Funeral Planning: Just Something Simple

By Rick Allen

As a funeral director, I am often asked, “How much does a funeral cost?” Without trying to appear as if I am avoiding the question, I typically will follow up with, “What do you want to do?”

Several years ago, when cremation was almost non-existent in the United States, all funeral cost was based on which casket a family selected. That price would include everything the funeral home offered, such as limousines, funeral programs, flowers, etc. In the mid-1980s, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) investigated funeral pricing and how the prices were disclosed to client families. From that review, the FTC devised “The Funeral Rule,” which requires funeral homes to itemize all items of service they offer and attach an itemized cost to each service.

Therefore, if a family wanted to drive their own cars to a funeral instead of using the funeral home limousine, they did not have to pay for that service. Funeral homes realized they had expenses related to overhead no matter what a family selected, so the FTC allows funeral homes to recoup the overhead in what is titled as “Basic Services.” Basic Services will be an added piece of cost to every funeral and is deemed as non-declinable by the FTC.

Today, some funeral homes offer services in packages, but are still required to present the families they serve with an itemized General Price List, Casket Price List, and Outer Burial Container (vault) Price List. Families may choose only the items they want and then only pay for items they choose. For lack of a better description, it is most like à la carte dining. Even though the application and adherence to The Funeral Rule was burdensome at first for funeral homes, it has created a much fairer way for client families to be charged for funeral and cremation services.

So, what does all of this have to do with the title of this article, “Just Something Simple?” A lot of families I talk with these days will answer my question about what they want to do with the phrase, “something simple.” Simple means different things to different people. Fortunately, now a family can create their own version of “simple” by picking only what they really want. The result is often a beautifully planned, meaningful, and appropriate tribute that is affordable to that family’s budget. Don’t we all strive to live our lives in as simple a fashion as possible? If so, why should a funeral be anything different?