All posts by Mike Boyd

A Cask with your Casket: Funeral Home Adds Wine with your Service

These days funeral home and cemetery operators must think about other ways to attract clientele.

A Florida funeral home now offers a wine gathering during its funeral services, and another funeral home is offering catering options that allow families to hold receptions on site.

Have questions about funeral planning? Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Rising from the Dead

Recently a man believed to be dead in a body bag at a Mississippi funeral home shocked the funeral director when he began kicking to get out!  A coroner had pronounced the man dead at his home, but the alert funeral director saw that the man was, in fact, alive and he was rushed to the hospital.

Have questions about funeral planning? Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Airlines Cancel Bereavement Fares

I discussed airline bereavement fares in my book, “How to Bankroll a Funeral Without Breaking the Bank”, but times have changed, and discounts may no longer be available.

Most airlines have eliminated these discounts, since lower-priced tickets are usually available with online purchase anyway.  You must check with a particular airline to find out their bereavement fare, if it exists at all.

Have questions about funeral planning? Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Fake Funeral Notice Can Be Deadly – For Your Computer

The FTC has put out a warning that scammers are sending bogus emails that appear to be from a legitimate funeral home, but that actually can install malware on your computer.

Read all about it at FTC.gov:

http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/fake-funeral-notice-can-be-deadly-your-computer

Undercutting the Undertaker

I was recently interviewed for an article in the Deseret News entitled “Undercutting the Undertaker: Reducing the unavoidable expenses of dying”.  I want to thank the reporter, Michael De Groote, for a good article featuring Funeral Director Ron Henderson and myself.

You can read the entire article here:  http://www.deseretnews.com/article/865594665/Undercutting-the-undertaker-Reducing-the-unavoidable-expenses-of-dying.html?pg=all

If you have any questions about funeral and funeral planning for both humans and pets, contact me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

FTC Fines Funeral Home for Noncompliance with Funeral Rule

A New York funeral home and its funeral director/owner agreed to pay a $32,000 civil penalty to settle Federal Trade Commission charges for violating the agency’s Funeral Rule, which requires funeral providers to provide information consumers need to compare prices and buy only the funeral goods and services they want.

The FTC conducts undercover inspections every year to ensure funeral homes are complying with the Funeral Rule, which gives consumers important rights when making funeral arrangements.  The Rule, issued in 1984, requires funeral homes to provide consumers with itemized price lists at the start of any in-person discussions of funeral arrangements, caskets, and/or outer burial containers.  The Rule also requires funeral homes to provide price information by telephone on request.  It also prohibits funeral homes from requiring consumers to buy any item, such as a casket, as a condition of obtaining any other funeral good or service.

(Source:  ftc.gov)

Live Radio Talk Show

On 12/11/13 I was a guest on Dr. Jeanette Gallagher’s BlogTalk Radio show discussing the need for Funeral Planning education before a death occurs.  We covered many areas including pre-planning, pre-financing, and what consumers should know and understand prior to purchasing funeral and final disposition goods and services.

*****  If you would like to listen to the hour-long program, click here.  *****

 

“60 Minutes” Highlights Cemetery Problems

I watched a “60 Minutes Special Edition” report on 5/20/12 hosted by Anderson Cooper on cemetery problems in the United States. It was most interesting and detailed problems within the burial (final disposition) industry.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) enacted the Funeral Rule in the 1980’s to help protect consumers nationally when making funeral arrangements at the funeral home level. It is still in effect today. It appears that it is time to consider such a plan for the cemetery industry. The issues pointed out by Mr. Cooper’s report should not be tolerated in that market, as consumers are being hurt at a most vulnerable time in their lives by lax oversight of the cemetery industry. The federal government should step in as it did with the funeral industry and establish rules and regulations to be applied to all cemeteries nationally.

Thank you Mr. Cooper for this most educational and informative report!

Alert to Military Veterans!

I recently saw a newspaper ad directed to Military Veterans about burial in National Cemeteries. What concerned me was that there was a mail-in coupon to a P.O. box without a telephone number for the business. The ad wanted the name, age, spouse’s age, address, city, state, zip and contact telephone number of the person requesting burial or cremation options. In other words, the ad requested a lot of personal information without providing the consumer any information about the company requesting it, not even a telephone number. Be very careful and do not respond to these type ads. Funeral and Cemetery scams are one of the 10 top scams targeting seniors.

