Tag Archives: funeral costs

Will Online Competition Affect the Funeral Business?

What effect, if any, will online competition have on the funeral business?  Will growing online sales of funeral goods and services  change the industry in any way?

I think the funeral business has been slowly changing to reflect online competition, and more importantly, the trend towards immediate cremation rather than a traditional funeral, but I do not anticipate any huge change or disruption in the near future.

Funeral providers are already forced to be transparent in their pricing.  According to the FTC Funeral Rule, a funeral home is required to provide a written price list.  They must accept a casket purchased elsewhere, and are not allowed to apply a markup or service charge to it.  Cremation providers already advertise their prices in various publications, and discounting is common in that area.

Regardless, even if consumers purchase their own caskets, they are usually obliged to go to a licensed funeral provider for other services needed, be it embalming, preparation, transportation and burial of remains, etc.    So profits have been declining while costs are increasing, but I don’t believe the industry will change drastically.  I recommend the best way to save money is for consumers to always price shop before the need arises.

If you have any questions about funerals for either humans or pets, ask the expert!  Email Mike at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.


Cremation Tip!

How can consumers save money on cremation services?

Try the following:  Go to a local telephone book or search on the Internet in the area where the cremation will take place.  Look up “Cremation (or Memorial) Services” ,  and “Funeral Homes”.  Call several of them.  You should be able to receive price information over the telephone without the need to visit each facility you call.

Have a question about funerals or funeral planning for humans or pets?  Ask the expert!  Email Mike at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.



Should I Donate My Body to Medical Science?

A popular notion lately is that donating one’s body for medical research is a good way to avoid or reduce funeral and burial costs.  It may not be that easy!

Depending on the circumstances surrounding the cause of death, not all remains are suitable for medical research use.  In the case of an accident, certain illnesses, or other causes of death, the body may no longer be in acceptable condition, and anatomical donation may be declined.

Consumers wanting anatomical donation should always have an alternate funeral plan in place, in the event donation is not possible.  For more information on this topic, please click on the Funeral Q & A Column heading on this site, where there is a sample question about anatomical donation.

Have a question about funerals or funeral planning for humans or pets?  Ask the expert!  Email Mike at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.

Will Your Death Put Your Family in Debt?

The cost for a traditional type funeral plan can be substantial, a major expense comparable to purchasing an automobile, furniture, or even a home, but it is the least researched purchase made by most consumers. Generally speaking, consumers look at talking about funeral planning prior to death as taboo, and this type of thinking can cause overspending and other problems, including how to pay for the funeral plan without running up debt they cannot afford to pay back. I advise consumers to look at funeral planning like any other financial investment and include it in their retirement savings plan. Funeral planning and how to pay for it should be included in financial planning matters and should be offered by financial planners to their clients.

If a death occurs suddenly and without warning, such as due to an accident, then a financial burden can occur within the family. When death occurs, many times family members want the best funeral plan available to honor their loved one, possibly never thinking about how it will be paid for. They pay the funeral director, cemetery or other facility with a credit card or other financing option; then the bills come due!

The death of a family member could cause a negative financial situation for the survivors if the deceased did not have any life insurance, death insurance or money in an account such as a Totten Trust which could help pay for funeral and final disposition expenses. This is why it is so important to become as educated as possible about the funeral planning process prior to a death.  Visit funeral homes, get price lists, visit cemeteries and mausoleums and get their price information, so you can be as educated as possible about making a funeral arrangement either at need (a death has occurred) or pre-need (a death has not occurred or is not even anticipated in the immediate future) and stay within your particular budget.

Generally the funeral home will want full payment at the time of death. Even if the deceased had a prepaid funeral plan, paying for it in monthly installments, if death occurs before all the payments have been made, they will usually be due in full at the time of death. So this can be a challenge for many families who do not have cash available to pay off the amount due.  Also, the deceased’s assets and accounts may not be available to the family until the estate has been settled.

There are many ways to save on the cost of funerals, including direct cremation options. Please check out my website, www.askthefuneralexpert.com, and my article “Frugal Funeral Planning” for tips and suggestions.

Have questions about funerals and funeral planning for both humans and pets? Contact Mike at mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.


U.S. News Article on Planning for Funeral Expenses

I was interviewed recently for an article in US News about the importance of planning for funeral expenses.  Here is an excerpt:

Death and funerals are taboo topics but ones worth learning about, says Mike Boyd, a former funeral director who founded the website AskTheFuneralExpert.com. “Funeral homes can capitalize on a family member’s unfamiliarity with the products they’re purchasing,” he says. “Odds are, they will make funeral arrangements one to three times per lifetime, so consumers should become as educated as possible.”

