover anything bought through the funeral home. If you would like a completely free burial, go to the Department of Veteran Affairs first.

3.   Buy Online

Funeral homes have the advantage of a showroom. They are able to light the caskets available and display them in such a way that their customers will find appealing. However, due to building costs, funeral homes have to raise the price of their stock to make a profit. When you buy a casket in person from the funeral home they can cost $600 or more. The funeral director might not mention that these same caskets can be bought for thousands of dollars less online. Walmart has a wide selection of urns and caskets for sale on their website. Urns range from $30 to just over $100 and the caskets are equally affordable. In fact, the most expensive casket available on Walmart’s website is just over $2,000.

4.   Caskets for Rent

Rental caskets provide families with the option of a traditional casket without the hefty price. The outside is used for the wake or funeral and then the interior is removed for the burial. It appears as if the deceased is inside the casket when in actuality, they are in a simple wooden box. This box is removed after services and the rental casket is returned to the funeral home. This is both an economic and an environmentally friendly option. The box will biodegrade naturally as opposed to a traditional casket, which can only be used once and will no break down as easily. Since they are so inexpensive, they will not be the first thing your funeral director will offer. If you prefer this option, make sure you let the funeral home know right away that you are only interested in a rental casket.

5.   Refrigerated Holding Rooms

Ask your funeral director right away if they have a refrigerated holding room. If they do not, walk away. Some funeral homes do not have a refrigerated holding room because they would like to encourage their clients to invest in embalming. Embalming can cost between $500 and $1,290 simply to preserve the deceased until the funeral. Embalming is not required. Some funeral directors will have you believe it is an essential part of the burial process. However, refrigerated-holding rooms often only cost a small fee and are capable of preserving the deceased. If you present the deceased within a few days of their passing, their bodies can be presented nicely without any embalming necessary.

6.   Beware of Sell Phrases

At the end of the day, a funeral home is a business. They are selling you a service. With that in mind, they will hire employees capable of selling you on products you may or may not need. As any good sales person, they will appeal to your personality. They will get to know you well so that they can use the information to sell you on products you might otherwise not have purchased. If they know you care about your reputation, they might say something like “Considering your position in the community…” purely to embarrass you into paying more than necessary. They might appeal to your grief and say something like “I’m sure you want what’s best for…” or try to make it sound like they know what the deceased would want. Come in with a plan so you do not get caught up in a sales pitch.

7.   Protective Caskets

Some caskets have been designed specifically to ward off decomposition. Funeral directors will advocate for protective caskets as they are meant to shield the deceased from the elements. They also cost up to $700 more. What they will not tell you; however, is how ineffective these protective elements are in reality. Protective caskets claim to protect the body from decomposition but actually have the opposite effect. The protective caskets create an anaerobic environment inside the casket which promotes the growth of bacteria. This bacteria can build up gas that can cause explosions. Non-protective caskets are less expensive and have not been known to explode.

8.   Check the Back

The show room is where all the brightest and most expensive caskets are displayed. Even an extensive selection of funeral home caskets might not have any extremely affordable caskets available. In this case, the funeral director may be withholding the bargain caskets in the back for no one to see. If you have looked over every casket available in the show room and cannot find one at the price you desire, ask the funeral director if they have any in the back. They may have some more affordable caskets available that are not on display.

9.   Simplify the Container

If you have not bought an urn directly from the funeral home, the funeral home will return the ashes of your loved in a temporary container. How this container is branded, however, could be costing you more. They can return the ashes in a simple metal container or even a plastic container. When they brand it with the stamp “temporary” it is meant to persuade you into buying a more expensive urn out of embarrassment.

10.   Do your Shopping

Before you choose a funeral home, do your shopping. Funeral homes prices vary widely. Their goal is to get you into the home, make you feel comfortable and start talking to you one on one. Through that discussion they can explain their prices and sell you on a package. You could end up agreeing to a funeral home that is much more expensive than the one down the street. Instead of visiting the homes in person, call them directly. Federal law requires that they provide their prices over the phone. Have a list of questions ready and get a direct answer to each one of them. This way you will not be lured in by appearances, only by facts.

11.   Remove Pacemakers

Pacemakers must be removed before cremation. There is a sealant on the pacemaker that could cause an explosion during the cremation process. This could damage the crematory chamber due to flying metals. If, for some reason, you do not mention the pacemaker before cremation, the damages to the crematory chamber could cost you a lot of extra money to repair. Tell the funeral director ahead of time about the deceased’s pacemaker. They will have one of their trained professionals remove it before cremation. Then it will be sent back to the manufacturer for proper recycling or disposal. You can also ask that the pacemaker be donated to charities. These charities will refurbish it so it can be used to save the lives of people who cannot afford a pacemaker outright.

12.   Individual Price Lists

Package deals are written theoretically to save you time and money. Traditional full service funeral packages can cost as little as $600 and as much as $11,000. They might try to convince you that one package will cover everything you need but in the end, you may end up paying more for anything that might be left out. Save yourself the hassle and the money by requesting an individual price list. This list will show you what everything is actually worth to the funeral home. Then you can choose what you want or need. This allows you to forgo the rest of the unnecessary services the home provides in their packages, saving you money in the end.

13.   Green Burials

The deceased may request you keep their remains in an urn. They might even ask you to scatter them somewhere special to them. Today though, you can have them turned into a diamond, a real coral reef or even send them into outer space! Each of these options is a greener alternative to spreading ashes or burying them. Crematories are not monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency; therefore the pollutants like nitrous oxide and mercury go directly into the air. As an added benefit, these alternatives end up being more affordable as you are avoiding embalming costs and caskets.

14.   Close Casket

By now, you know how expensive embalming is. Embalming is meant to preserve the body so it can be viewed at the wake or funeral but if the body is not there at all, then you will not have to incur those costs at all. Planning for a closed casket wake or funeral can save you money until it is time for the burial. Ask to keep the deceased in the refrigerated holding room until the burial.

15.   Favorite Outfit

A lot of the time, the deceased will request an outfit to be buried in or to be worn at the wake or funeral. Some funeral directors will try to sell you tailoring so garments that are too big or too small will look nice on your loved one for the viewing. What they do not tell you is that it is their job to tuck, pin and place the clothing so it lies perfectly. They have the tools to make your loved one look lovely at no extra cost to you.

In a consumer-based economy, businesses have to compete with one another and it is up to you as the consumer to choose the best prices for you. With a combination of these tactics, you could manage an affordable, respectful funeral for your loved one. Do your research before you choose your funeral home and do not be afraid to ask them for the best prices possible.


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