FYI: If you have questions about burial in National Cemeteries contact the Veterans’ Administration, a local funeral home, or a National Cemetery if you have one in your area.

Have questions? Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Mike

Dead People Can’t Pay!

I recently read an article about dead drivers being forgiven for traffic infractions including tickets, fines, and fees. The move is an effort to dispose of these type of traffic cases and give the courts more time to deal with living issues. Great idea!

I wonder, how many deceased drivers’ records are still considered active cases by the courts throughout the United States? Have a problem like this one? Try taking a copy of the death certificate for the deceased to the agency sending the bill to the deceased and see what can be done to resolve the issue. If the agency will not eliminate the case then suggest you give the agency the new address of the deceased (for example, the cemetery, mausoleum or cremation niche address) so that bills can be sent there to the attention of the deceased and see what happens.

Have questions?  Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Mike

Scam Alert!

I recently read an article about the top 10 scams targeting seniors, and funeral planning was one of the ten.

Be aware there are different approaches, including predators reading death notices and then trying to extort money from the family claiming the deceased owed them money. Be careful!  If this ever happens to you get complete contact information from the caller or visitor and notify the police department. And as mentioned in my book, never put the address of the deceased in the death notice.

 Also, unscrupulous funeral homes will try to add unnecessary charges to the funeral bill by taking advantage of the consumer who is not familiar with funeral policy and pricing. Always shop several funeral homes and final disposition places (cemeteries and mausoleum facilities) for pricing information, and acquire price lists where possible. For example, you may be told a casket is required for direct cremation. Generally a less expensive cardboard cremation box is OK for use.

My advice is shop till you drop and become an educated consumer about the subject before a death occurs, commonly called pre-planning of a funeral. If a consumer waits until a death occurs, and sometimes this cannot be avoided, they are at a disadvantage when making funeral and final disposition arrangements. Again, become an educated consumer about the subject before the need arises!

Suggestion: ask questions prior to a death, look at a website where you can acquire information, ask questions and even purchase a book to help you through the funeral arrangement process. If you read my book and have a question not covered in it, simply e-mail me your question and I will answer it at no charge.

Scams are everywhere, don’t get caught in this one!

Have questions?  Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Mike

Reselling Burial Property

With the economy where it is today, some consumers who have purchased burial plots, mausoleum crypts or even cremation niches are trying to sell them. If you are in this category, I suggest trying to sell the property back to the cemetery if it is in a buy back position. You may be offered less money than you paid for the property, but it is an option. Next, try advertising the property in your local newspaper, let the local funeral directors know about your property, seek out burial plot brokers on the web (always make sure these type companies are legitimate) and even look for web sites that advertise this type of property nationally.

This type of real estate is not the easiest piece of property to sell, so plan on seeking out as many areas as possible to help you sell the property. If you are a buyer, always check for the title of the property, making sure the paperwork is in place, and get it verified prior to paying anyone to purchase their property from them, just like any real estate transaction.

Have questions?  Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Mike

Airline Death Refunds

Although airlines are not required to issue full refunds for a ticket paid for, then not needed because the person named on the ticket dies prior to the flight, the airline should issue a refund for good customer relations. Offering to issue a credit to the person named on the ticket will not work, as the person has died and cannot use the credit.

If you have experienced this problem and have not been able to receive a refund for the ticket price, please contact me with complete details, and I will contact the airline for you in an effort to get the money paid for the ticket refunded .

 There is no charge for this service.   Just email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Mike

Totten trust

A method of financing a prepaid funeral plan is a Totten trust. A Totten trust is a “payable on death” bank account, naming a beneficiary. This beneficiary could be the funeral home who will provide services upon the owner’s death. The consumer has control over this type of account and can move out of the area or even cancel it without the fear of losing money placed in the account. This account sets aside money for funeral arrangements, so the consumer should discuss this plan with their funeral director, who may allow price protection on certain goods and services, knowing the funeral provider is named as the beneficiary of the account.

I suggest looking up “Totten trust” on the web for a detailed, consumer friendly explanation of this type of account. A Totten trust may only cover the funeral home part of the funeral plan. The final disposition part of a funeral plan including burial plot, mausoleum crypt or cremation niche may be considered extra. Always discuss these areas with your funeral provider, be careful when making these type of arrangements, get everything in writing and included in any contract you are considering signing. Have questions, e-mail me:  mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com

Mike

Pre-Financing a Funeral

Pre-financing (prepaid) funerals require a great deal of investigation and understanding prior to making that type of financial commitment. With the amount of money required for this type of investment, it should be considered as part of your financial portfolio.

