Understanding Your Rights: An Overview of the Funeral Rule

In 1984, the Funeral Rule was enacted into law. The Funeral Rule is designed to provide consumers like you the ability to select the specific services you need or want as part of your pre-planning efforts or when making arrangements for someone you love. The Funeral Rule mandates that you be provided specific pricing information about good and services associated with a funeral, body preparation, and disposition.

Only funeral homes are bound by the Funeral Rule. Other businesses in the funeral industry are not covered, including cemeteries (that don’t have associated funeral homes), casket manufacturers, and monument makers. The Funeral Rule governs these areas associated with funeral home operations:

  • Right to purchase individual services
  • Get price information over the phone
  • Receive itemized written price list at funeral home
  • Receive written casket price list before seeing caskets
  • Receive written outer burial container price list
  • Receive complete written statement of what you desire before you pay
  • Receive written statement of cemetery burial requirements
  • Right to use alternative container for cremation
  • Right to purchase casket or urn from third party
  • Make funeral arrangements without embalming

Right to Purchase Individual Services

What the vast majority of people do not understand is that the purchase of packaged arrangements are not mandatory – and in nearly all cases, funeral home sell packaged arrangements. In other words, under the Funeral Rule you have the absolute right to purchase only those individual products and services you want. You absolutely do not need to accept some sort of package from a funeral home that contains goods and services you do not desire. As will be discussed more fully in a moment, you are likely to be surprised about certain goods and services that you assume are required but really are not.

Price Information Over the Phone

Federal law (in the form of the Funeral Rule) mandates a funeral home to provide you all pricing information requested over the phone. Moreover, in order to receive this information, you do not need to identify yourself in any way, shape, or form. Some funeral homes will mail or email you price information when requested. There are funeral homes that post fairly complete pricing information on their websites.

Written General Price List

When you visit a funeral home in person you must be provided a written General Price List. This list must include the prices for all of the goods and services offered by that funeral home. The list is for you to keep.

Casket Price List

Before a funeral home shows you any caskets, you must be provided a comprehensive casket price list. This list must include all caskets available through the funeral home and not just those on display in their main showroom. This provides you the ability to see lower-priced caskets that might be available through a funeral home but which are not on display.

Burial Container Price List

No law in any U.S. state requires a burial container or vault. With that said, some cemeteries do require burial vaults contending that the prevent graves from caving in. In any event, a funeral home must provide you a written burial container price list if burial is to be at a cemetery that requires a vault or if you desire one regardless of the existence of a cemetery rule.

Written Price and Cost Statement

When you make a final decision about the goods and services you want from a funeral home, you are to be provided a complete written price and cast statement. You are to receive this comprehensive itemization before you may a payment on your account.

Written Statement Regarding Cemetery Burial Requirements

The funeral home must provide you a written statement about any and all burial requirements at a particular cemetery. This disclosure includes information about vault requirements as well as about headstone requirements or limitations.

Cremation Container Alternatives

No state law requires the use of a casket if a person is to be cremated. If there is going to be a funeral service with the remains present, a casket would be used to allow for that presentation. There are specialized, affordable, and yet nice-looking caskets available for a funeral with or viewing of the body before the cremation. If not such event is to occur in advance of the cremation, a container can be something as simple as one made of cardboard.

Third-Party Casket or Urn

No state law requires you to purchase a casket or urn from ma funeral home. You can purchase a casket or urn from a third-party source. A funeral home must accept and utilize the casket or urn you select. A funeral home cannot charge you a fee for using a third-party casket or urn. In addition, a funeral home cannot impose a requirement that you need to be at the funeral home to personally accept delivery of a casket or urn.

Funeral Arrangements without Embalming

Perhaps the most wide-spread misconception is that embalming is always required by law. In fact, no state in the country – including California – requires embalming for all routine or typical funerals. Some states do have timeframes within which a funeral and burial must occur without a body being embalmed. Some states have no such time-related mandate. California is a state in which embalming is never required by law for a routine funeral and burial.

The Federal Trade Commission Funeral Price Checklist

The Federal Trade Commission created this Funeral Price Checklist, based on the mandates of the Funeral Rule, for your use. You are encouraged to copy this checklist and use it when seeking services from a funeral home. Armed with this checklist you are able to efficiently and effectively compare prices between one funeral home and another. This list is usable if you embark on funeral pre-planning or if you are seeking assistance and services following the death of a loved one.

“Simple” disposition of the remains:

Immediate burial __________

Immediate cremation __________

If the cremation process is extra, how much is it? __________

Donation of the body to a medical school or hospital __________

“Traditional,” full-service burial or cremation:

Basic services fee for the funeral director and staff __________

Pickup of body __________

Embalming __________

Other preparation of body __________

Least expensive casket __________

Description, including model # __________

Outer Burial Container (vault) __________

Description __________

Visitation/viewing — staff and facilities __________

Funeral or memorial service — staff and facilities __________

Graveside service, including staff and equipment __________

Hearse __________

Other vehicles __________

Total __________

Other Services:

Forwarding body to another funeral home __________

Receiving body from another funeral home __________

Cemetery or Mausoleum Costs:

Cost of lot or crypt (if you don’t already own one) __________

Perpetual care __________

Opening and closing the grave or crypt __________

Grave liner, if required __________

Marker/monument (including setup) __________

The Funeral Rule and Funeral Planning

By understanding the Funeral Rule, and by collecting the information you are entitled, you are able to make truly educated decisions when it comes to funeral planning. Again, keep in mind that the Funeral Rule applies if you are doing preplanning for yourself or making final arrangements after the death of a loved one.