• A Guide to Funeral Planning and Avoiding Scams

  • by Kristen Curzytek

Funerals are an emotionally draining time in life. Unfortunately, many times people take this opportunity to take advantage of people in that vulnerable place. To help you avoid becoming a victim of funeral traps and scams here are some useful tips.

Packaged Pricing

Often called a “full service” or “classic” funeral, these packages are spun to be considered a deal with everything included. However, many times these “full service” funerals are overpriced. Often times these packages can be anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000 more than the normal packages. To avoid the “full service” scam ask the funeral home pricing for each product as a separate purchase. You can get a better understanding of how much each product is and can find out based on the package price if the package pricing is a good deal.

Pricy Caskets

While each funeral home will be set up differently, know that each funeral home you go to will be positioning caskets in different ways. Remember to stay on budget and ask questions. Since a casket is a large product, not every model will be on display and chances are the ones that are on display are not the cheapest. Ask so see the full selection from every price range. If caskets are still out of your price range think of alternatives. Caskets and containers are available from many other sources, and even online. You can even find funeral items at costco.com. Funeral homes also offer rentals for people who want to have a viewing but want a cremation because of costs. Rental costs can be as low as $500.

Funeral homes and state laws and over promises

Funerals may insist that state laws require certain things during the funeral process. While laws for burials may vary for each state, there are no states or federal laws that require grave liners or burial vaults. In addition to making up laws and requirements, some funeral homes will suggest certain caskets and processes be done during embalming which will slow down the decomposition. Funerals homes are prohibited from making any of these kinds of claims to any of their clients. If you are working with a funeral home that makes a claim like this to you, consider working with a different funeral home.

Funeral home savings accounts

Some funeral homes offer savings accounts to help pay for funeral costs. While laws will vary from state to state, there are laws in place aimed at ensuring funeral homes are following ethical practices when dealing with savings accounts for people. While there are laws in place, not all funeral homes follow them. The best way to ensure you are not a victim of a scam is to have your funeral savings account set up through your financial institution. An option for a savings account is a Totten trust. A Totten trust is a form of estate planning and can be used as an alternative to a will. A beneficiary is decided and when depositor passes away the Totten is given to the beneficiary to cover the costs of the funeral.

Cremation and cremation scams  

There are several cases around the country that involve cremations that never happened. Instead crematory owners buried bodies or left them in other places. They then gave customers urns filled with dirt or sand. It is important to understand that these cases still happen today because there has not been a widespread change in legislation regarding crematories. What you need to remember if you decide to go the cremation route is to ask plenty of questions. Trustworthy crematories will explain the process to you and answer questions you may have. While it can be illegal for crematories to let you view the process it is legal in many states.

Crematories may inform you of some optional or “mandatory” options. You need to know that additional items are not always mandatory. For example, embalming is only necessary when the body will be stored for a considerable amount of time before cremation. For a typical cremation you can expect to pay around $1,000.

When you go to make funeral arrangements consider looking at your state’s laws for burials. If you are prepared with knowledge of your state’s laws you can avoid any scams. Ask lots of questions. Funeral arrangements are an important decision to make in life. Funeral homes should take their time with you and answer any questions you have about the process. If you ever feel that a funeral home is being unethical or is failing to provide services you have paid for, consider filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission and also the Better Business Bureau.

While end of life decisions, like funeral arrangements, can be stressful and difficult, the process can is less stressful when you have a plan in place. Hopefully these tips and suggestions can help you when needed.

According to the National Funeral Directors Association, the average funeral cost is around $6,500. That does not include burial fees, like the plot and headstone. Including those fees a funeral cost could be as much as $10,000. If you are wondering about your final financial decisions and how you will be able to afford those costs a reverse mortgage could be the answer. A Reverse Mortgage is for homeowners 62 and older. It gives you the ability to access the equity built up in your home. The current loan on the home is paid off and if there is any remaining equity, you receive that money in tax-free* cash.

If you are interested in learning more about a Reverse Mortgage or if you want to get started on the process, you contact One Reverse Mortgage at (800)442-6828. Our licensed professionals help clients like you everyday achieve their financial goals.


Kristen Curzytek is a writer for the One Reverse Mortgage blog. One Reverse Mortgage is the largest reverse mortgage lender in America.

*Please consult with your financial advisor.