There are many things to understand before signing up for this type funeral plan, and please use a great deal of CAUTION!   For example:

What parts of the funeral plan are “price-protected”, or guaranteed to remain at the current contracted price? Items that are not price-protected against inflation may require more money invested into the funeral plan at the time of death, which could be months or years later, as it is a pre-financed plan.

Which items are classified as cash advances which are not price protected (guaranteed)? An example would be the cost of the death notice in a newspaper.

If you move to another area or change your mind and want to cancel the prepaid funeral or final disposition plan, find out how much money will be returned to you if you cancel the plan prior to death, and whether you will earn interest on it. This should be clearly defined in the pre-financed contract, along with how long it will take for you to receive the money back.

What happens to your money if the funeral home, cemetery or mausoleum facility is sold, goes out of business or bankrupt? Investing your money into these type businesses is not like putting money into a savings account at a bank. If the bank fails, your money is generally protected. It may not be so here! The prepaid agreement should clearly define this area so you know how your money is protected.

I will discuss Totten Trusts and how a bank account controlled by the consumer can help pay for funeral arrangements in a future blog.

Consider your options and contact me with questions, or to share your experiences in this area. I’m here to help!     Email mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

A Party at the Cemetery???

I recently read an article about cemeteries hosting parties to attract future customers. These parties take place on the property and include entertainment, drinks and more. The purpose of these events is to make the locals more aware of what the cemetery offers in an “other than death” experience.  The cemeteries hope to make the public more aware of their offerings and make consumers feel more comfortable about purchasing their goods and services either at-need or pre-need .

The issue here is that to attend these events, consumers must walk over and stand on what has been considered sacred property. The deceased have a right to rest in peace without their resting place being walked over by event participants. 

Have questions or comments?  Email me at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Mike

Funeral Etiquette

I recently read a column about proper dress and items visitors bring to a funeral. Years ago, funeral visitation was more formal and proper. But times have changed and more liberal policies apply. Funerals to some are now a celebration of life and happy times remembered. Funeral providers are helping by having equipment available to project DVD’s about the deceased and more.

Look at roadside displays being used to mark the place of death. There are flowers, stuffed animals, and other objects attached to these respectful displays. Being more liberal and open minded about the subject of death helps everyone get through the sad time. Yes, there are situations when tradition is proper, but allowing a more liberal display is beneficial to the family, relatives and friends of the deceased.

Have questions about funerals or funeral planning?  Email them to Mike at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com or click on the “Ask a Question” tab.

Red Light Traffic Cameras at Intersections

More and more communities are installing traffic cameras at intersections to catch motorists running red lights and making right-on-red turns without coming to a complete stop.  If you are in a funeral procession you may be directed to go through a red light, but no traffic citation should be issued.  A check of the traffic video should be able to verify that you were a part of the funeral procession if you receive a citation.

Cemetery Property Maintenance Problems

What do you do if you visit a family member’s gravesite, crypt or other cemetery property, and it is not maintained?  For example, there is moss or mildew growing on the monument, grass is not manicured, etc.

Review the deed to the cemetery property to see what perpetual care should be provided by the cemetery.  The cemetery should be performing the care it agreed to in the purchase contract, and if they are not, this should be brought to the attention of cemetery personnel.  If the deed  is not available to you or if perpetual care is not discussed in the contract, then talk the problem over with cemetery management. 

If you do not get satisfaction there, you could try contacting your local media (TV, newspaper), so perhaps you can get attention drawn to the situation.

Has anyone encountered this problem, and how did you solve it?  Please share your experience and suggestions.

Funeral Pre-financing Tips

Planning ahead is always a good idea, but if you’re going to consider pre-financing of a funeral, be sure you know which items are guaranteed at today’s prices and which items may increase in price over the years (such as cash advance items). Not everything may be price-guaranteed. Also, if you are going to make a pre-financed funeral arrangement, always know the transfer options in case you move or relocate to another area in the future. If there is not a funeral home in the new area that is a member of the same funeral home chain, what will happen? This should be clearly defined in the contract made with the funeral home.
These subjects and many others are covered in my book, “How to Bankroll a Funeral Without Breaking the Bank”  available at amazon.com, or order directly by clicking on the Buy Now button in the right hand column on this page.

Click on the “Ask a Question” tab to ask your funeral questions, and I will be happy to answer them.

Mike