Our firm regularly works with families who are grieving the loss of a loved one. During this period of sadness, one consistent thing that comes up is trying to find any semblance of clarity, from the mountain of paperwork required to go through and the complex questions being asked to deeper, emotional thoughts involving life and death. It is a very confusing time where transparency in anything becomes an ally.
The Funeral Rule is a federal regulation designed to protect consumers and make the funeral arrangement process as clear and painless as possible. Among other things, the rule requires companies offering these services to:
- Offer goods and services separately. They cannot force a family to accept a package that includes unwanted items.
- Provide clear, itemized price information over the telephone, at the funeral home and before the family pays.
- Provide an explanation in writing of any law that requires the purchase of a particular good or service.
- For cremation, inform the family containers are available instead of caskets. They also must accept a casket or urn the family bought elsewhere and cannot charge an extra fee for it.
Unfortunately, a recent investigation by NPR concluded a lot of companies are strategically not abiding by this rule. For this reason, it is important to know what your rights are in the tragic event you are tasked with this responsibility. If the company is not abiding by federal law, it is not likely a company you want to be working with. At the very least, knowing this information provides leverage against companies who are breaking the rules.
For more information about funeral services, including the Funeral Rule and a funeral service company's legal obligations, visit the Federal Trade Commission's site on Shopping for Funeral Services.