This is the message I am constantly trying to get out.  Consumers need to learn about the economics of funerals before the need arises.  The more you know, the more you can save, and the less are your chances of overspending or being taken advantage of when purchasing funeral goods and services, at a time when you are grieving.

If you wish to read the entire article, here is the link. http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/10/07/how-to-handle-funeral-costs?int=aa6a09&int=a86509

Have questions about funerals or funeral planning for either humans or pets?  Email mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com.


Unique Places to Scatter Ashes

The following is a guest post by Steve Wyso of My Cremation, serving Philadelphia, Bucks and Montgomery counties in Pennsylvania.

Losing a loved one is never easy, but parting with their ashes can be an emotionally freeing experience. If the departed has chosen to be cremated, finding a location to scatter the ashes can be a confusing situation. Read on to discover suggestions on unique locations to scatter ashes.  

Private Land: Many families have privately owned land that has been passed down from generation to generation. Casting your family member’s remains on your families land is appropriate, particularly if your family spent a lot of time there. For example, your family may own a farm or vacation home. Scattering ashes in these private locations will keep your family member close to your heart forever. 

Landmark:  A landmark can take on a variety of meanings, including a national landmark or a personal landmark. If a loved one travelled a lot, or travelled to a particular destination often, scattering their ashes there would be fitting. Popular landmark locations in the United States include the Washington Monument and the Stratosphere Tower in Las Vegas. Personal landmarks can take on many forms. A loved one may have been particularly fond of a neighborhood park or lake. Scattering their remains there will commemorate them in a unique way. Be sure to check the local laws before scattering.

Sea: Casting ashes at sea has grown more popular in recent years, and a popular choice for family members who were fond of boating. Common locations include the Chelsea Piers New York Harbor, Cape May New Jersey, Daytona Beach Florida, and Maui Hawaii. Your family can hire a company to hold special services at sea to commemorate the life of your loved one before casting their ashes into the ocean.

Stadium: Scattering ashes in a famous stadium or at a local sports club would be fitting for a departed sports lover. In this situation, speaking with the groundskeeper or management at the facility is paramount to be sure you are allowed to scatter the ashes there. Many of these facilities have strict policies set in place, but it doesn’t hurt to ask.  

Outer Space:  Many people dream of journeying into space, but not many consider becoming part of the earth’s orbit. Astronauts now have the ability to take a sizeable portion of ashes and send them into earth’s orbit, deep into space, and even onto the surface of the moon. Special celebrations called launch events are held where friends and family can gather to watch the ashes be brought up to space.

Celebrate the life of your friend or family member by casting their ashes in a unique place. For more information on cremation and cremation services, contact My Cremation.


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.

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)

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.


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.


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.

Financial Planning Should Include Funeral Education

Financial advisors are branching out!  They are even advising clients how to stay healthy, as your health can affect the cost of life and long term care insurance, and a prolonged illness can quickly eat up your savings.

Another important part of Financial Planning should be Funeral Education.  If you fail to learn the facts about this eventuality, it can end up costing you more and reducing the amount of money available to pass on to your heirs.  So start finding out about this important subject today!

Why Talk About Funeral Planning?

Why are people afraid to talk about death and funerals?  They view the subject as either a taboo conversational subject, afraid of offending people, or they think of the funeral process as encompassing activities that are gross or disgusting (embalming, preservation of a body), or else they are afraid that speaking of death will somehow bring about misfortune.

But there is no reason to avoid this subject, and a very good reason to talk about it – because it can save you and your family money!  We are not afraid to talk about mammograms, prostate exams, or colonoscopies any more, even though those can be unpleasant subjects to talk or think about, because we have come to realize that they can save lives!  Well, talking about funerals, burials, and cremation can save money!  And it can also save stress and confusion at the time of a death.  All you need to do is to learn a little bit about the various products and services that are available, and that you will need to choose from, when purchasing a funeral arrangement for yourself or a loved one.

That is why I am starting this blog:  to help educate you, the consumer.  From time to time I will be bringing you easy-to-read information and money-saving tips.  Please let me know your thoughts, experiences, and questions.  Let’s start talking! 

Email your questions to mikeboyd@askthefuneralexpert.com or click on the  “Ask a Question” tab.

Copyright 2010 by Mike Boyd